But as of Feb 14, 2013, I am ending my tenure as CEO. Roger Simon, the novelist-screenwriter, is calling to me. After more than seven years, he is feeling extremely neglected. I am going to return to my creative writing while I still, to be honest, have some ability to do it.
The Hollywood Reporter today offered a sneak preview of what our old boss does with his time when he’s not writing must-read articles on the newest disturbing developments in the Benghazi scandal, ”Cannes: Roger L. Simon to Pen ‘The Future of Now‘”:
Oscar-nominated screenwriter Roger L. Simon will pen the script for The Future of Now, the second feature from newly launched Primeridian Entertainment.
Arcadiy Golubovich, a principal of Primeridian, will make his directorial debut with the dystopian drama. His Primeridian partner, Tim O’Hair, will produce.
Primeridian is full financing the Washington, D.C.-set pic, with casting slated for June and shooting aiming for fall.
Read the whole write-up here.
Check out Walter’s previous articles in this ongoing series Thursday mornings exploring video games, cultural villains, and American values at PJ Lifestyle. From May 2: “Beating Back the Nazi “Sickness” and last week: What Zombies Teach Us About Human Nature. And also see Walter’s A Reason For Faith series, reprinted last week here. In these four articles Walter begins to formalize his task of synthesizing the Judeo-Christian tradition with Ayn Rand’s Objectivism and Tea Party activism. - DMS
In one of the most vivid dreams I can recall, I witnessed the landing of a plainly alien spaceship. It came lucidly, dancing on the edge of wakefulness, informed by enough of my rousing consciousness that it felt particularly real. I remember the feeling that my feet were glued to the ground, that I couldn’t move if I wanted to, not on account of some external force, but due to an overwhelming sense of awe and anticipation. The one thought dominating my mind: everything is about to change.
Though it was only a dream, I retain the memory as vividly as though it were of an actual experience and believe I will respond similarly if ever confronted by a true interplanetary delegation. Something about that kind of moment, when the veil lifts upon an existential mystery, produces an irresistible thrill. Perhaps that tops the list of reasons why our popular culture remains ever fascinated by the prospect of extraterrestrial life.
Aliens have become such a prolific device in our entertainment that we sometimes take them for granted. Like a modern deus ex machina, aliens can be relied upon to suspend disbelief in an otherwise inconceivable scenario. (How does Superman fly? Simple, he’s an alien!) Extraterrestrials rank alongside Nazis, zombies, and generic terrorists as the most common villains found in video games. Unlike those others, however, aliens may also be allies. Nothing inherent to extraterrestrial life demands it be villainous. Beings from other worlds often act as mirrors for examining the human condition, when not merely lurking among shadow and neon strobe.
It’s probably no coincidence that the advent of ufology, which is an actual word in the dictionary meaning the study of unidentified flying objects, coincides with the initial proliferation of aviation and the early years of the space age. We began to look up into the sky right about the time we realized there was nothing left to find over the horizon. In times past, when the known world was still defined by the flickering edge of torchlight, we imagined unspeakable monsters much closer to home. Spirits, ghosts, goblins, ghouls, fairies, vampires, all were the alien invaders and abductors of their time. As we have come to dismiss them as infeasible and childish, our imagination turns to the stars, where the realm of possibility remains seemingly infinite.
Certainly, we can see how aliens have stepped in to fill the role of menacing ghoul. Ridley Scott’s original Alien was essentially a horror film, a science fiction creature feature. While the execution was masterful, the formula proved well-established and has been revisited ever since.
This week has been very bad for writing. By now I hoped to be twenty five thousand words in. I’m not.
If you keep in mind that when pushed and under the gun — such as when I got an invitation for an anthology and had an afternoon in which to deliver – I can and have written eleven thousand words in three hours, it seems as though there could be no possible excuse. And there isn’t.
I can give you all the reasons for why I’m not further advanced than the first few pages of the novel.
First, my time has been horribly cut up. But then, when isn’t it? Mostly I write in the intervals between cooking, cleaning, shopping for groceries, helping my sons with whatever project needs help, helping my friends with whatever project needs help, looking over page proofs, editing, running promotions on my self-published stuff, keeping track of the labyrinthine tax and business law affecting small businesses, getting exasperated at the news, trying to get in at least an hour of physical exercise… Sometimes it’s a miracle I write at all.
A lot could be said about women and women’s role in a family, and how much I do, and not prioritizing my profession over the day to day of family routine. Most of it would be wrong.
