Saturday, September 23, 2006

Blog rolling

Miyazaki blog-a-thon... and here, here, and here

PJ and the Hobbit

Knowing your audience

Jim Emerson on film criticism

And a bleat from James Lileks about the "golden age" of television (which in case you were wondering is Right Now)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Hail to the Victors!

Michigan 47, Notre Dame 21 (sorry Michael)

But Notre Dame does have better football movies.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Superman Retreads

(N.B.: This is not really a review. It's more like a few idiosyncratic observations.)

I'm not sure how it happened, but my opinion of Superman Returns (Bryan Singer, B-) has steadily decreased from B+ to B to B- as time has passed. I figure I'd better commit myself to a blog entry before things get worse and Superman gets downgraded to just plain old Average C. As it is, he's only slightly above average and that's too bad. Too bad because I'm one of the few (I think) who really likes Superman (better than Batman and Spiderman and Ghost Rider) and doesn't think he's a stodgy old boy scout. Too bad, because a director with a little les nostalgia in his eyes and a little more daring could have made a fresh, sparkling film for 2006, instead of the backward-looking homage to the 1978 film we actually got. Everything about Superman Returns feels unnecessary, in the sense that if we wanted a film like this we could have just turned to the original Richard Donner film. Why make this new one?

Imagine for a moment some possible ideas for a new Superman film, a film meant to jumpstart the franchise for the 21st century (and also note that these are just a few off-the-cuff ideas I came up with, or borrowed from other, better sources):

*It's 1942 and a (Golden Age) Superman must defend the Daily Star, Metropolis, and the Allied forces from a (magical, kryptonite-fortified) Spear of Destiny-weilding Hitler. Imagine Superman fighting scientifically enhanced Nazi supermen and throwing tanks across the fields of France (and as Clark Kent, exposing Lex Luthor as a shameless war profiteer who's getting rich selling arms to the Axis).

*Imagine Superman is dying (one of Lex Luthor's schemes and the idea Grant Morrison has come up with in his All-Star Superman comic), so what else does he do except go to his Fortress of Solitude and develop a serum that gives Lois the same powers as himself for 24 hours. Oh, and he also reveals to her his secret identity as Clark Kent.

*How about Braniac as the big bad? Or maybe a riff on the "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" Alan Moore story? What if Superman returned and found Lex Luthor elected president?!

Any idea that has some gumption or a spark of innovation would have been just the thing to revitalize the Superman movie franchise and make it feel necessary. Instead, Bryan Singer indulged his love for the original Christopher Reeve version and delivered a well-made (boring) semi-remake. I guess I'm just not infatuated enough with Donner's movie to get all starry-eyed with this too-long (154 min.) tribute to it. Don't get me wrong: the performances are generally good (loved Kevin Spacey), the special effects dazzling (loved the bullet glancing off Superman's eye), the story well-told (if ill-chosen). But did we really need another Lex Luthor land scheme? (Lex Luthor O'Hara: "Why Kitty Scarlett Kowalski, you mean to tell me that land doesn't mean anything to you?! Why, land's the only thing that matters, the only thing worth fighting for, worth dying for. Because it's the only thing that lasts." *unless Superman throws it into space of course*)

Was Singer's notion of a fresh idea really just to add a cute kid to the mix? Wow, I can't wait to see the sequel in which Superman agonizes over what to do about his bastard son. That sounds like a great storyline for a superhero movie!

Seriously, I sound a lot harsher about this movie than I really feel. I did like it. It's just a disappointment insofar as it's supposed to be a restart of the franchise and instead it just feels like a retread of a movie from 30 years ago. Superman returned alright. I just wish he could've flown in a different direction.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

No Children, No Future, No Hope

I think the upcoming film, The Children of Men (dir. Alfonso Cuaron), looks fantastic. I'm actually a little surprised a film like this is being made today. I mean, a film about the importance of having children and making sure the world is populated?! What happened to all the doomsday stuff about how there are TOO MANY people on the planet??? I'm sure the leftists at the UN and other population-control liberals aren't too pleased with this little speculative-fiction movie. Anyway, I'm very excited, not least of all because Alfonso Cuaron is directing.

via Jeffrey Overstreet at Looking Closer

Why I can never really hate Ted Turner

Turner Classic Movies is the greatest channel on television. In the past few months I have watched these films and more (all uncut and commercial free, of course), some of which are not available on dvd:

Kiss Me Deadly (Robert Aldrich, A)
Spirit of the Beehive (Victor Erice, B)
American Graffiti (George Lucas, A)
To Be or Not to Be (Ernst Lubitsch, B+)
My Man Godfrey (Gregory La Cava, A-)
Captain Blood (Michael Curtiz, B+)
High Sierra (Raoul Walsh, B+)
The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, A-)
Get Yourself a College Girl (Sidney Miller, C-)
Ecstacy (Gustav Machaty, B-)
H.M. Pulham, Esq. (King Vidor, B)
Charge of the Light Brigade (Michael Curtiz, B-)
Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz & William Keighley, A-)
On the Waterfront (Elia Kazan, A+)
Born to Be Bad (Nicholas Ray, B-)
Waterloo Bridge (Mervyn LeRoy, A-)
Sergeant York (Howard Hawks, A)
Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir, A-)
Key Largo (John Huston, B+)
Nothing Sacred (William A. Wellman, B)
The Devil and Miss Jones (Sam Wood, B+)
Meet John Doe (Frank Capra, B)
Top Hat (Mark Sandrich, A-)
Swing Time (George Stevens, A-)
Flying Down to Rio (Thornton Freeland, C)
Monkey Business (Howard Hawks, B)
Bachelor Mother (Garson Kanin, A-)
Enchantment (Irving Reis, B-)
Crossroads (Jack Conway, C+)
The Strawberry Blonde (Raoul Walsh, A-)
The Petrified Forest (Archie Mayo, B-)
The Man Who Came to Dinner (William Keighley, B+)
Pinky (Elia Kazan, A-)
Gold Diggers 1933 (Mervyn LeRoy, B+)
Dinner at Eight (George Cukor, B)
Stage Door (Gregory La Cava, B+)
A Foreign Affair (Billy Wilder, B+)

And... I'm still waiting to watch:
Hercules, Samson and Ulysses (Pietro Francisci, 1963)
The Invisible Boy (Herman Hoffman, 1957)
Island of Lost Souls (Erle C. Kenton, 1933)
The Exterminating Angel (Luis Bunuel, 1962)
Tortilla Flat (Victor Fleming, 1942)
The Conformist (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1970)
Ball of Fire (Howard Hawks, 1941)

And in addition to all the great movies, I've managed to watch several hours of classic cartoons from MGM, Hanna-Barbera, Warner Bros., etc. on TCM's Cartoon Alley program (on Saturday mornings, appropriately enough).