July 31, 2008

so i herd u liek dark knight?

 In case you haven't seen it over at THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR, Keith Uhlich's review of The Dark Knight caused a bit of an uproar with the trolls at Rotten Tomatoes, who apparently spend their days scouring for negative reviews and blasting their authors accordingly. Now, I don't want to sound too dramatic about my own reaction to The Dark Knight--I've seen it three times now, and I'm seriously contemplating four. I pretty much fall in line with the "masterpiece" argument, although to tell you the truth I've been more interested in examining Harvey Dent than in even trying to decipher the Joker. (I really hope that Aaron Eckhart's wonderful performance isn't ignored in the long run of Ledger memorials.) But what I can say at this particular moment is that the film has forced me to rethink my general perspective on superhero movies. I've been meaning to post this beautiful parody of Iron Man for a while now, but I think it's more relevant now than ever:




I stand by the fact that I liked Iron Man: it's a clever political allegory about selfish imperialism, masked as an altruistic act--chronicling the story of a weapons developer who, upon realizing what a bastard he's been, transforms himself into a human bomb in exclusive service to saving face. (My favorite shot of the film, I confess, is when Iron Man Mark I takes a torch to all of the weapons printed with "Stark Industries.") Considering the popular response to the film, however, I suppose what I'm worried about is that not enough people will bother to understand why Irod Bad! is such a marvelous work--it satirizes the typical reaction to summer blockbusters and, moreover, what we expect summer blockbusters to be.

What I'm getting at is that I'm becoming bored with the cinematic promises of the season, that my comic book geek twinge will be fulfilled with every new capes-and-tights picture. While The Incredible Hulk is pretty godawful, I have to admit that I liked the Tony Stark denouement that essentially announced to the world (i.e., those who didn't stay through the end credits of Iron Man) the intention to follow through with an Avengers film. It interested me, anyway--this concept of dropping in these little teasers with each successive Marvel property, alluding to something bigger than all of them. Bigger than a superhero? Preposterous, intriguing. Now, after seeing The Dark Knight (or perhaps more specifically, after seeing The Dark Knight after seeing The Incredible Hulk), I'm just kind of apathetic to the whole thing. The Incredible Hulk was terrible because it was so desperate to please the nerd contingent with loud noises and big motherfuckers pounding the crap out of each other. Everything that you wanted, right? (PAKOO! PAKLOWAWOW!) I do understand why most people don't like Superman Returns, and I also understand the argument that weighty, existential interpretations suck the fun out of superheroes, but I take the opposite stance--that by not exploring them, we're keeping ourselves in a state of arrested development, and we're making superheroes boring by forcing them to conform to our expectations. Nothing wrong with getting excited about a great popcorn flick, but shouldn't we also want to explore why we're attracted to such extreme personalities? How they relate to us? Why we see them as gods? I want to be amazed by superheroes, not pacified by them. I want to believe that a man can fly. The real miracle will be if the Avengers film somehow doesn't end up an incomprehensible clusterfuck.

Such is my puzzlement with the rabid fanboyism surrounding The Dark Knight--captured in microcosm in the comments section of Keith's review. My problem isn't the sputtering, ineloquent anger at negative reviews (which is just all too common on the web) as much as it is the attempt to find out why, exactly, these people are so gung-ho about a film that they aren't willing to defend. Over at THE HOUSE, Travis already pointed out the essential ridiculousness of padding out various death threats and eff-yous with the de facto tagline why so serious, but even beyond that, by using it as some kind of cutesy anti-critical stance you're subtly implying that Nolan doesn't--and furthermore shouldn't--take his own scenarios seriously. How does that work, exactly? The Dark Knight is hardly shy about expounding on the themes it attacks: on very simple terms, it forces you to contemplate whether you would have the strength and moral fabric to stand against the chaotic storm. "It's a comic book, dude - not Tolstoy," one commenter says, and, I mean, Jesus, really? How can we pretend that we're still at that point in time? This is one instance where I simply cannot understand the desire to ignore a critical look at a film, to see it as pure escapist entertainment. Are the questions it poses too big and scary? And even then, if you don't want to think about what The Dark Knight is saying about human nature in relationship to morality, why the fuck do you love it so much, why are you so willing to curse out anyone who disagrees with that sentiment? (I may disagree vehemently with Keith's review, but he recognizes and tackles the forces at play.) Of course it was breathtaking, but surely the singular sight of a semi flipping on its back can't have carried you for two-and-a-half hours.