I know for a fact, talking to my male writer friends, that the ones who stayed home to write – i.e. were lucky enough to have a wife who could support them – faced the same pressures as any woman. It’s not a sexist thing, but an example of trying to make it in a field that very rarely pays and even more rarely pays well.
In my long, long apprenticeship (thirteen years before selling my first short story, but keep in mind that for a lot of that time I was barely writing, and rarely submitting because of this process) when it seemed highly unlikely I would ever sell, if the choice was between writing a new chapter or really cleaning the kitchen, a spit-shine (only not literally, because yuck) of the kitchen always won out. The kitchen, after all affected other people now. Writing another chapter on the novel merely fractionally increased the chances of my selling a novel and since those chances were minimal to begin with, to write or not to write was not a question.
Baz Luhrmann’s splashy, extravagant, highly watchable 3-D remake of The Great Gatsby is certainly a vast improvement on the lackluster 1974 Robert Redford movie, but those hoping for a classic adaptation worthy of the Great American Novel are going to be disappointed. Here are five ways Luhrmann’s Gatsby could have been great.
5. A Better Lead Actor.
Leonardo DiCaprio isn’t an accomplished performer and his screen magnetism was largely linked to his boyish appeal. Now that’s gone, and nothing more interesting has come along to take its place. DiCaprio can’t convincingly play anguish, nor can he seem physically threatening (a scene in which he nearly comes to blows with Joel Edgerton, who plays his romantic rival Tom Buchanan, is almost laughable; Edgerton could flatten DiCaprio without even trying).
A better choice would have been Johnny Depp, who, like Gatsby, came from nowhere (Kentucky in the case of the actor, North Dakota in the case of the screen character) or Christian Bale, who has already showcased his ability to play the charming playboy in the Batman movies. It would have been a natural fit: Batman is basically Gatsby with a cape.
Vice President Joe Biden drew parallels with the movie Deliverance while addressing a benefit dinner for a volunteer legal group that helps domestic violence survivors.
Biden’s daughter-in-law, Kathleen Biden, is a co-chair of the group. Calling him “Pop,” she introduced the veep to the crowd packed with even more Bidens.
According to the White House pool report, he peppered his speech with family stories and told the audience that his granddaughter implores him to stop referring to them as his daughters in public because “people will think something’s wrong.”
“All you women out there: Daughters are wonderful. Granddaughters are better,” Biden said. ”When they’re 12 to 14, a dad puts his beautiful little daughter to bed. And then the next morning, there’s a snake in the bed.”
Biden talked about his work in Congress on the Violence Against Women Act when he brought up the Deliverance reference.
“After those guys tied that one guy to the tree and raped him, man-raped him in the film, why didn’t the guy go the sheriff?” Biden asked. “They don’t want to get raped again by the system.”
This week, the rehabilitation of the most extreme of the New Left groups — the Weather Underground — entered a new stage.
Yesterday, the New York Post revealed that convicted felon Kathy Boudin — who was released from jail a decade ago after serving 22 years for her role as getaway driver in a deadly 1981 Brinks truck robbery — was given the position of adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of Social Work.
At the same time, Boudin was also(!) given a position held concurrently at New York University, where she was appointed Sheinberg Scholar-in-Residence. She recently gave a lecture for that program on “the politics of parole and re-entry,” something which she obviously knows about.
There are, of course, many other candidates who could have been given both positions, and none of them were part of a leftist terrorist group whose action resulted in the death of the first African-American police officer in that area, and two other police officers. Two of the three had families; children grew up without their fathers.
When she was pulled over, Boudin shouted to the officers whose guns were drawn: “Put the gun back.” They put their revolvers in their holsters.
At that point — as the officers went to inspect the back of the van she was driving — her cohorts came out with weapons blazing, killing the two policemen and one other who had joined in pursuit.
Boudin was never repentant.
As David Horowitz points out today at NRO:
[Boudin is a] murderess who betted the cold-blooded massacre of three law-enforcement officers, including the first African-American on the Nyack police force; a woman whose actions left nine children fatherless and who has shown no genuine remorse for that.
I’ve asked movie and music industry insiders to explain their respective businesses to me, and never end up any smarter than I start out.
How can Lyle Lovett’s album sales amount to $0.00?
How can Return of the Jedi still be in the red?
