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The Top 10 Comic Book Movies Hollywood Still Needs to Make (#3): PIGMAN

Sunday, July 31st, 2011 - by Dave Swindle

Click here for #10 — Dr. Doom — and the introduction to this project.

Click here for Part #9 — Justice League.

Click here for Part #8 — The Riddler.

Click here for Part #7 — Transmetropolitan

Click here for Part #6 — The Silver Surfer

Click here for Part #5 — Rorschach

Click here for Part #4 — The Invisibles

3. The Infidel and Pigman

Of all the titles on the list, here’s the film that’s most unlikely to ever be made, at least by Hollywood. It’s the story of two brothers who  have opposite reactions to 9/11. One recommits himself to Islam and joins the Jihad. The other renounces his former faith even more and creates an anti-Jihad superhero named Pigman. The first issue of the comic (available for digital download here) artfully interweaves stories from this main narrative with sequences from the comic-within-a-comic Pigman. It’s a tremendous piece of work, both at the artistic level and as a philosophical statement both personal and political.

I reviewed my friend Bosch Fawstin’s comic here.

For a film to be made it would require independent investors with a lot of guts. Perhaps as the cost of creating animation continues to go down and the skills and technology filter out to the masses an enterprising Objectivist animator will see a potential project here. Given how controversial Bosch’s ideas are — he’s the anti-Jihad movement’s most prominent illustrator — a film version seems only feasible with cartoons for the Pigman sequences. But then again, that’s in the world of today. Who knows what the ideological makeup of this country will be 20 years from now.

Check out Bosch’s response to how they edited his interview here.

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The Top 10 Comic Book Movies Hollywood Still Needs to Make (#4): The Invisibles

Sunday, July 31st, 2011 - by Dave Swindle

Click here for #10 — Dr. Doom — and the introduction to this project.

Click here for Part #9 — Justice League.

Click here for Part #8 — The Riddler.

Click here for Part #7 — Transmetropolitan

Click here for Part #6 — The Silver Surfer

Click here for Part #5 — Rorschach

4. The Invisibles

In a sense The Invisibles was already made into the film. It’s well-known that the series was a core influence on The Matrix and that the Wachowski brothers plagiarized a lot of the themes and ideas. But that doesn’t matter. An adaptation of The Invisibles can and should still be made.

The premise of The Invisibles is that a team of counterculture superheroes is at war defending freedom from a conspiracy of alien beings secretly enslaving the planet. Really the fun of the series, though, is in the strange plot twists, memorable characters, and alt-culture ideas the eccentric creator Grant Morrison infused into the story. The Invisibles is basically a Gen-X, comic book variant of Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’s The Illuminatus! Trilogy (another property worth talking about in cinematic terms at some point.) Here’s a video of Wilson laying out the quantum perspective that informs Morrison’s approach to the superhero story:

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The Top 10 Comic Book Movies Hollywood Still Needs to Make (#5): Rorschach

Sunday, July 31st, 2011 - by Dave Swindle

Click here for #10 — Dr. Doom — and the introduction to this project.

Click here for Part #9 — Justice League.

Click here for Part #8 — The Riddler.

Click here for Part #7 — Transmetropolitan

Click here for Part #6 — The Silver Surfer

5. Rorschach

Now this is an argument that might get me in trouble with the fanboy community but I’ll make it anyway: why not do a prequel to Watchmen just telling more about the crime fighting experiences of Rorschach? Sure, Alan Moore would never write it or approve in any way but there are plenty of talented writers out there who could do incredible things with the character. In a sense it could be a superhero homage to Taxi Driver, and could should even be a period piece set in the grungy New York City of the 1970s.

Or at the very least a film exploring this type of individualist super hero — a film on the Question or Mr. A.

(Hat tip to my Objectivist buddy Bosch Fawstin on the latter half of this idea.)

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Trying to Create a New Catch Phrase, Failing

Sunday, July 31st, 2011 - by Christian Toto

The return of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm”  is good news for those who need a “Seinfeld”-style dose of Methadone.

If Jerry and the gang starred in a show about nothing, Larry David’s “Curb” is even less substantial. That’s why “Curb” is sporadically brilliant. It picks at minor social mores until they yield comic gems.

But few shows can mint a catch phrase better than the old “Seinfeld.”

“Curb’s” eighth season, which began July 10, already delivered a near-classic episode with the recent “Palestinian Chicken.” Larry beds a hot Middle Eastern women, a friend’s affair gets exposed and several recurring characters ask Larry to say things they’re too afraid to say themselves to their loved ones. That means Larry must tell a friend’s wife that her lip-smacking routine after every sip is driving people insane and saying “LOL” is hardly the same as laughing at a funny joke.

