Saturday, September 24, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse Is Not The BEST Superhero Movie of 2016 ... But It Is The Most IMPORTANT One

Depending on when you think the Modern Superhero Movie Era was born, it's either about to go to college or it's at least touring campuses. You could say that it began with the first X-Men in 2000, with that movie's somewhat darker tone and sophisticated themes (relative, at least, to where the Batman-franchise had ended up by then), as well as its (again, relative) dedication to source material, deliberate universe-building and employment of prestige directors. On the other hand, most if not all of these elements were present in the first Blade movie, which preceded the first X-Men by two years (even if that franchise didn't end up having the legs or broader cultural impact of the X-Franchise). Either way, we're about 16-18 years into the Modern Era, and it's worth asking whether the superhero movie matured at all over the years. Looking at this year's crop so far, I see only one clear example of growth in the genre, but it's deeper message has gone almost completely unnoticed by critics as far as I can tell.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

"This isn't a failed marriage" - Why I Loved the HIMYM Finale

Who would've guessed a year ago that there would be more articles written and more fan outrage over the last episode of How I Met Your Mother than over the last episode of Breaking Bad?  I could be wrong about that.  But it certainly seems like HIMYM's last episode--the ironically-yet-poignantly titled "Last Forever"--set off a disproportionate internet firestorm for what I'd always considered a mediocre situation comedy at best. (Albeit, one with a very clever gimmick at its center).  In fact, I may be one of the few people who not only liked the final episode but thought it was the best part of the show.

Follow me below the fold to hear more (and then post a comment to tell me how wrong I am) ...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

"And the Oscar for Best VOICE Performance Goes To ..."

And no one saw it coming ...

It was undeniably a great year for movies, so it's a bit ungrateful for me to complain that the 2014 Academy Awards nominations this year are so boring and predictable.  But there's no wildcard nominations like Beauty and the Best or Babe for Best Picture, and the closest thing to a dark horse is Philomena.  So, as I did last year, I'm going to propose some new Oscar categories to spice things up.  These categories are designed to honor people and types of movies that the Academy currently ignores while also introducing some fun and excitement into Oscar Night ...

Monday, January 13, 2014

Apropos of Last Week's Post ...

I know this is a few months old, but this video from College Humor finally caught my attention last week, coincidentally the same week that I called out Scorsese for whiffing on male nudity in Wolf of Wall Street ...

My favorite line from the video, regarding the lack of male nudity in Game of Thrones: "You'll show a pregnant woman get stabbed in the baby and you won't show one innocent little hardened dick."

Too true.

And in the meantime, Girls is back for a third season, meaning that it's time once again for Lena Dunham to have to justify showing nudity for purposes other than replicating straight male porn.  It's not just the lack of dongs on cable TV and R-rated movies, it's the narrow view in our culture of the narrative possibilities of nudity in general.

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Sheep in Wolf's Clothing

Martin Scorsese's latest, The Wolf of Wall Street, is the very definition of "polarizing."  According to the aggregated critics on Rotten Tomatoes, it is "amongst Scorsese's best work", "the worst writing Scorsese has ever been associated with",  "the best film of 2013" and so horrible that "[i]t doesn't even deserve a grade."  Critics are split on whether the movie has "propulsive purpose" or, alternatively, no discernible "point of view."  There's also a raging, furious debate over whether the movie glorifies or condemns the capitalist excess of its pro/antagonist, Jordan Belfort.

The one point on which everyone seems to agree, however, is the film's supposed debauchery.  And yeah, sure, there is coke snorted or blown into various bodily orifices, a marching band in their underwear, and multiple depictions or orgies.  But I have one important question to ask ... why don't we ever see Leo's penis?

More, with spoilers for Wolf of Wall Street below the fold.

Monday, December 23, 2013

"Rumors are Flying All Over Galilee These Days" - A Word of Praise for an Unconventional Christmas Carol

Every December we seem to have the same discussion about our universal "love/hate relationship" for Christmas songs.  For every earnest list of "best Christmas songs" online, there are at least as many "Christmas songs we hate" lists as well as "Christmas songs we love to hate" lists (as well as a handful of "Christmas songs that are surprisingly tolerable!" lists).  The derision for "Christmas songs" as a genre probably stems from gross repetition - the fact that, generation after generation, we're subjected to the same dozen or so songs played every hour, on the hour, as we're stuck in line buying wrapping paper at Walgreens.  But that just begs the question of why such a small universe of songs are deemed acceptable for the holiday season.

If you ask me, the problem is that our culture has such a narrow conception of what are appropriate topics for holiday music to discuss.  Yeah, yeah, Christmas is a glorious time full of miracles, Jesus is the Son of God undoubtedly, and everyone should just get along already.  Yet, surely such a supposedly momentous, singular event as the birth of God's only son to a virgin should inspire art and music that is more compelling and sophisticated than a series of glorified campfire ditties.

As I've written before, I don't think our culture handles spiritual expression in art particularly well if it goes any deeper than "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so", and I attribute this shortcoming directly to the hijacking and commodification of spirituality by mainstream Christianity.  The problem is captured pretty well by this observation from the estimable in its breakdown of Vampire Weekend's  "Hey Ya" (itself probably the best song about religious exploration in decades):
These days, unless you have a tailored religious message, it’s very hard to be an openly religious artist — no matter how much you’re attracted to the idea.
The truth in this statement is painfully clear when you consider that nearly all "Christmas songs" fit into one of two (maybe three) categories -- painfully earnest, celebratory songs ("Joy to the World", "Hark the Herald Angel Sings") and utterly frivolous, jokey songs ("Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", "All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth").  A subcategory of the latter type are the sardonic or outright cynical "anti-Christmas" songs, that tend to have very little to add to the discussion beyond antagonism for its own sake.  Subtract out love songs that do little more than name-drop Christmas and Walgreens would have nothing left to play over their speakers during the holidays ... well, almost nothing, which brings me to the topic this post below the fold.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A New Thanksgiving Day Tradition

I had a flash of inspiration this evening to start a new tradition, my own spin on "Best Of" lists, which are a dime a dozen online (though I do plan on compiling my second annual "Best of Best of" list soon). 

Instead, I'm going to list all the things I'm thankful for from the past twelve months, for whatever reason and in no particular order, starting with:

1. The opening credits of Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Continued below the fold ...