Chelsea Girl, this cartoon makes me think of you. (Carton by Phil Selby, found on The Rut by Celtie – thx baby!)
Chelsea Girl, this cartoon makes me think of you.
So let’s get a couple things out of the way up front. First, Heath Ledger’s Joker is a thing of brilliance. Utterly mad, completely evil, frighteningly real. This is a performance that might have gotten oscar nods if he were still around; it will certainly get them now. He steals the film. Second, I have […]
So let’s get a couple things out of the way up front.
First, Heath Ledger’s Joker is a thing of brilliance. Utterly mad, completely evil, frighteningly real. This is a performance that might have gotten oscar nods if he were still around; it will certainly get them now. He steals the film.
Second, I have a major Batman bias. I’m a huge superhero comic fan; I grew up on ’em, collected all the major Marvel and DC titles in the seventies and eighties. So I have very strong image about who batman is and how he should be portrayed. This makes it hard for me to be objective about reviewing any movie about batman, because they’re never my batman.
That said, The Dark Knight manages to do just about as good a job as anyone has ever done with Batman on the screen. Yet, they fundamentally still miss the mark.
Bringing Batman to the screen is difficult. Partly because there’s a lot of baggage (the sixties tv show skewed how we see batman to the corny and campy; Frank Miller’s Batman skewed our view the other way, to the dark and hard and disturbing). Partly, it’s difficult because our studios (and DC comics) have a singular idea of how a hero should be portrayed. I think every one of the modern Batman movies has suffered from this, and not one of them has yet ventured into new territory. They all reek of artistic compromise.
Add to this the fact that Batman, even for superheros, is particularly absurd. No super powers, a weirdly silly outfit, a reliance on impossible technology. It’s hard to portray a guy in a bat suit with ears and not make him look silly, even if we don’t include nipples and tights.
Dark Knight manages to get it mostly right. They strip the suit down til it looks like something you could actually fight in, they give us some plausible idea of how one man mages all these bizarre inventions, and (with back story from Batman Begins) they’ve given us a character with with enough of a crazy streak that the obsession and the bat images make sense.
They’ve also given us a very strong cast. Ledger is amazing; he will give you nightmares. I can see this man walking around in real life, he’s that convincingly insane. Never before has the joker seemed so completely believable as a homicidal, sadistic lunatic. Aaron Eckhart, while not turning in the kind of absolutely inspired performance Ledger brings, is still terrific. This guy keeps getting better ever time I see him. And obviously, with actors like Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman involved, the cast just keeps hitting (though Maggie Gyllenhaal’s performance is oddly lackluster; I absolutely adore her, though I kept wanting to slap her and say *wake up!*).
The action scenes are all look great, the fights are well choreographed, the effects are mostly terrific.
So what’s wrong with it?
That’s a hard one; my bias about Batman aside, something’s missing. But I’m struggling with what.
I wanted the the entire thing to have more zip. I wanted the dialog to sparkle. I wanted to care about the characters. While the dialog was ok, and there were some decent one liners, most of it has a journeyman feel, like it could have been from any action film. I wanted a breathless pace; there were too many pauses to build character, and then not enough to do for the actors when they had space to act. They were playing characters, and because they’re all good, the characters seemed real. But it felt like padding.
The middle of the film is mainly driven by Bruce Wayne’s soul-searching over having killed people; to me, this rang utterly false. The core of the character, to me, is that he’ll do whatever the fuck it takes to bring down the bad guys, even be one himself. He will kill, he will break laws, he will sacrifice. What he won’t do is stop. The beginning and end work; but when Wane starts to fuss about wanting to inspire people, it feels like they’ve forgotten who they’re making a movie about (who is this, fucking Spiderman?)
The film was also oddly bright. One expects Batman films to be dark and shadowy. Gotham is a gothic nightmare of a city. What we got was downtown chicago, with no attempt whatsoever to make it look like anything else. I assume this was to give the film a sense of realism, but the effect was of lazy film making and average cinematography. Worse was that they chose to put Batman in full, harsh light in much of the film, which just makes the bat suit look silly. Batman needs a sense of menace to make him effective; a rubber rodent head doesn’t do it. The less you show of Batman, the more effective he is.