“You’re a ‘social assassin,’” Jeff Garlin says to Larry about his gift for telling it like it is no matter the consequences.

It’s a funny line, but it feels too manufactured to really hit home. The term comes up later in the episode as well, but it’s doubtful people will start using it among friends and strangers alike. HBO still doesn’t hit as many homes as NBC, and few people live the life of a social assassin like Larry.

Which means yada yada yada, puffy shirts and Festivus have nothing to fear from Larry’s “Curb.”

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The Top 10 Comic Book Movies Hollywood Still Needs to Make (#6): Silver Surfer

Sunday, July 31st, 2011 - by Dave Swindle

Click here for #10 — Dr. Doom — and the introduction to this project.

Click here for Part #9 — Justice League.

Click here for Part #8 — The Riddler.

Click here for Part #7 — Transmetropolitan

6. Silver Surfer

Given the relatively poor reaction to the galactic adventurer aspect of Green Lantern does that mean that Hollywood would be less likely to make comic book superhero movies that are not set primarily on earth? While in some cases that is likely true with a character as iconic as the Silver Surfer methinks an exception could be made.

My pitch: Think Waking Life meets Iron Man meets 2001: A Space Odyssey except with mind-blowing special effects. Instant cult film.

Give me a superhero movie with a brain in its head and some great visuals. Is that too much to ask for?

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Your Saturday Nightcap

Saturday, July 30th, 2011 - by Stephen Green
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“Laura.”

Charlie Parker with Strings, performing one of the loveliest melodies ever written. And if you’ve never seen Clint Eastwood’s excellent Bird bioflick starring Forest Whitaker, what are you waiting for?

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The Top 10 Comic Book Movies Hollywood Still Needs to Make (#7): Transmetropolitan

Saturday, July 30th, 2011 - by Dave Swindle

Click here for #10 — Dr. Doom — and the introduction to this project.

Click here for Part #9 — Justice League.

Click here for Part 8 — The Riddler

7. Transmetropolitan

This Vertigo-title features Spider Jerusalem, a futuristic version of notorious gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. The science fiction series that ran from 1997-2002 was set in a colorful, bizarre, dystopian future that would be unforgettable on film. And the role of Spider in the hands of a great actor could set a new level of cinematic badass. Think Johnny Depp as Captain Jack except with more mania, less goofiness, and a sharper edge.

There’s been talk of a film but none ever materialized. Perhaps to come as the cost of high quality special effects continues to fall? This is a project that has an independent film sensibility but requires a sizable special effect budget.

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The Top 10 Comic Book Movies Hollywood Still Needs to Make (#8): The Riddler

Saturday, July 30th, 2011 - by Dave Swindle

Click here for #10 — Dr. Doom — and the introduction to this project.

Click here for Part #9 — Justice League.

8. The Riddler

The Riddler needs to be featured prominently as the sole villain in a Batman film. He apparently won’t be in the one coming out next Summer.

The current screen performance of Batman’s most intellectual enemy is a campy turn by Jim Carrey. It’s time for a new actor’s characterization of the villain to make Carrey’s clowning a forgotten memory. In the last Batman film the late Heath Ledger reinvented the Joker and forever changed how the character was regarded. There is just as much potential for an A-list actor to do the same as the Riddler. Who should it be?

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The Top 10 Comic Book Movies Hollywood Still Needs to Make (#9): Justice League

Saturday, July 30th, 2011 - by Dave Swindle

Click here for #10 — Dr. Doom — and the introduction to this project.

 

9 Justice League

Creating a Justice League film is very simple: just replicate in live action the cartoon, specifically the Justice League Unlimited version that featured dozens of superheroes.

I suspect that this film coming to fruition will depend on the performance of The Avengers next year. If it blows up big then DC may be extra inclined to try and emulate Marvel’s success with a team-based superhero picture.

With Justice League the potential for celebrity cameos as some of the more obscure DC Comics heroes could make for an especially fun Summer picture.

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The Top 10 Comic Book Movies Hollywood Still Needs to Make (#10): Dr. Doom

Saturday, July 30th, 2011 - by Dave Swindle

One of the things that we’re hoping to do more in the future with PJ Lifestlye and PJ Tatler is to use the shorter blog format to develop ideas that will then be polished up for longer, full-length PJM articles. We’re going to look to PJM’s commenters to provide arguments that will help shape the direction the PJM articles ultimately take. In this way the blog medium can be taken to an even more explicit level of reader-writer collaboration as we all work together to make sense of the world.