Furthermore, what can be considered "properly" complex in properties like this? As it is wont to do, the internet is going ga-ga over Joss Whedon's latest eye-rolling circle-jerk, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. As ever, Whedon has a keen eye for casting--Neil Patrick Harris' nervous delivery is, simply put, incomparable, and Nathan Fillion is always a delight to watch. But I've always been turned off by the self-conscious cleverness that permeates his work (excessively literal examinations of popular axioms; oh-so-irreverent asides), and it manifests here by rehashing the same level-one sarcasm that passes for subversion in most parodic superhero enterprises--evil laughter as part of a voice lesson; superficial do-gooder he-men imagined as selfish sissies; drastic signifiers like "good" and "evil" relabeled as simple nine-to-fives. And they sing about it and isn't that just the wackiest thing? This isn't much better than the mentality that Irod Bad! is railing against, or what any of the more mind-numbing superhero blockbusters are peddling--simply because it isn't subverting our expectations, it's congratulating us for recognizing what we know about the genre and regurgitating a series of wouldn't-it-be-funny-ifs that we've contemplated countless times before. I don't mean to sound like a humorless prick about it, and I fully realize that there are different audiences and approaches in mind here, but the saga of Dr. Horrible and Captain Hammer just seems kind of jejune when compared to Nolan's Two-Face--a self-aware white knight who always possessed an overdeveloped sense of entitlement and "fairness," whose violent downfall throws into question the very idea of a moral crusade. Sing-Along Blog ends pretty tragically, but it still doesn't take things very far. Simply presenting a supervillain with feelings shouldn't really cut it anymore.


So a simple question: where can we locate a proper balance? Where will Zack Snyder's Watchmen land in this argument?

And, a bonus: where can Nolan's Batman go from here? The Dark Knight's a tough act to follow, and we're quickly running out of viable villains for this enterprise. Eckhart says that he would reprise Two-Face if given the chance, but that would be cheating; and Nolan might not want to do the Penguin, even with Philip Seymour Hoffman--so who's left? My guess is, if Batman Begins is about fear and The Dark Knight is about chaos, then the third film would be about a battle for the mind, and the attempt to intellectually evolve from the primordial soup--so maybe the Riddler and the Mad Hatter would make for good opponents. Particuarly if inspiration is taken from their animated series incarnations: a cerebral egotist and a self-loathing stalker, respectively.

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

I loved The Dark Knight but the **** was a pretty much foregone conclusion, the trailer for that flick is a **** movie. Why no Step Brothers or X-Files review on the mother site? It seems like a movie's gotta have a budget of $100m+ to get a review on the mutha site anymore.

I thought that the big flaw of Iron Man was that it was a lot of fun watching Robert Downey Jr. play an irresponsible kazillionaire playboy, and incredibly boring and dull to watch the perfunctory action sequences. Jon Favreau really lacks in visual flair and was the wrong guy to do that film.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and your post gave me the idea. Since Nolan has pretty much vetoed all the other Batman villains, a Batman/Pokemon crossover, why not? Batman against a giant mutated Mudkip.

Anonymous said...

Third and final post I swear: I keep having more to say. Justin Theroux would make an excellent Riddler. Especially based on the interplay between him and Bale in American Psycho.

Berandor said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2yv8aT0UFc

I like this spoof, even though it's a little long for basically having one joke...

Clint said...

I don't know what the proper balance would be. The Dark Knight was on the same end of the spectrum as Hulk and Superman Returns, and the latter two are considered pretentious (or boring, for whatever reason).

But I agree that the next Batman installment will be a battle of wits. The problem with the Mad Hatter is overlap; he'll be in another incarnation via Johnny Depp in Burton's Alice In Wonderland. I always pictured a spitting Bob Hoskins as Penguin. And even though he has no place in the Nolan-verse, my favorite animated series villain was Clayface.

Jason said...

Between this post, A.O. Scott's piece on the limits of superhero films, and the rabid Dark Knight fanboy contingent, I've been thinking a bit about this film versus some of the other critically-acclaimed superhero films I simply couldn't get behind, namely Spider-Man 2 and Superman Returns, and why TDK works when they don't.

I don't have any clear-cut answers yet. I can see where Scott's coming from in regards to Dark Knight "spelling out lofty themes" (though I don't agree with him), and I think this applies to Spidey 2 as well. That film is so front-loaded in regards to it's one thought - "Being a superhero isn't as cool as you'd think - that it drags the whole enterprise down. There's so much repetition of that one idea that, frankly, I didn't care by about the 25-minute mark.