Or take Ed Driscoll’s post last week called “Hollywood’s Special Effects Industry is in Crisis”:
As Life of Pi won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects, the venerable facility that created those effects – Rhythm & Hues – declared bankruptcy, and they’re hardly the first to close their doors due to financial problems. Debra Kaufman pulls from her 25 years of experience covering the industry to take a close look at how the creators of some of cinema’s indelible images are falling prey to dysfunctional business models.
As you’ve likely guessed, the bloated, ever-evolving technology required to bring those Jurassic Park raptors to virtual life is so costly, it burdens production companies with insurmountable debt.
We often read about how many weeks or months — or even years — it takes to create glossy special effects that last only seconds on screen.
Is that really a sound business model or a smart, efficient way to make anything?
I hear Buddhism is big in Hollywood, but surely they’re not basing their creative process on the making of sand mandalas – are they?
It wasn’t always like this…
I’ll be traveling over Easter and don’t think I’ll have time to blog, so I’ll leave a few mini-reviews to unroll day by day for your holiday viewing pleasure — or not.
— Oh, man, I so wanted to like this. Liam Neeson killing evil Muslims to get his kidnapped wife back? It worked once, why not again? Plus the critics hated it while the public ate it up, so I was all ready to side with the public. But, really, no. The characters are terribly written, the action is poorly choreographed. Poor Neeson looks like he needs to be rescued more than his family. There’s one scene where he’s in a Mexican standoff — evil Muslims have him and his wife at gunpoint; he’s holding a gun on them — and, so help me, he pauses to make a phone call! I was hoping he was calling his agent: “Get me out of here!” No such luck. A few days after I saw this, I was on the elliptical and Taken 1 came on TV. I was struck again by its taut structure, its expert suspense. Take my advice: watch the first one twice and forget 2.
Why Do Only French Actresses Have the Ability to be Mind-Shatteringly Beautiful While Still Looking Like Real People?
Basically, this monster French hit is a Magic Negro movie: you know, a warm/wise/passionate person of color brings warmth/wisdom/passion into the lives of stuffy old white folk. But it’s elevated above its shudder-inducing genre by a vastly charming script and two performances of such brilliance they would have elevated the phone book. Francois Cluzet is so unbelievably good as a quadriplegic millionaire, he brings the guy completely to life from the first scene using nothing but the expressions on his face. Omar Sy is delightful as the street tough who gets hired to help him out. And Audrey Fleurot — why is it only French actresses have the ability to be mind-shatteringly beautiful while still looking like real people? No wonder French guys never want to do any work! Anyway, it’s definitely worth watching all the way and the scene at the opera is classic. I like opera, and it still had me in stitches. Based on a true story. A real pleasure.
It wouldn’t be fair to call The Incredible Burt Wonderstone a disastrous movie. It would be fair, however, to call it three or four disastrous movies crammed into one: It’s abysmally awful as a buddy flick, as a broad satire of Las Vegas, as a romance, and as a soulful character-based comedy. In a moviegoing year that is already piled deep with the remnants of terrible movies, this one skitters atop the garbage heap like a roach.
Steve Carell plays the title character, who in the opening scenes is a kid in the 1980s who turns to magic because he’s lonely. He’s the kind of boy bullies chase around the block, and after a rough day of being forced to eat tree bark, when he arrives home at an empty house we find out that it’s his birthday. But all he has to show for it is a note from his mom, a single present and instructions to enjoy making his birthday cake (if he wants to bake it himself). The present, though, is a box of magic tricks, together with a video by legendary magician Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin) that give him an opportunity to master something and a lifelong friendship with a classmate, the equally dorky Anton.
Cut to the present day, when Burt and Anton, under their goofy stage names, play packed houses every night in a Vegas hotel-casino despite putting on a groaner of an act complete with red velvet tuxedos, corny patter, and the theme song “Abracadabra.” The act seems to be a spoof of David Copperfield, Barry Manilow and Siegfried and Roy, staged with the maximum cheesiness of Gob’s magic act on Arrested Development. Carell and Steve Buscemi (as Anton) sport silly wigs and prance around being bitchy with stereotypically gay mannerisms. (Yet minutes later, Burt is revealed to be a ladykiller, the homoerotic scene between the two men forgotten.)
The arrival of an amazingly annoying Jim Carrey on the scene as Steve Gray, an underground hipster street musician modeled after Criss Angel and David Blaine, sets the woefully tame plot in motion: Will Burt and Anton adapt to contemporary tastes or will they fade into irrelevance?