I’d like to begin this New Media experiment with a lighthearted subject appropriate for the middle of the Summer season: a discussion of the comic book blockbusters. Each year more seem to be released, and maybe it’s just me but is the level of quality rising? One can only imagine how the third Batman film will be in Summer 2012…

As the genre moves forward it’s worth thinking about what comic properties Hollywood has yet to touch that they should. So here’s my first guesses as to an attempt at ranking the 10 comics that I think would make successful, provocative summer blockbusters. This list is a work in progress. I hope that PJM readers will be able correct my mistakes and offer up better suggestions or a more accurate order. I’ll be laying out 4 parts today, 4 parts tomorrow, and the last 2 on Monday — each post scheduled throughout the day.

Initial thoughts on the comic and the film will be short and basic — the titles decided on for the final PJM article will be longer and more in depth with sharper arguments enhanced by the credited thoughts of PJM’s best commenters.

What I most want to figure out is: which titles have the potential to become the most satisfying, effective films? The ultimate ranking will be based on that criterion, not necessarily which comic is “better” than the other. Suggestions of which actors, screenwriters, and directors would be most appropriate for each film would be appreciated.

So let’s begin:

10. Doctor Doom

This metal-masked sorcerer, dictator, and technological master was featured in the first Fantastic Four movie BY NAME but the character had nothing to do with the actual arch villain featured in the comics. The REAL Doctor Doom — who is a much more intimidating, powerful, threatening character — should be explored in his own film and fought perhaps by the Avengers.

There’s the potential here for whoever the actor is who plays Doom to really deliver a major career performance the way Robert Downey Jr. and Christian Bale have. And the creation of the Doom character would combine the technological elements of Iron Man with the magical reality of Thor.The storytelling potentials here are many.

What actor would do a good job as the character and who should direct the film?

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Click here to see #9 on the beta Top 10 list.

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Frampton Funds His IRA

Saturday, July 30th, 2011 - by Ed Driscoll

“Exqueese me? Have I seen this one before? Frampton Comes Alive? Everybody in the world has Frampton Comes Alive. If you lived in the suburbs you were issued it. It came in the mail with samples of Tide.”

– Mike Myers in Wayne’s World 2.

“If you think Mick Jagger will still be out there trying to be a rock star at age fifty, then you are sadly, sadly mistaken.”

– A would-be rock manager in the 2000 film Almost Famous, which co-starred Peter Frampton in a small role.

What happens when you’re 61 years old, been a musician all your life, recorded steadily, well-respected among your peers, but are best known for one mega, mega, mega-selling album?

You have a concert very much like the one Peter Frampton is putting on, as part of his current tour.

Frampton shuffled onto the stage Friday night at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, as part of his “Frampton Comes Alive—35 Tour” (or as I dubbed it, the “Frampton Funds His IRA Tour”) looking very different from the images of the young Peter Frampton of 35 years ago being displayed on the video wall behind him.

On the video wall, the audience saw larger than life images of the young Frampton in the mid-‘70s. He was around 26 years of age, his Byronesque blonde locks flowing behind him, wearing Hawaiian shirts open to the (skin and bones) chest, white pants and platform shoes, the very essence of the ‘70s British guitar god pounding the stage in giant American football stadiums. The actual musician on stage last night in front of his younger electronic doppelganger was wearing an olive green T-shirt, bluejeans and white sneakers, his thinning gray hair closely shaved. He looked a bit — and sounded a bit in his between-songs stage patter — like an Oxford accountant just in for a Guinness after mowing his lawn.

His singing and guitar playing still sounded like the Frampton of old, but in a sense, that was part of the problem, which the video wall operator tried to compensate for. Unless you’re a hardcore Framptonite, you know him from about three songs that to this day remain staples on your local FM classic rock station: “Do You Feel Like We Do,” “Show Me The Way,” “Baby I Love Your Way,” and maybe “Lines On My Face.” For most of those numbers, the video operator laid back, simply running a title card that said “FRAMPTON COMES ALIVE—35.” It was during the lesser-known songs that Frampton’s video man really earned his pay, running a collection of images of the guitarist from his mid-70s heyday, along with, occasionally, the sort of late ‘60s melting chemicals sorts of imagery left over from Grateful Dead concerts in San Francisco. (Which incidentally, is one of Frampton’s next stops on his tour.)

Guitar aficionados will certainly enjoy Frampton’s show. By my count, he alternated between two Les Pauls (a replica of his mid-‘50s black Les Paul Custom, the guitar most associated with him, plus a reissue 1959 Les Paul sunburst), two Gibson ES-335-style semi-hollowbody guitars, and two or three acoustic guitars. Frampton retains a light and fluid touch on the electric. His solos have always been more melodic and jazzier than many of his ’70s-era peers, though on the heavier rockers, he could definitely deliver the requisite crunch. On acoustic, his use of open-tuned folk-style strumming was a nice accompaniment to his vocals.