On the other hand, I enjoyed this take on Batman because it plays heavily into a consistent, time-honored take on the character, while referencing some of the problems inherent in today's world, namely the War on Terror and the things we do in the name of societal self-preservation. Contrast that with Superman Returns, which tries too hard, I think, to paint Supes as something other than the "Big Blue Boy Scout," only to be trapped into portraying him as such. The whole effect is ruined for me when the ending is so telegraphed: Superman is never in danger of actually breaking up Lois' new nuclear family, so the idea of him as a jealous boyfriend never carries weight. It's like The Passion of the Christ, in a way: Superman and Jesus both carry metaphorical weight as symbols, and as symbols only. In both cases, the movie ends with them, essentially, agreeing to live up to that expectation. It's just that Jesus does it willingly, and gratefully, while Superman doesn't.

Kind of getting off topic, there. I guess my point is that Dark Knight works because there's a balance between fidelity to the source material and an interesting, personal take on the character (or what the character represents). (Any superhero movie can work in this regard, as well - look at Guillermo del Toro's two Hellboy movies, for instance.) Go too far in one direction, and you're undermining the character for your own selfish ends (like Superman Returns, or Ang Lee's Hulk). Go too far in the other, and you're not trying to connect with the character on a deeper level at all, just presenting us with level 1 name and brand recognition (like Spider-Man 2, or, to a far greater extent, The Incredible Hulk).

As for the next Batman installment, I agree with Clint that the Mad Hatter is a problem; I just don't think that Hatter is interesting enough to be used in these movies. The other thing is: Rachel Dawes is dead. Would anyone care if the Mad Hatter was stalking some random female who had no relationship to Bruce Wayne/Batman, at all? Plus, that vision of him as a self-loathing stalker may remind too much of Batman Forever's take on the Riddler, especially if they try to use the mind-control hats in any way. I don't know that Nolan would be so willing to visit that idea again, especially if he has his own take on the Riddler already present. I'd second the idea of Bob Hoskins as the Penguin, but I'm pretty sure we'll be seeing Catwoman instead.

prashin said...

Something that I've been thinking about lately too Ian, and you put it very articulately. Just one point, I think it is lazy to dismiss some not so literate critics of these negative reviews as anti-intellectuals, many times people who may not be able to understand exactly why they like something, are still able to intuitively discern between their likes and dislikes.

About future path of Batman, your choice of villains is exactly it for me. A common theme running through the two films is that of choices; Nolan's Batman has always had to make moral and existential choices that ultimately defines the consequences. He chose to become batman which is why Joker surfaced out from the woods, he chose not to kill Ras'al'Ghul and Joker which ended up blowing up in his face later on etc. Riddler is perfect for that, plus I'm curious to see what kind of sordid traps Nolan would come up with. Another theme is mind control and manipulation of society to turn it against itself. Mad Hatter is therefore perfect. I would make another addition as a love interest for Batman, Talia'al'ghul who would be more on the same moral plane as Batman, so it would give him an escape clause from being Batman, but then he would die in her arms at the end. Two-face will lead them though.

mr b said...

I think the question "what's next" is the most pertinent for making sense of TDK. I think it was Nolan's intention of bringing back the Joker for a third movie and coming to some sort of conclusion between Batman's order and Joker's chaos (maybe even the death of the Joker, which would make the series an interesting statement on terrorism). I find nothing more frightening than chaos and a villian with no other sense of purpose than that. To bring in any villian other than the Joker would be to leave chaos unanswered and therefore be a let down. But with Ledger's immaculate performance the franchise is in a Catch-22. Of course that may just be my limited imagination about the abilities of the two Nolans.

Mike A. said...

The original Clayface was a Boris Karloff-inspired actor, who happens to go insane after the film containing his greatest performance (as a golem/phantom of the opera monster called Clayface) becomes the subject of a big Hollywood remake. He didn't have any superpowers, and just covered his face in thick globs of makeup to disguise himself as the monster, and occasionally as other people. His evil plots are largely a Freddy Krueger-style attempt at staying famous by inspiring fear.

The idea of a professional actor who becomes consumed by his role definitely fits with the Batman we've gotten so far, and would be a nice return to the theatre motif of Begins. It would also be a continuation of how Dark Knight ends with its own grand illusion. Dark Knight suggests that, after terror has consumed civilization, the only way out is to chase an impossible dream of a better future. After fear and chaos, I think the next battleground should be art.

Clayface would be the villain of that story, since his artistic ambition is essentially regressive. A golem suggests the primordial, and I've always felt that the Phantom of the Opera is mainly about an artist fighting against his obsolescence. With Clayface demanding a return to his glory days in the past, it'd be the best challenge to the forward-thinking idealism that Batman is trying to keep alive.


Although Iron Man is the pinnacle of average, I found it really interesting that it is an exact remake of Ang Lee's Hulk. Plot, themes - it's all identical. From the scientist who becomes addicted to his own technology after a freak explosion merges it with him, to the evil father figure who has plotted all along to reverse-engineer the technology and become a gigantic ideologically opposite version of the hero (devoted to pure selfishness instead of altruism), to the stuggle to keep the power out of the military's hands and use it for purely humanitarian purposes.