This isn’t to say I disliked the film; it’s easily the best Batman to date. But the fact that it reaches higher in some ways, perhaps, points out the deficiencies. It’s quite a good film; but it could have been a great film. It misses the mark on greatness. That’s a shame, because Ledger’s performance is truly great, and deserves to be in a movie that stands up to it.
Now, as to the batman I want to see, one only needs to look to Frank Miller’sDark Knight Returns to see my vision of Batman.
The Batman I want to see isn’t a hero; and that’s where Hollywood always fails. They want to portray a darkly heroic, misunderstood figure. They err in casting mornful, broody types (when they don’t cast George Clooney, anyway). What they wind up getting is a batman who looks self-involved and sulky.
Batman, my version of Batman, is crazy. Something in him broke when his parents were killed, and he’s spent his life on revenge; not on one person, but on everyone, everywhere, who commits a crime. He doesn’t care about laws, honor, morals. The irony is that he’s become who he’s fighting. He’s a killer, a sadist. Yet, he’s an agent for good, doing what needs doing. He knows he’s down in the mire with the criminals, he’s sacrificed himself to what he thinks is greater good, though he’s driven by an obsession with revenge.
His alter ego isn’t a light-hearted playboy; he’s a dark, brooding recluse. More Howard Hughes than Tony Stark.
I want to see someone cast who can play batman as a semi-psychotic villain. Imagine Alan Rickman; imagine if Heath Ledger could have turned that air of craziness into a batman portrayal. Bale could have done it (he does crazy so well). But the part needs a villain at it’s heart, not a hero. Batman isn’t a hero; he’s a bad guy who’s on our side, and THAT is what every single movie portrayal misses.
My complaints about The Dark Knight are colored this, to be sure. But my real issues with it are not that it isn’t my batman; it’s that they so nearly turned out a great film. They missed by *that* much, and that’s frustrating, because they almost had it.
My skull ring collection, so far. Left to right, that’s: Deadringers Yorrick, Tony Creed Riffman, srs slvr ‘eric clapton’, Ruby Crush full-jaw, Deadringers classic, Ruby Crush jawless, Dave’s Custom Skulls jawless. Click for a full-size view. The Dave’s Custom, above, is the last ring available after Dave’s death. I’m glad to have it, it’s one […]
My skull ring collection, so far.
Left to right, that’s:
Click for a full-size view.
The Dave’s Custom, above, is the last ring available after Dave’s death. I’m glad to have it, it’s one of my most wearable rings. The ‘clapton’ ring is by a vendor I suggest never ordering from (I won’t even list their name to avoid google pointing them out); they’re known to rip people off.
Missing is my Sinners Inc. spade (it didn’t work, composition wise) but I’ll post another pic, later, that features it.
I tell ya, it just makes me need more, seeing ’em like this. Damn list keeps growing, where my budget doesn’t.
(thanks for the pick, B. Love it!)
I’ve just been on a huge Bob Mould kick lately. This is from Body of Song, which is great. I love how he’s managed to make a vocoder work in this without sounding utterly 80’s. I am Vision, I am Sound: (this cuts before the song is over, I’ll fix that as soon as I […]
I’ve just been on a huge Bob Mould kick lately.
This is from Body of Song, which is great. I love how he’s managed to make a vocoder work in this without sounding utterly 80’s.
I am Vision, I am Sound:
(this cuts before the song is over, I’ll fix that as soon as I get time to re-rip it)
For some reason I haven’t listened to Bob Mould’s Workbook in ages. I’ve no idea why, I’ve been listening to Sugar and Husker Du. I’d completely forgotten how great some of these songs are. Days come, days go by So it matters, so you say But it’s all coming back in a way And nothing […]
For some reason I haven’t listened to Bob Mould’s Workbook in ages. I’ve no idea why, I’ve been listening to Sugar and Husker Du.
I’d completely forgotten how great some of these songs are.