My wife felt that Frampton may have a bit of difficulty relating to his audience, particularly during his between-songs banter. If so, that may be due the locale. The stage at Mandalay Bay is one of the more eclectic venues for a pop musician to play. It’s outdoors, with a large pool directly in front of it, so that the first ten rows of the audience, which may very well be all the musicians can see, consist of people in swim trunks, passing a beach ball around between them. Behind the pool is a sandy beach (the sand goes down about eight inches; stick your hand in deep enough, and you’ll quickly hit concrete). Beach towels are available for a nominal fee in the lobby.

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Video of the Day

Friday, July 29th, 2011 - by PJ Lifestyle

Miles Davis — and Quincy Jones conducting the orchestra — at the Montreux Jazz Festival performing a Gil Evans arrangement of George Gershwin’s “Gone, Gone, Gone” and “Summertime” from Miles & Gil’s stellar version of Porgy & Bess. What better way to start the weekend?

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With a Miserable 19% at Rotten Tomatoes The Smurfs Looks to be the Crap We All Knew it was Going to Be

Friday, July 29th, 2011 - by Dave Swindle
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This is pretty pathetic. When the Rotten Tomatoes meter gets under 30% then it’s pretty conclusive that you’re dealing with the kind of film that you’d scrape off the bottom of your sneaker. If it’s 30-50% then that means that you’ve still at least got a chance that it’ll be good. In those cases when a majority of critics reject the film but still a significant minority embraces it then that means that perhaps it’s just a film for a smaller audience with more specific tastes.

Memo to Hollywood: taking the Smurfs and sticking them in “the real world” completely destroys the concept. A Smurfs movie could have actually worked (and been quite good) if it was actually LIKE THE ORIGINAL SHOW and set in a fantasy world of monsters, bumbling sorcerers, and cats named after demons:

Does everyone agree with that general analysis? That if Hollywood is going to make movies of our beloved childhood shows they need to actually try and make a movie that’s like the show instead of just stealing its characters?

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Truth In Advertising

Friday, July 29th, 2011 - by PJ Lifestyle

As John Boot writes on the PJM homepage, “Cowboys & Aliens Does in Fact Offer Cowboys and Aliens,” so it’s got that going for it at least:

It turns out that this part of the West is being besieged by alien gunships, a development no one seems to think is particularly shocking even though airplanes haven’t been invented yet, but then again these guys drink so much straight whisky maybe they’ve seen a lot of strange sights in the sky before. The aliens streak through town mowing down cowpokes with laser rays but capture others with (and here is another witty detail) what amount to lariats.

These victims get whisked off to a place unknown, for no clear purpose, but another mysterious stranger in town (Olivia Wilde) seems to know a little more about them than the rest. It turns out that she is a member of that most uncanny species — the back-story delivery device. It’s her job (as she has wide experience in these matters) to tell the boys (and us) what the aliens are up to and why. They want gold, it turns out. Because this is a Western. What else would they be after? If it’s microchips, they’re in the wrong century.

At some point Cowboys & Aliens crosses a line and stops aspiring to being the sand-in-your-boots Clint Eastwood movie it started as. In the last half hour or so, it becomes a clash-of-the-galaxies shoot-em-up in the vein of Starship Troopers (though not as campy or as violent). That would be fine if as much care had gone into the sci-fi aspects as the Western ones. Instead, the noisy but only mildly thrilling climax proceeds by the numbers. As in Independence Day the previously invulnerable aliens — who are bigger, stronger and faster than horses — suddenly become a little too easy to kill for no reason other than that the screenwriters have decided it’s time for the “tide is turning” phase of the script.

Its star is best-known for appearing in another science fiction film or three set in an even more distant frontier; after years of being bitterly estranged from his co-star, the two recently reunited, albeit briefly:

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Finally, if you’d like to see westerns with even more imporable premises, the Independent Film Channel Website proffers “The 10 least realistic cowboy movies of all time (with video).”

Surprisingly, Zachariah didn’t make the cut.

 

And finally, from ITC

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More Like Taxi Than Taxi Driver

Friday, July 29th, 2011 - by Nina Yablok
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Taxi (which aired from 1978 until 1983 and is still fun to watch on DVD) purported to bring you into the Sunshine Cab Company’s garage. As a genuine ex-New York City taxicab driver I thought I might share some thoughts on how realistic… or not, the show was.

I’ll wait while you check who is writing this article. Yes, it is I, the PJ Media attorney; the “little woman” to the PJ Lifestyle editor; the lady who wrote about her love affair with a dishwasher. Yes, I was a genuine, complete with a NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission hack license, cab driver in NYC while I was in law school. Happy now? Can we get back to the story?