Even the fight scenes and love subplots are identical, except Iron Man escapes a band of faceless terrorists the villain has unleashed on him, instead of a pack of Iron Dogs.
(Incidentally, the Hulk Dogs actually look pretty good on the small screen and are nicely animated. I don't see the hate.)

The only significant difference is that Iron Man stripped the story down to the chasis, and replaced Lee's surreal pop-art aesthetic with mediocrity and Downey Jr's performance. Otherwise, you can only distinguish the two by the color of the heroes.

Anonymous said...

Dunno, man. Think you're being a tad hard on Dr. Horrible, even if it isn't something groundbreaking - comparing it to Nolan's masterpiece is unfair. Hell, comparing what was previously the best in superhero movie fare - Spider-Man 2 and Superman Returns, to my mind - to The Dark Knight is still unfair. To my mind, all three of those are four star films, but the former aren't nearly as ambitious as The Dark Knight, yet all three succeed on their terms. Might one argue that, pacing issues and subtextual lightness aside, Dr. Horrible - which is a low budget internet production, of all things - is a moderate success?

Ian Pugh said...

The comparison to The Dark Knight may be a little extreme, Anon, but my point is that Dr. Horrible practically trips over itself to subvert classic superhero images when they've already been changing over the course of several years now, culminating in a character as terrifyingly familiar as Eckhart's Harvey Dent. Whedon is stuck in first gear: he's still talking about mad scientists harboring puppy crushes while everyone else is talking about the fallout, the hurt and longing, from those kinds of relationships--and not even as a matter of subtext.

Prashin: I get what you're saying, but dismissing deeper readings of The Dark Knight, negative or not, in strict favor of I-like-this is just something I can't comprehend when Nolan is actively using phrases like "agent of chaos" and "the only morality in a cruel world is chance." It's spelling things out a bit, yes--but those statements are just open-ended enough to let you know what themes you can find if you dig a little deeper, and I don't really think it's possible to skip over that. How do we respond to an agent of chaos? Why rely on chance in a cruel world?

prashin said...

Ian, fair enough point in case of this movie since it is quite explicit about its themes. I enjoy that frankly, I think subtlety is highly over-rated and over-used these days, when a lot of times filmmakers hide their lack of perspective by making their narratives as thematically opaque as possible. Nolan's got balls and he is not afraid to show 'em. He has essentially made a populist art film that may end up making 500B. Now thats crazy.

Anonymous said...

Great idea about the Riddler, Ian. The idea of Edward Nygma tormenting Batman with all the what ifs of the previous two movies sounds fascinating.

Jefferson said...

This brings up the only really interesting parallel I spotted between Iron Man and TDK: Tony Stark says "I am Iron Man" to stoke his own ego; Harvey Dent says "I am Batman" to shift the focus so the real hero can do his job. (Although, as other have pointed out, there's an edge of ego to Dent's seflessness, and that ultimately helps tip him over the edge into villainhood.)

Anonymous said...

Two queries for Alex - before, you said you really liked Bad Boys 2. There's no review over on Viddied, can you gimme the rundown in a couple of paragraphs why you dig?

Secondly, the ScreenIt prats gave The Dark Knight 8.5 out of 10. I seem to remember you following them along with me - this is, like, godlike praise from them, and it's still only an 8.5. Do you ever remember giving them higher?

Rick said...

Alex references Bad Boys 2 in The Punisher and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre reviews.

Anonymous said...

I just watched a trailer for the upcoming Clone Wars animated feature that seems like something that should be making a one-way trip to the bargain box at Wal-Mart. I will be curious to see what Walter has to say about it once its released.

Anonymous said...

OK, since I have no places on the web to write some comments about TDK without being insulted, why not here?

My opinion is: it was OK. Probably the best superhero movie so far. However, not a masterpiece, and certainly not the "best movie evah!" as the current IMDb rating would imply (lot of studio sycophants at work, I suspect). Fanboys are an embarrassment to human race and not really worth mentioning - a sad breed of rabid 14 years old living vicariously through the success of their comic book heroes.

So, TDK. Nolan has already proven to be a master storyteller (Memento) and an actor's director (Insomnia). He still isn't a great visual artist, though. He lacks the ability to capture iconic, defining images that one finds even in the most run-of-the-mill Ridley Scott or Michael Mann movies. And, unlike Spielberg (with the exception of the dreadful Indy 4) he STILL does not excel at filming a set-piece or an action scene. The bank robbery was ok, but many other action scenes in TDK were poor; not Batman Begins poor, but still unimpressive, expecially for a movie which is getting so high reviews. Just head-and shoulders shots of Batman walking around and punching people; no kinetic energy, no balletic quality, no elegance. I mean, if you want great action scenes, look at John Woo before his recent sell-out.