Days come, days go by
So it matters, so you say
But it’s all coming back in a way
And nothing will ever change
The words exchanged for revenge inside
You know these things take time
Now and then, these words
Make me laugh so powerful
Going through several lies
They’ve never been so true
I know that I’m used to time
You know what it is, don’t you?
Some words make us all cry
It’s so talented
If anybody could read my mind
And share with me these thoughts
Of all the enemies left behind
And friends that time forgot
Pretending nothing could ever faze you
Well, some things never change
Tell me why do these words ring home
How can you heartbreak a stranger?
Days come, days go by
So it matters, so you say
But it’s all coming back in a way
And everyone knows a way
And everybody runs away
From somebody who cries
Heartbreak a Stranger, Bob Mould
MacRumors and other sites just posted about an early release of the iPhone 2.0 software here. While I can’t say I recommend being an early adopter, I’ve just downloaded and installed it. The new iPhone is about to be released (tomorrow). No, I don’t know when I can get them. I’m at least as anxious […]
MacRumors and other sites just posted about an early release of the iPhone 2.0 software here.
While I can’t say I recommend being an early adopter, I’ve just downloaded and installed it.
The new iPhone is about to be released (tomorrow). No, I don’t know when I can get them. I’m at least as anxious as you are, I’ve got my credit card in my hand, ready to order one as soon as they turn up for sale.
UPDATE: the AppleInsider is advising against updating at this time; with the new iPhone out today, users who update are having trouble getting the updated phones working. I suspect that’ll be resolved shortly, but hold off and check for updates here.
Typically, my trip is over too soon. Tomorrow evening I fly home from Portland, into the fire and brimstone that is northern California, and back into what we think of as real life though I think if one does it right, travel is real life and work is the other thing we do from time […]
Typically, my trip is over too soon. Tomorrow evening I fly home from Portland, into the fire and brimstone that is northern California, and back into what we think of as real life though I think if one does it right, travel is real life and work is the other thing we do from time to time.
I’ve spent the last couple of days exploring neighborhoods around Portland; though I think I haven’t really even scratched the surface. My friends Bonnie and James moved up here several years back, and love it here; I rather suspect the ‘tour’ they’ve given us has been more a sales job for ‘why move up to Portland’.
Portland is a funky town; I spent today trying to think of what it’s like. It has some similarity to Santa Cruz, CA; but it’s much more a place than Santa Cruz. It also has some similarity to Berkley, but Berkley has much more sense of self-importance. It finally occurred to me that it felt a bit like Austin; it’s a college town, it’s an oasis of culture and weirdness in a largely back-woods state, and it’s a place which seems to see itself as apart from it’s surrounds. It has a dynamic food scene (today’s oddest treat; blue-cheese chocolate truffle), a somewhat unique music scene, and people on the street all seem a half step ahead of things, style-wise. Yet it’s also very much a small town, not quite so cool as it thinks it is. You can see people trying to be cool.
I like this town. I don’t, though, love it yet. I could immediately visualize living in Victoria (as I could when I was in Vancouver ten years ago). I actually pondered living in Seattle. Portland, though, I haven’t yet come to terms with. I can’t quite decide if it’s self-aware funkiness more tips the scale toward appealing, or annoying.
Either way, it’s a town I need to see more of. I don’t know why it’s taken so long to get up here to visit; the family I’m staying with are some of my favorite people in the world, and they’ve had an open offer extended to ages. It’s not that far, and I can even see coming up here on two wheels some day, if I pick a good time of year for motorcycle travel.
I still haven’t managed to get to Voodoo Donuts for a bacon maple bar, one of the key goals of my trip. I’m hoping to get that taken care of tomorrow. On the other hand, if I don’t get there, it’s one more reason to come back real soon now.
I kind of meant to keep a running log of my stay in Seattle as did in Victoria; or at least carry on a flirt-by-flirt, firework by firework overview. I never quite got to my computer in seattle; maybe it was flaky WiFi, or maybe the lack of a decent writing surface in my room. […]
I kind of meant to keep a running log of my stay in Seattle as did in Victoria; or at least carry on a flirt-by-flirt, firework by firework overview.