I was going to compare driving a real taxi in NYC with the TV show Taxi, and I bet you’re going to say that it was just totally fake, right?  Well it was not so far from reality.

The garage that I drove out of might well have doubled for an aircraft hangar, but if you took a teeny, tiny corner of it, it looked just like the Sunshine Cab company’s garage where Danny DeVito reigned as Louie De Palma. And yes, the dispatcher sat in a cage, quite like Louie’s. The dispatcher would hand you a car assignment when you came to work and took your cash box at the end of the day. This of course was the draw for a student — you got your tips and your share of what was in the cash box the same day that you worked.

Another advantage for a student is that no one cared if you worked on Monday and then took Tuesday and Wednesday off and wanted to work again on Thursday. The only thing that counted was getting to the garage before the cars were all allocated. More specifically getting to the garage before the cabs with working A/C were all gone in the summer, and before the cabs with working heaters were gone in the winter.

There were more drivers than cars, so the cab company didn’t care when you worked. If you showed up early, you got a cab, if you showed up late, you could wait and see if someone brought back a cab early or could take one that lacked some creature comforts. So for a student it meant you could make some money when you had no homework, and could skip work when you had exams.

We didn’t have anyone who was as wacky as Jim Ignatowski but there were some strange folks out there in the cab line. None were as strange as the “doctor” who gave me my physical for the hack license. I think there are cheap abortion clinics in Tijuana with higher sanitary standards. And if I had to compare him with anyone in a taxi-related TV show or movie, I would say he was closer to Taxi Driver, than Taxi. The good part was that after the physical driving, the streets was not all that scary.

But driving the streets was competitive driving at its best… or worst. The professional drivers, the Alex Riegers, drove the streets of Manhattan. They cruised along, looking for pedestrians who, the pros could tell, were thinking about raising their hand in the New York signal that means “Hey Cabbie.”

Professional cabbies can cross 4 lanes of traffic to get to a fare before the fare’s hand is fully in the air and way before an amateur driver who might be only 2 to 3 feet further back, but on the same side of the street as the pedestrian, got there. This is a skill only gained over years of practice which is often cut short by bad accidents and the loss of your hack license.

So the amateurs often “did the airports.” Doing the airport means you drive out to Kennedy or LaGuardia and go to the cab waiting line. This is not a line, but a huge parking area where cabs wait and are routed in order by a dispatcher. To prevent having drivers sit in their cabs and move 1 foot a minute, the lines are moved up in a staggered manner allowing the drivers to turn off their cabs.

The airport cab lines are where the TV show becomes somewhat more real.  The idea that cabbies would sit around in the garage when they could be out making money is crazy. But on a nice day, in the airport lines, you really did see students with philosophy, economics and in my case law books sitting on their cab’s hood studying. You did see actors rehearsing for auditions. The airport lines are where the socializing took place, and since the cab area was “catered” by an excellent roach coach, it’s where we took our meals.

Because the fare from Kennedy is usually pretty high, even with an hour or two wait for a fare, an amateur might make as much “doing the airport” as driving the streets.   You might ask yourself, why wait in the line for 2 hours for a fare.  Why not just drive by arrivals and pick up some harried traveler who’s not waiting on the passenger taxi line?  The reason is simple.

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Meat and Potatoes and Gravy and Potatoes and Gravy

Friday, July 29th, 2011 - by Nina Yablok

After reading Dr. Helen’s post on McDonald’s going PC, I’m pleased to report that not all restaurants are quite so supine to the ever-growing nanny state.

Denny’s Tour of America, mid-western special is described as:

A Cheddar bun stuffed with grilled prime rib and French fries, smothered in brown gravy and topped with melted Swiss and American cheeses and mayo. A side of creamy mashed potatoes and yet more gravy completes this culinary masterpiece!

It leaves nothing more to be said.

Denny's Midwestern Meat and Potatoes Sandwich

 

 

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Video of the Day

Thursday, July 28th, 2011 - by PJ Lifestyle

From their first farewell tour:

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Now Cruising NYC: The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck

Thursday, July 28th, 2011 - by J.J. Hunsecker

No, really:

The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck began rolling the streets of New York City in June 2009. Described by The Village Voice as “a cross between Mister Softee and Mario Batali” their menu combines traditional soft-serve ice cream with imaginative toppings such as wasabi pea dust, Nilla Wafers, Dulce de Leche, olive oil and sea salt, and other rotating offerings. These are dispensed the way ice cream should be — with humor and good cheer.

The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck is the brainchild of Douglas Quint (a professional bassoonist) and his partner, Bryan Petroff. They are thrilled that their idea of pairing “plain-old soft serve” with fun, eclectic toppings, and then selling it with a smile, has sparked both happiness and satisfied palates.