Ledger was indeed great, but Bale was strangely bland. Also, I insist that Burton's "fantasy" Gotham was more fascinating and visually entrancing than Nolan's "unremarkable metropolis".
That's enough, for now.

S.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and also: I'm a bit sick of this "good movie comes out and is a timeless classic already" attitude of many moviegoers (see IMDb, again). It seems that every well-done film with some depth becomes an instant masterpiece just after its release. See also The Lord of the Rings, Iron man, No country for old men. It takes years, decades, to understand if a movie is TRULY great, if it can stand the test of time. Let's talk about TDK in 2020, and see if it will be regarded as an unforgettable masterpiece or just as a fun, remarkably well made blockbuster featuring the last performance of a great actor.

S.

renfield said...

It's okay to be excited by a piece of art and not wait twelve years to express yourself accordingly.

The Critical Consensus has often been "wrong" in misdiagnosing the value of films upon their release. I don't quite see what harm this has caused. Instant-classic status is merely what it suggests. "Let the record show, this is how people reacted to TDK upon its release."

If a film stirs one to make outrageous claims, I would rather those claims be made than smothered by self-doubt, fear of fanboy accusation, and trying to guess what people will think in 2020.

Anonymous said...

I'm not claiming that reviews should be written decades after a movie comes out, renfield ;)

I merely suggest that one could be more... cautious? before using the word "masterpiece". For example, about FFC, although I pretty much agree with every single word Walter writes in every one of his negative reviews, I was surprised by his enthusiastic reactions at both TDK and No Country for Old Men, two movies I found remarkable but also flawed, and not deserving the status of "classics" (I have tried to explain some of the reasons for TDK, but I can elaborate, in the unlikely case someone is interested ;) ).

"The Critical Consensus has often been "wrong" in misdiagnosing the value of films upon their release. I don't quite see what harm this has caused."

It doesn't cause any "harm" (?) , but neither does suggesting that maybe the enthusiasm for "fresh" releases tends to overwhelm critical analysis among many moviegoers. I find it funny how every "newer" movie tends to erase the celebration of the previous successful blockbuster in the collective memory - see how Iron Man looked like the cinematic equivalent of the second coming of Christ, now TDK has taken its place. See also: Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings (which, again, I did like).

S.

Rick said...

"a sad breed of rabid 14 years old living vicariously through the success of their comic book heroes"

Stupid 14 year olds. Believing you are smarter than you actually are and being callous are way better options.

Jason said...

S.,

You have a point about the limited shelf life of celebrated blockbusters, but I'm more willing to bet on The Dark Knight being celebrated in 2020 than not. You do bring up an interesting thought, though: How will TDK be interpreted in 20 years? By then, we'll (hopefully) be well past the "War on Terror" stage of American history, and we'll likely have lived through a Barack Obama presidency.

How, then, will we take the film's treatment of the measures taken in the name of societal security? How will we interpret Batman's need for roving, warrantless wiretapping, or his interrogation methods of the Joker? And, more intriguingly, how will we interpret Harvey Dent - a smug, sanctimonious prick giving lip service to ideas of "hope" and "change" in Gotham City, gaining political points off of investigating police officers (however corrupt they may be), and, ultimately, having value for the people only as a martyr, regardless of his personal faults or crimes committed and summarily swept beneath the rug - in the light of a President Obama? Any thoughts?

rick,

There are other options?

Anonymous said...

rick: obviously, I was not talking about 14 years old IN GENERAL - only about those who feel the need to threaten and insult those who disagree with them - and yeah, I sure as hell believe I'm smarter than THEM. Try posting... I won't say a a negative comment, but even a mild criticism about TDK in pretty much every forum on the web and wait a couple of hours before someone tells you that you are an idiot, that you have no life, etc. One thing you'll rarely get will be arguments. This I regard as silly. And sad. I mean, just look at the reactions to the review linked to this blog's entry.

If you believe that's ok, then I don't know what to say. ;)

jason: interesting points. However, may I say that I actually wasn't all that impressed by the politics behind the movie? And I didn't see the message as particularly ambiguous. I thought it embraced the extreme measures in the war against terror, with Joker being the obvious Al Qaeda allegory - see how warrantless wiretapping, although introduced as morally problematic, ultimately proves to be a veritable deus-ex-machina.

