By Christopher Campbell | Spout January 17, 2011 at 3:00AM
- In anticipation of the next "X-Men" movie, hone up on who is related to who in the mutant genealogy, in an infograph via Badass Digest
- At Salon, Matt Zoller Seitz names Robert Altman's "Popeye" the best comic book movie of all time in a list that also recognizes "Flash Gordon," "Superman Returns" and "Fritz the Cat." As a "Dick Tracy" defender all the way, I especially appreciate his pick for #6:
The movie exaggerates its own artificiality to the point where the story seems to be occurring inside a pop-up book -- a world frozen somewhere between two and three dimensions. Beatty's direction is likewise uninterested in physical reality; the compositions merge comic-strip simplicity and film noir mystery, staging significant action in half-shadow or silhouette. And the villains -- headed by Al Pacino's loathsome Big Boy Caprice -- are a National Portrait Gallery of grotesques. Like Ang Lee's "Hulk" (2003) and Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller's "Sin City" (2005), it's stubbornly attuned to the genre's roots on the printed page, and its failures are more interesting than some other movies' successes.
Ironically, I hate the media redundancy of something so faithful as "Sin City," and though I appreciate the gimmicks of Lee's "Hulk," I'm glad they're not employed in most comic book movies. I know that what particularly turned me onto the film as a kid, and what initially had me wanting to work in Hollywood around that time after seeing Burton's "Batman" and Gilliam's "Baron Munchausen," was the production design, which MZS also comments on ("brick buildings look as though they were constructed from gigantic Legos"). Even though there is a certain artificiality to the look of these films, it's a physical kind of artificiality that's lacking in today's movies. I'll always prefer the craft of matte painting to digital backgrounds.
Nowadays, I'm also particularly fond of the film's use of character actors -- and big stars as if they were character actors -- in all the villain and supporting roles. Today's comic book movies, and blockbusters in general, aren't as fond of the odd-looking and eccentric performances. Christoph Waltz is enjoyably over-the-top for his first scene in "The Green Hornet," but he's worn thin and could have been better if surrounded by more interesting minions. If only "Dick Tracy" was recognized as a greater achievement, perhaps Michel Gondry could have had more freedom to do something similarly bold with his new movie.
- More on Michel Gondry confessing that "The Green Hornet" is not his movie here.
- There is hope for the future of silent cinema. According to this short sci-fi film, anyway, which has an audience delightedly watching Charlie Chaplin's "Modern Times" projected onto the Moon.
- Speaking of the future, while George Lucas may not be casting dead movie stars in a movie, new owners of Marilyn Monroe's image are looking to pimp the actress out for new films, "possibly with the help of digital animation technology." Look for her as Gwen Stacy in the next Spider-Man reboot.
- And regarding the past, Josh Nelson looks at voice and technology in "The King's Speech," at Philmology:
Irrespective of the content of speech, the voice assumes an unmistakable force through its technological relay, and doubly so when that interaction blurs the boundaries between the personal and political as it does in the case of Nuremberg (and the final scene of The King’s Speech). More than an individual, the image of the Fuhrer stands as a representative of the entire Nazi party, and beyond that the most commonly deployed symbol of ‘evil’ from the twentieth century. Transcending the meaning of individual words, the voice is transformed through technology (the microphone but also the movie camera) into an object of spectacle, producing an overwhelming sense of affect; emphasised here by the lingering shots on Albert’s face as he watches the newsreel.
Though Nelson's essay doesn't go anywhere near the idea, I couldn't help but think of how "The King's Speech" compliments "The Social Network" in terms of looking at the functions of technology in mass communication and the maintenance of community (even as large as a national community). However, I guess a film about Twitter might be the better present equivalent of a film about radio transmission.
- Also concerning the past, here's a montage of great cinematic moments from the past century by Sean Grady:
- More on the power of sound: listen to John Williams' theme for "Jurassic Park" slowed down a lot:
- An Aretha Franklin biopic is in the works, and the soul legend wants Halle Berry for the role.
- Two writers from Generation Y, Darren Franich and Keith Staskiewicz, take a look at the Generation X film "Reality Bites" for Entertainment Weekly. The best observations are Franich's:
DF: All movies in the Reality Bites genre — post-college “existential” movies with great soundtracks, like The Graduate, St. Elmo’s Fire, and Garden State — simultaneously deconstruct and exalt their generation. That’s why The Graduate looks good no matter how old you are: It’s either the perfect portrait of suburban boredom or a hilarious farce about a stupid kid who just can’t get a job, already. But Reality Bites has an added depth of generational particularity that those other movies lack. The screenplay is filled with nonstop references to pop culture and merchandise. You almost feel as if you’re watching a parody of a Generation X movie. Is Reality Bites an ironic film about irony? Does that make it sincere? [...]
DF: Oh my god, Keith, I just realized. In Reality Bites, Winona Ryder plays a character who commits petty theft when her career is on a downswing, and in real life, Winona Ryder committed petty theft when her career was on a downswing. Also in the movie, Ben Stiller plays a genial, fabulously successful guy who has no problem completely selling out to the media in an attempt to occasionally do something interesting, and in real life he starred in Greenberg the same year he starred in Little Fockers.
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