The truck has been blessed with excellent mentions from The Daily News, New York Post, Time Out NY, NBC, ABC, Logo, Change.org, and both NPR and CBC. The New York Times sums up the truck as follows: “The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck is manned by the charming Doug Quint, a bassoonist who Twitters, like a latter-day Pied Piper, his daily menu [and] location. [He] gives the same information on his website. Mr. Quint’s operation doesn’t aspire to be artisanal. He celebrates the Mister Softee tradition, with a wink.

But what would Mayor Bloomberg and Michelle Obama think? There has to be a South Park episode in this somewhere.

And why isn’t Mr. Quint aspiring to be artisanal? This seems like the perfect opportunity to bring some diversity to the ever-expanding artisnal sno-cone market that’s all the rage these days, according to the New York Times.

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As Always, Life Imitates Animal House

Thursday, July 28th, 2011 - by J.J. Hunsecker

Bluto: [thrusting six-pack into Flounder's hands] My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.

Otter: Better listen to him, Flounder, he’s in pre-med.

– From the 1978 tell-all documentary on the excesses of college fraternities, Animal House.

Headline in People magazine today, “Amy Winehouse Died from Alcohol Withdrawal, Says Family:”

Winehouse ignored doctors’ advice to step back gradually from her heavy drinking and went cold turkey in the past month, an unnamed family friend tells Britain’s Sun. Her family believes that was too much of a shock to her system, the source adds.

“Abstinence gave her body such a fright, they thought it was eventually the cause of her death,” says the source.

PEOPLE has confirmed that this is the family’s belief.

Why can’t the modern generation learn from the millennia of experience that went before them, or barring that, John Landis’ earlier, funnier movies?

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The Circular Critical Theory Firing Squad

Thursday, July 28th, 2011 - by Ed Driscoll

In Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World Andrew Breitbart gave a handy capsule summary of critical theory and its origins:

Critical theory, says [Max] Horkheimer, is “suspicious of the very categories of better, useful, appropriate, productive, and valuable, as those are understood in the present order.” So if you liked ice cream better than cake, or thought a hammer might be more useful than a screwdriver in a particular situation, you were speaking on behalf of the status quo. The real idea behind all of this was to make society totally unworkable by making everything basically meaningless. Critical theory does not create; it only destroys, as Horkheimer himself openly stated, “Above all… critical theory has no material accomplishments to show for itself.” No wonder my thought upon graduating was that getting a job was selling out.

When Horkheimer took over the [Franfurt School] in 1930, he filled it up with fellow devotees of critical theory like Theodor Adorno, Erich Fromm, and Herbert Marcuse. Each agreed with the central idea of critical theory, namely that all of society had to be criticized ad nauseam, all social institutions leveled, all traditional concepts decimated. Marcuse later summed it up well: “One can rightfully speak of a cultural revolution, since the protest is directed toward the whole cultural establishment, including the morality of existing society…. What we must undertake is a type of diffuse and dispersed disintegration of the system.”

But what happens when the barbarians are both the critics and inside the gate? Seemingly every new film brings forth a new batch of circular firing squad sort of articles with liberal critics bemoaning products produced by liberal studios and networks. As Jim Treacher quips at the Daily Caller, one critic at the leftwing American Prospect Website believes “Captain America isn’t racist enough or something:”

Adam Serwer at the American Prospect has a criticism of the new Captain America movie. No, not that putting Chris Evans’ head on some scrawny dude’s body is creepy and off-putting. No, not that Cap’s costume tries for a balance between the garish four-color version and a U.S. military uniform, and it just looks kinda dumb. No, not even that the Nazis took a backseat to Hydra. Here’s what Serwer didn’t like:

In the vein of what Ta-Nehisi Coates referred to as a “convenient suspension of disbelief” in X-Men First Class, Captain America: First Avenger dutifully ignores the civil-rights struggles of the 1940s. Well, not exactly — where X-Men simply didn’t mention the civil-rights struggles of the 1960s, Captain America: First Avenger pretends segregation didn’t exist in the 1940s.

In the comic books, Gabe Jones, one of Marvel’s “Howling Commandos,” is the first black soldier to serve in Nick Fury’s integrated unit. This rewires American history a bit seeing as though integration didn’t begin to take place until President Harry Truman’s 1948 executive order, but at least it acknowledges that it is rewriting history…

The cinematic version, which places the Howling Commandos under the authority of Captain America, gives an oblique reference to segregation through a shoutout to Jones’s attending historically black Howard University but does not otherwise refer to segregation in any way. That’s because in the film, segregation doesn’t even seem to have happened. White and black soldiers are shown serving together without incident, erasing one of the moral complexities of World War II — that American service members defeated a murderous racist dictator even as America was upholding a system of racial apartheid at home. It also erases the courage and commitment of World War II’s black veterans, who served their country bravely even as it refused to acknowledge their basic, fundamental rights.