What Nolan and his brother seem to say (although I could be reading too much into it) is that our choice is between an anarchist, murderous wasteland and a situation where we have to give up our individual freedom, because "legal" methods just don't work against terrorist - people like Batman, who don't play by the rules, get results, while those like Dent try to act by-the-book until they actually suffer a PERSONAL loss. What's interesting is that this "fight" cannot even be a collective effort - fake Batmans are frowned upon, and we know poor Brian's fate. No, we need Bu... the dark knight to save our sorry rears, even if later we feel hypocritically allowed to despise and demonize him.

This is not to say that TDK is a "Bush-ian blockbuster" - only, I didn't find its message overly complex, ambiguous or original. Scratch away its turn-of-the century nihilism, and you pretty much get what Hobbes wrote 400 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I want to say again that, overall, I *did* enjoy the movie. In particular, the Joker was awesome (what a brilliantly written and acted character). I just fail to see how this is the "OMG BEST MOVIE EVAH!!!".

S.

Anonymous said...

Kind of masturbatory to think about what-ifs for a third Batman, but it sure is fun.

Despite Nolan's apparent dislike, I think Riddler and Penguin would fit in pretty well with the new universe. Since Joker pretty much did what Batman started and demolished organized crime, what would come next in the real world? Well, Gotham burnt to the ground under an all out turf war by rival factions trying to fill the power vacuum. Picture a crazy Brit who likes to dress nicely and you've got the Penguin. On the other side, an egomaniac desperate to prove he's smarter than you. Viola, The Riddler.

Joef said...

http://leninology.blogspot.com/2008/08/i-dont-believe-in-harvey-dent.html

An interesting take on The Dark Knight in regards to perceived political/ideological content. I disagree with every word, but damned if it isn't fascinating.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else think that the next and perhaps last step for Nolan/Batman ought to be an adaptation of the Miller's Dark Knight Returns? Although I haven't any idea what he could do for the Joker segment, the work otherwise dovetails nicely with the fallout of TDK.
~JMC

jacksommersby said...

Walter,

I don't know what to say. Here I've been waiting like a kid on Christmas Eve for that "Blue City" review, and what do I get as a bonus? Three other stellar reviews of films I'm glad to have your take on (though I still put Bull Durham as the best of '88). Thanks much for some real reading pleasue.

Bill C said...

Waaay off topic, but: Barry Levinson just signed on to direct TRAIN, based on the brilliant Pete Dexter novel.

Which means you should all read "Train" before it acquires the permanent stigma of Barry Levinson hackwork courtesy the assclown writer of UNTRACEABLE.

Honestly, outside of Brett Ratner, I can't think of a worse choice of director for the material.

Ian Pugh said...

Much as I'd like to see a Dark Knight Returns movie, JMC, I think it would be too much of a leap from where we are now. First and foremost, I think we absolutely need to see the fallout from Batman's newfound identity before we can jump ahead to his retirement.

"Curing" Two-Face would be too abrupt--of course, I think bringing Two-Face back at all would be too much of a stretch; everyone would have to recognize Harvey Dent if he was still out there committing crimes, which would kind of defeat the purpose of the ending of The Dark Knight. Unless, of course, Gordon and Batman kept Dent locked away in Arkham as a dirty little secret, Count of Monte Cristo-style.

Anyway, a few other concerns to discuss: the Joker's gang has already somewhat embodied the Mutants' ethic; the introduction of Robin; and bringing Superman into the equation. Of course, Walter's made a pretty convincing argument that The Dark Knight is already a tonal adaptation of Miller's work--but maybe we can convince someone else to take the reins in a few years to create their own continuity.

Beyond that, however, you've got the "four hours long" argument... Let's wait and see if Snyder's Watchmen can transcend the "twelve-hour miniseries" argument, and if/when/how George Miller does Justice League--if that doesn't end up as a tremendous clusterfuck too.

Anonymous said...

New Harry Potter Trailer is up.
Intriguing.
~JMC

Anonymous said...

There goes Chaw again with his Asian stereotyping crap. Jesus Christ man, get the fuck over yourself already! To give yourself the self-importance that DGG would be reacting to *your* oblique criticism of his Asian stereotyping is not only ridiculous, but arrogant. Maybe instead of blaming every single American film that remotely deals with as Asian character for participating in forging of a giant conspiracy against Asian people, you should try some introspection into your own racial identity and self-analyze why you feel the need to be so overtly defensive of it. This was a quirk, an eccentricity in the beginning but now it has become tiring and irritating. Honestly, as soon as I saw Asian gangsters in ninja costumes in the film, the first thing that came to my mind was: "Watch Walter misconstrue this harmless schlocky shtick into something racist." And you didn't disappoint.

And please don't go after the fact that I posted this anonymously, it is not as much out of cowardice as shear annoyance and unwillingness to sugar-coat it.

Bill C said...