I never quite got to my computer in seattle; maybe it was flaky WiFi, or maybe the lack of a decent writing surface in my room. Or maybe I was too busy by day and too beat at night.
I’ve been through Seattle a few times before, and sort of rated it as one of those ‘what’s the big fuss about’ cities. The last three days in Seattle changed my mind completely. I drove in thinking, i should have stayed in Victoria, or gone to Vancouver; I left today thinking, I want to live here.
My hotel was almost exactly halfway between Pioneer Square and Pike Place Market; it would be hard to pick a more perfect spot for a first trip. This is the corner where the Seattle Fire started in 1889.
It’s funny; my mental image of Seattle came from two sources. There was a teevee show around 1970; ‘Here Come the Brides’ or something like that. It presented 1860’s Seattle as a folksy, rustic place.
That image stuck – though I can’t recall ever actually watching the show at the time – until Seattle hit the public consciousness in a big way, thanks to Sub Pob Records and the Grunge scene. Somewhere around the same time, Starbucks started to its slow march toward world dominance.
My image of Seattle changed from from folksy to urban; like the rest of the country, I sort of noticed seattle for the first time in fifteen years or so. Trouble was, the new image was just as two dimensional as the old. What I saw wasn’t that different than the music scene in San Francisco; punk, folk and metal bands all sort of converging on a common point, fueled by drugs, alcohol and coffee.
Several years ago, I came through the area on the way from one place and to another. What I saw was horrible traffic, crowds on tourists, and not much else. I pretty much got out of town quick as I could and haven’t been interested in coming back since.
This week, I wiped out all that. Cheesy western teevee, grunge rock stereotypes, traffic and empty tourism; all gone.
What I realized the last few days is, I’d missed what made this city cool. The dynamic weather, the amazing views, the food, the culture. In one sweep of coast line, one can find two of the country’s best ballparks, storied old quarter, world-class farmer’s market, numerous museums, and thriving downtown.
Everywhere I looked there were shops, restaurants, bars, and yes, coffee houses, that were full of locals as well as tourists. People live here; the tourists spots are such because places like Pike Place Market are real, not hopped up for tourists.
I didn’t get to do half of what I wanted; I missed the Experience Music Project, I missed several restaurants, several museums. I didn’t get to shop for produce and cook (no kitchen in my hotel). I didn’t have time for any live music. On the other hand, I managed to get to Pike Place a couple of times, found a tattoo shop I’ve wanted to visit for years (Vyvyn Lazonga), toured Seattle’s underground, visited the Space Needle (something I’ve wanted to see since I was little. I saw forth-of-july fireworks and visited the Utilikilts store. I got out to see locks in Ballard, took my kids to Archie McPhee, and even managed to catch a musical with them (Aida, one of their favorite shows).
What I proved to myself is that I’d completely missed seattle last time I was here; and that I needed to spend a whole lot more time here than had this week. I liked Seattle enough that I started to visualize living here; the only things that stopped me from pricing houses were the thought that I’d just seen un-seasonably warm weather, and that the main high tech employer in town happens to be Micro$oft.
Plans for next time, though; condo, not hotel, so I can show Pike Place and then cook. And plan for much more time, so I can actually hang out.
It wasn’t planned this way, but my family and I wound up in Victoria, BC for Canada Day (Or as my kids insist on calling it, ‘Canadia Day’). This wound up being a lucky coincidence; the dates were picked around my mother-in-law’s trip to Everett for a high-school reunion, my work schedule, and my kids […]
It wasn’t planned this way, but my family and I wound up in Victoria, BC for Canada Day (Or as my kids insist on calling it, ‘Canadia Day’).
This wound up being a lucky coincidence; the dates were picked around my mother-in-law’s trip to Everett for a high-school reunion, my work schedule, and my kids summer school. We had no idea, when booking, that Canada Day fell on july 1st, nor did we think about the significance of this.