It’s a no-win situation for Marvel, though, isn’t it? Sort of similar to what they did in the Thor movie. They made the Norse god Heimdall a black guy, and they were criticized for being politically correct and not being true to the comics or the myths they’re based on. (Never mind that there’s no particular reason a bunch of made-up sky-beings couldn’t have been racially integrated centuries before us lowly Earth folk. Just because the average 12th-Century Norwegian had never seen a black guy doesn’t mean his gods didn’t know any, right? Besides, Idris Elba is awesome. Check out Luther on Netflix. Seriously, awesome.) And now, by depicting a racially integrated military during WWII, somehow they’re disrespecting black veterans.

But if they had made Asgard and the U.S. military in the ’40s lily-white, do you really think nobody would complain about that?

While based on a cartoon about a man in red, white and powder blue suit fighting a Nazi with a tomato-red skull, at least Captain America is a big screen movie starring real actors (dressed up in the aforementioned costumes). Salon really goes for the big game here, arguing about the hidden imperialist subtext of a children’s TV series starring a plastic toy train:

There is something rotten on the Island of Sodor, home to Thomas the Tank Engine. Viewers won’t find guns, violence, or anything even approaching a double-entendre. There’s none of the blatant racism of early Disney Song of the South or religion delivered through talking produce, as in Veggie Tales. Yet something about Thomas and Friends gives liberal parents the creeps.

For example: In 2009, academic ShaunaWilton wrote that Thomas carried a “conservative political ideology.” Her report was derided as whimsy-hating “politicalcorrectness” by conservative media outlets. But wait: Thomas espouses top-down leadership, is male-dominated, punishes dissent, and is uninterested in the mushy sensitivity of its PBS counterparts. (Thomas and his “friends” often “tease” like this: ” ‘Wake up lazy bones! Do some hard work for a change!”) Its innate conservatism is as obvious as the liberalism of cooperative, solar-panel-building BobtheBuilder and his band of hippie hammer-lovers. Given charges that Thomas is anti-Semitic and that Sodor is a fascistparadise, Wilton’s assessment is mild. Obviously, it’s foolish to claim that Thomas is a fascist. He and his friends are clearly imperialists.

How did I get here? Having failed to reach that perfect bar of parenting, no television at all until Harvard, the exhausted parent critic sits with a train-obsessed child and the TV. I’m overeducated and understimulated, with shelves full of long-ignored critical-theory books, trained in the reading of “texts” through Marxist, feminist, and postmodern perspectives. It’s no wonder that the dormant critical theorist within me awakens when faced with the coded wonderland of children’s programming. Hitchcock is well-covered territory, but Thomas and Friends presents a minefield of untapped deconstructing opportunities!

It may be a few years before I lay out the particularities of British imperialism to my son (I think 5 is probably about right for Kipling criticism), but it’s still important to instill basic skepticism in your young media consumer. Otherwise, you face the very real possibility that your toddler, raised in an environment full of labor abuses and pro-toadying propaganda, might one day look at you and earnestly promise to be “very useful”—the show’s highest compliment for an engine. In our home, Thomas and Friends must rule Brittania no more, and some ugly truths about unjust train society must be told.

Wow, who knew that PBS was just as evil and imperialist as Fox News?

Or Marvel comics, for that matter.

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Court Snips Anti-Circumcision Measure from Frisco Ballot

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011 - by Nina Yablok

When a citizen of San Francisco, our somewhat whacky neighbor at the other end of the bay here in Northern California, started to collect signatures for an initiative to outlaw circumcision, I thought “typical San Francisco silliness — it will never qualify.”  When the initiative qualified for the ballot, I hoped the citizens even of San Francisco would see that while reasonable people might well differ on the value or even morality of circumcision, it was surely a personal issue.  And my back-up thought was, if it passed, it would be ruled unconstitutional.

However, what I forgot was my old law professor, who, when asking a question, the answer to which was “The Constitution,” would give the clue “it’s bigger than a statute.”  And of course what’s smaller than the Constitution, but bigger than San Francisco’s proposed city ordinance is a state statute.  And there’s one which a SF judge will rely on tomorrow to order that the “no snip initiative” be snipped from the ballot.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Loretta Giorgi issued a tentative ruling today, which, unless she backtracks tomorrow, will order the Director of the Department of Elections for the City and County of San Francisco to “remove the measure from the ballot in its entirety.”