For what it's worth, that last anonymous-but-by-no-means-cowardly rant was brought to you by zerosummer, aka Prashin, aka Hollow Man Stuffed Man.

Own your words, man. Walt's a big boy, he can take it. Can you?

Brendan said...

Bill, I think it's sort of creepy to allow anonymous comments, only to unmask the commenter. Why not just disallow anonymous comments completely? You can do that.

I like that Walter continues to go out on his various limbs, calling it as he sees it. You don't get that perspective from many (any?) other outlets, and after all, there's room on the internet for it, isn't there? The anti-P.C. backlash is more dangerous to art and social conversation than political correctness ever was.

Bill C said...

I actually can't unmask comments, Brendan: for some reason that one went to my inbox as "zerosummer." And you know what? His justification was really feeble, and I kinda don't give a shit. Sorry, folks.

Zero Summer said...

Oh, I know why, because the first time I posted it, it posted as my i.d. and then I had to delete it. That must've been the one Bill got. Oh well, nothing in there that I'm too ashamed off, I've been wanting to say it for a while but my tone would probably have been slightly more civil and definitely more polite. But I'll stick by it, the ninja gangsters was a 70s-style gimmick, there was nothing malignant about it and if someone is willing to dig Walt's interview of DGG out of the archive, you'd find that Walt's claim was on particularly feeble ground in the first place. So sorry folks, just calling a spade a spade, just didn't feel like sugar-coating it or being confrontational since I'm a big Chaw fan.

You can accuse me of misguided fanboyism Bill, but not cowardice. I just don't see why you couldn't respect my wishes of remaining anonymous.

Bill C said...

I'm grumpy is why. But still, touche and all that. Mea culpa.

Here's the thing, though: you never have to worry about sugarcoating anything around here. We could stand some of our own medicine, Lord knows.

What makes me uncomfortable is that there's a certain amount of duplicity in dropping your identity when you feel the need to insult or criticize us, y'know? Who does that, really, outside the Obediah Stanes of the world? Makes me wonder now how many regular commentors do this, and I'd prefer to keep a high opinion of our readership.

Ian Pugh said...

Am I the only one who wishes that they'd remake Deep Red before they remake Suspiria? Given Argento's opinion of the meddling Everyman in that film, it seems like the perfect opportunity for someone like Ben Stiller to subvert his popular image with a little more gusto. (I'm not too sure if his role in Tropic Thunder as an action hero will work--it seems a little too obvious in how contradictory it is.) Get a guy like Del Toro to back that horse, and then we'd be talkin'.

Zero Summer said...

Fair call, Bill. I haven't done it before, probably explains why I was so bad at it. I didn't mind it much, if anything a little embarrassed for being caught with my pants down. I was kinda annoyed when I wrote it (especially with the Feng Shui reference because I know Walt knows better since he was the interviewer in that case and he knew the reason behind it), but once I did, it came off as real dickish and race is a sensitive issue. It was one of those things where you want to criticize people you like but don't wanna be an asshole about it. I took the easy way out since I wanted to say it the way I did. It was duplicitous, I offer no excuse (other then the one just mentioned above). I pledge not to do it again.

I can understand your frustration though, lot of "anonymous" postings lately, some really offensive, it must've been pent up. I don't think mine falls in that category though, if a little coarse and plebeian.

Zero Summer said...

Did anyone read about Your Highness!, this medieval stoner comedy where Danny McBride plays a lazy prince who finally is pushed to go on an adventure and has to fight non-CGI dragons. To be directed by DGG. Can't wait for Foot Fist Way by the way.

Anonymous said...

Potter 6 does indeed look interesting. By now I pretty much disregard the first two and fourth films, choosing to focus only on the better ones-Azkaban and Phoenix. Much the same way you can disregard the Star Wars prequels, the Godfather Part III, Alien Resurrection, AVP 1 & 2, Search for Spock, etc.

renfield said...

It's the best trailer they've made for a Potter film, Azkaban notwithstanding.

Very little happened in the novel, to my recollection. For me, Phoenix sort of atrophied due to the usual condensation/plot skimming. Maybe this one, having less to adapt event-wise, will fare better.

I don't think anybody else besides Cuaron managed to breathe a profound sense of magic into the little moments. The reverse zoom to the film's title alone is still the best moment in all 5.

Anonymous said...

Oh I totally agree that Azkaban blows all the other Potter films away. I just liked some of the themes that Phoenix touched on even though it seemed a tad rushed at times (the revelation that Harry's father tormented Snape when they were boys should have been given more time).

Zero Summer said...