July fourth means little to me, apart from being the day we used to have fireworks (before local communities decided to punish the responsible many in order to weed out the irresponsible few, by outlawing all fireworks). America may be my country of birth, but now, and even when I was a child, it all too often it represents what’s wrong in western culture. While I will root for American teams in the Olympics, and think the ideas upon which this country was founded are pretty damn good, I can’t in good conscience stand for the national anthem or salute the flag; these things carry too much aura for me of mindless, reactionary, love-it-or-leave-it patriotism.
Particularly in this bush-era, post 9/11 world, the stars and strips says to me, ‘we don’t care of we’re stupid and wrong’. Yes, I’m cynical, but I remember the sixties, when we fought another war far away for no reason anyone could justify; I remember when we wore american american flags on our jackets to say ‘it’s my country too.’ We fought a culture war then, and thought we were winning. I don’t always have the resolve to keep fighting it.
So it was particularly refreshing to come to a country in the midst of celebrating it’s symbolic birth, when it’s a country I have no emotional baggage with.
Canada is a northern neighbor, a country that’s produced some of my favorite bands and musicians, a place where they share my passion hockey. Ok, sure, they don’t know how to play football correctly and they kind of sound like Bob and Doug; but they have far saner policies on drug enforcement and gay rights, and they make much stronger beer. The sum is still pretty largely positive. So I could embrace the festival spirit easily, letting go my own opinions on nationalism and politics. Today, it was about red and white flags, fireworks, beer, and pretty girls (have I mentioned the girls in Victoria? Ok, let me put it this way – grrrrrowl.)
Victoria does a pretty good job of throwing a party. My hotel faces the Legislature building across Victoria’s Inner Harbor; this means I was greeted at 8am – yes, 8am – by loud, live music from a stage across the water. This pretty much went on all day; bands, DJ’s, speakers. It was going on when I went to breakfast, a couple hours later when I walked into town, and it was still going when we came out of the Empress Hotel after having afternoon tea.
I felt wildly out of place; I wasn’t wearing red. It looked like everyone walking up and down the street, locals and tourists alike, were decked from head to toe in red and white, including a number of girls who’d found clever ways to fashion Canada’s flag into tops and mini-dresses. Every car seemed to sport a flag, and everyone looked happy. No one was protesting anything; no anti-war demonstrations, no rallies, no nonsense; it felt like the entire city had set down it’s issues for a party.
The best part about all this was how my kids reacted to it.
We planned a brief foray into Canada just because Ruby, my youngest, has no memory of being anywhere but the USA; I wanted to give her the experience of spending money that isn’t all uniformly green. I wanted her to see road signs in metric; I wanted her to see what it’s like to cross a border. But today’s celebration gives her more than an experience of place, it gives her a sense of national identity. A week ago, she thought of Canada as a name on a map, and a place where sports teams or certain family friends used to live. Today, it’s a people. It’s a culture. She’ll never forget seeing people in red, celebrating a flag and a nation that meant nothing to her only days ago.
Businesses were giving out small Canadian flags; our hotel has pins in a dish on the concierge desk. My kids decorated themselves with flags and pins, and dug through their luggage for any red garments they had. Happy Canada Day, they said, to anyone they talked to.
The party went on into the evening, culminating with a terrific firework display which was launched directly in front of my hotel; we were able to see both the display in the sky, but also the pyrotechnicians on the ground and the apparatus they used to put on the show. People had been camping out for hours to get a good viewing spot; but we had best possible vantages, both from our room, and from the hotel’s rear patio, only a few yards from the launch point.
It was a terrific day; one of those experiences one can’t really have, other than traveling with kids. Watching some vague concept become real and tactile and human; watching how that lights them up. I’ve traveled a lot, and those moments don’t come every day, not even in every trip. But when they come, they make every penny spent pay off a hundred-fold.
Tomorrow, we leave Victoria for the states. The only good thing about this, for me, is that my iPhone will once again work over EDGE without paying insane international data rates. Apart from that, I can’t think of anything I look forward to. I want another week in BC, at least. But the three days I’ve had are some of the best travel days I’ve had in quite a long while.
I’ll admit, though, that I’ve been singing Blame Canada all day.