Judges can issue “tentative rulings” in law and motion matters the day before a hearing is scheduled.   If a judge is pretty darned sure how he or she will rule based on all of the papers submitted to the court, the issue the ruling and if any party wants to be heard at the hearing, they already know what the judge is thinking.  Sometimes a tentative ruling  will state that the judge is uncertain and would like the parties to address a specific issue. But in this case the judge has made it completely clear her mind is made up.  Her ruling states:

The Court finds that the proposed ballot Initiative is expressly preempted by California Business and Professions §460(b). The evidence presented is overwhelmingly persuasive that circumcision is a widely practiced medical procedure. California Business and Professions Code §460 (b) applies to medical services provided by a wide range of health care professionals. The statute speaks directly to the issue of local regulation of medical procedures and leaves no room for localities to regulate in this area. In fact, the legislative history of §460(b) confirms that the legislature intended to prevent cities and counties from regulating medical services which is a matter statewide concern. Because the proposed ballot initiative attempts to regulate a medical procedure, the proposed ordinance is expressly preempted. Moreover, it serves no legitimate purpose to allow a measure whose invalidity can be determined as a matter of law to remain on the ballot after such a ruling has been made.

As Ret. Judge Peter Stone in Santa Clara used to say at the start of oral arguments after he had issued tentative rulings, “does anyone want to come up here and explain to me why their written briefs weren’t any good?”  In other words, given the language in the tentative ruling, it’s doubtful Judge Giorgi is going to change her mind tomorrow.

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Video of the Day

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011 - by PJ Lifestyle

Robert Plant can breathe again.

YouTube Preview Image

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Battleship: From Here to Banality

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011 - by Ed Driscoll

Hollywood’s idea of Navy-themed movies in the 1950s? Run Silent, Run Deep and The Caine Mutiny. (And Operation: Petticoat, which at least Cary Grant and Tony Curtis going for it.)

Hollywood’s idea of a Navy-themed movie today? Battleship: The Motion Picture, which merges the board game that everyone had as a kid with a CGI-overloaded Transformers-esque sci-fi movie. Co-starring Liam Neeson, the glory days of Shindler’s List receding even further into the past.

High-concept? You’re not just soaking in it, you’re underwater — which the film may or not be itself, when it opens next summer:

Ace of Spades adds:

I know it’s an old joke that Hollywood is officially out of ideas but seriously, Hollywood is officially out of ideas.

I mean — Footloose.

They “remade,” supposedly, The Killer Elite, but it really looks like they just bought the name and wrote a completely different (standard action dopiness) script.

And for those of you who can’t get enough of boardgame-based movies and bizarre remake choices, you’ll be happy to know that the cheesy and crappy but sort of good Clue movie is, yes, being remade too.

Also coming soon? Total Recall, starring Kate Beckinsale. I’m not sure if she’s playing Arnold Schwarzenegger or not, though.

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Klavan on Dexter

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011 - by PJ Lifestyle

At his PJ Express blog, Andrew Klavan writes that while’s not generally fan of slasher movies such as the Hannibal Lector series, he’s a fan of Showtime’s Dexter:

But Dexter is different. It’s not really about serial killing at all. It’s about the nature of identity and morality. Dexter’s foster father, a cop named Harry, realized what little Dexter was becoming early in his childhood. So Harry taught his son a code to live by. He taught him how to act normal and blend in—and only to satisfy his urge to kill on those who are thoroughly evil. As a result, Dexter, who has almost no human feelings, merely pretends to care about others, and only kills when he has hunted down a fellow monster.

In other words, Dexter is very much like the rest of us and the best of us:  a man who socializes his most powerful urges and who so thoroughly pretends to be a better person than he is that he actually is a better person than he is. This is the conservative view of man in a nutshell:  deeply sinful, always imperfect and yet capable of self-control and responsible to the society around him. Leftists have tried to convince us that identity is about race or sex or sexuality, but for conservatives, it’s about beliefs and actions. We don’t care that Mexicans enter the country illegally, for instance, but we do care that Mexicans enter the country illegally. Leftists can’t comprehend this, but see racism where there is only a concern for the rule of law.

But Dexter’s vision of life is more complex than any one political position. The first season deals with the struggle between our codes of conduct and our inner freedom, the doubts that arise when we find out that those who taught us perfect behavior are not themselves perfect, and the ugly sadism of violence even when it is applied justly.

The violence does make this a hard show to watch and it’s not for everyone, I admit, but it’s a brilliant piece of work nonetheless and should be experienced by all conservatives who can stomach it.

Anyone who disagrees will be dismembered and eaten.

I’m pretty sure he’s just kidding on that last item.

Hopefully.

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