I watched both Harry Potter 3 and 5 back to back lately, and no doubt 3 is better by a daylight and a dusk. Just notice when you may how Cuaron starts his scenes with clever gags and tricks.; like the headless horseman chasing the one that has taken his head to lead up to the plot or the blue birds that keep getting gobbled by the tree etc. I don't know if all that is in the books but Azkaban is far more inventive than all the rest of them. And that is just the shear aesthetics I'm talking about, lets not even go into the subtext. I think the first two get a bad rep but they are not that terrible but 3 and 5 are by far the best. The only one that I feel is really really terrible is 4. Ruined the series for me whereas the first two were serviceable. I fucking hate Mike Newell anyways, that guy wouldn't know a story if it hit him in the face and to expect subtext from him is like expecting an ape to do calculus. Why in the hell did they ever think he would be any good at it!

Anonymous said...

Newell=$$$

Thats why. I think I could have tolerated Potter 4 if Newell had returned to the juvenile, literal approach that Colombus took with the first two. But the fact that he appropriated the darkness of Cuaron's Azkaban without that movie's intellect, charm, or grace was to me unforgiveable.

The sad part is how knuckle-dragging primates like Newell and Ratner know how to consume the work of genuine artists and then regurgitate it into something palatable for the masses.

Alex Jackson said...

Surprised there's no discussion on the new W. trailer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEyJ2kdaaTQ

Carl Walker said...

I just want to strongly agree with the statement that "the anti-P.C. backlash is more dangerous to art and social conversation than political correctness ever was." I am always looking for new ways to articulate this sentiment, as it's one that people are of course immensely reistant too. I appreciate Walter's stands on racial stereotyping in film; if anything, I think he goes too easy on some films, every now and then! He doesn't seem willing to concede that a good film can have some bad race stuff in it.

As for Harry Potter, I will agree with most of you. Three is terrific and made me a Cuaron fan, 4 was a travesty, particularly coming after 3 (although it doesn't really matter in the end, I agree) and 5 was good, but not great. I'm glad Yates is back for 6, but I hope he can top his previous effort, all the same. I like the observation that 1 worked due to its straight-up, guileless "juvenile" approach, but I already felt bored with 2 as it was, in every sense, more of the same. As such, I kinda doubt that that approach could have been recaptured successfully, and having read the books, I can tell you that an entirely new storyline would have been necessary to make that approach even possible. If anything, Cuaron just went for "dark" one installment before Rowling did.

Dave Gibson said...

RE: “W” preview.

I’m always amused by Oliver Stone’s shamelessly cosmetic “Cast of 100 Stars” approach to his event biopics. Burstyn! Dreyfuss! Where’s Helen Hayes? His films routinely demand the return of those little cast photos, which used to appear on the Irwin Allen and “Airport” posters in the 70’s. Will see it of course, but after the “Harold and Kumar” sequel I’m getting queasy about contemplating further reinvention of the despicable W as an essentially endearing, two-fisted, frat-flavored Prince Hal. Yeeech.

Btw-Who knew someone as innocuously middlebrow as Mike Newell could inspire such virulent hate? “Donnie Brasco” and “The Good Father” (and hell, even “Four Weddings and a Funeral”) gives him adequate forgiveness for “destroying” the consistently unremarkable Harry Potter series.

Bill C said...

Thanks for stepping up, Dave: DONNIE BRASCO (which will probably be the last great Al Pacino movie) and even AN AWFULLY BIG ADVENTURE innoculate Newell to this vitriol, if you ask me. The Ratner comparison is reckless at best, and I don't really understand the contempt for GOBLET myself. It ain't X3.

Dave Gibson said...

Agreed. Anyone who can sit on late career Pacino, and conjure something like Lefty’s gorgeous “dresser drawer” scene is A-OK in my book. Though admittedly I can’t really get worked up into a lather about the relative quality of any of the Potter films. I can probably go along with the third being “the best” of the bunch but it’s such a vanilla series that I honestly can’t keep any of them straight. Though the one sequence that does stick with me is the underwater stuff (with the kids chained on the floor of the lake) that (I think) was in the maligned fourth film—so, I guess Newell managed to reach this particular Non-Potter reader on some level.

Anonymous said...

Ratner makes empty, soulless movies for the intellectually bereft. Newell makes empty, soulless movies for the intellectually arrogant. Two sides of the same incompetent coin in my book. And sorry Bill but Al Pacino's last great movie was Scarface, though Sea of Love had some charm. I do like Dave's thoughts about "W" however.

Ronald Lewis said...

Hi, there!
My name's Ronald and i think that your blog has some really good stuff :)
I would like to contribute sending this top 10 list that i found on the internet
that shows the most oscar winning movies off all time. Maybe you can post it
so we can discuss with the others. :)
Here's the link: http://www.weshow.com/top10/en/movies/top-10-most-oscar-winning-movies
Congrats for the blog! Keep going like that!