Action movies are just as American as motherhood, apple pie, and capitalism. Movies like Unforgiven, Gladiator, Rooster Cogburn, Conan, Dirty Harry, Die Hard, The Dark Knight, High Noon, Man on Fire, Red Dawn, Tombstone, and True Grit speak to men in a primal language that transcends the story line on the screen. Men like these films because they capture qualities we’d like to think we have ourselves. We like the idea of being billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and fighting crime in our spare time, pointing a gun at a punk and asking him if he feels lucky, or responding to the question, “What is best in life?” with “To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women!“ While there are dozens of deserving action movies, there are seven that are particularly good at revealing parts of the male psyche.
1) First Blood
John Rambo is a damaged character. His fighting in Vietnam left him with mental problems, made him ill-equipped to fit into society, and led to him ultimately having a difficult and lonely existence. However, there are two things about him that make the character click with men. The first is this:
Teasle: Are you telling me that 200 men against your boy is a no-win situation for us?
Trautman: You send that many, don’t forget one thing.
Trautman: A good supply of body bags.
Rambo doesn’t pick the fight, but when he is backed up against a wall, he is a one-man army. This theme is repeated over and over in action movies because it’s something men aspire to all the way down in their souls.
The other, more subtle thing that makes Rambo appealing is that he shares a grievance that most men have on some level or another: his sacrifices are largely unappreciated. He went through hell to do what had to be done, paid a terrible price for it, saw his suffering shrugged off by men unfit to say his name, and was left holding the bag. There are millions of men who feel the exact same way. They’ve provided, they’ve struggled, they’ve done things they didn’t want to do for other people, and, ultimately, they found that it wasn’t valued. That makes it easy to relate to a character like Rambo, even if you’re not planning to shoot at anybody with a machine gun.
Three years ago Disney made a bazillion dollars off Alice in Wonderland, and this spring they’ve followed that up with a film that delivers a similar experience and is likely to be equally profitable. Like Alice, the Wizard of Oz prequel Oz: The Great and Powerful is a little too goofy, but it has its moments and your eyeballs certainly get their money’s worth. The special effects and the 3D are as brilliant as the jokes are dim.
James Franco, who is completely the wrong choice for the part, stars as Oscar (friends call him Oz, Z being one of his many middle initials), a cheap fairground magician in a black-and-white 1905 Kansas. He’s on the run from some circus freaks he has cheated when, wouldn’t you know it, here comes a twister that batters Oscar in his hot-air balloon. Next, the image widens, the black and white is replaced by color and we’re in the merry old land of Oz.
Launching this movie exactly the same way The Wizard of Oz got started seems like a failure of imagination, though merely rehashing much the same plot with 21st century special effects would give you a film better than most. Like Dorothy (who isn’t in this one), Oscar encounters some unusual friends (first up, a flying monkey who vows to become his lifetime servant after the lame and cowardly Oscar saves him from a lion with a two-bit magic trick). The monkey and others are versions of people Oscar knew back home. They hit the Yellow Brick Road for a quest to defeat an evil witch (by breaking her wand this time), and Oscar becomes the toast of the Emerald City.
All of this is sprinkled with dumb humor more appropriate for a spoof than a second entry in the series; Oscar wants to know why the wisecracking monkey is dressed “in a bellhop’s uniform” and he and the monkey muse that there must be some yellow-brick potholes in the road. When Oscar mentions bananas, the monkey (voiced by Zach Braff) grouses that it’s a stereotype to accuse monkeys of liking bananas (which he loves, but never mind). You know what’s really easy? Making fun of The Wizard of Oz. You know what isn’t? Creating a piece of dramatic fantasy that lingers in the popular imagination for four generations. So guess which movie is better?
This is funny — and kind of weird.
I watched the film Hitchcock on pay per view the other day: it’s the story of the making of Psycho based on the fascinating 1990 non-fiction book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello, which I read and enjoyed many years ago. The movie? It’s not bad. Its take on the Hitchcock marriage is rigged and sentimentalized. But the cast is amazing — Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, Scarlett Johansson, Jessica Biel, Toni Collette — and the glimpses of the true story that survive are still very interesting. It’s a small, satisfying entertainment about the movie biz.
However… The movie is about ten times better than last year’s unfortunate HBO production The Girl, which starred Toby Jones as the Master of Suspense, and told Tippi Hedren’s version of their relationship during the making of The Birds. Hedren claims Hitchcock sexually harassed her, mistreated her, and ultimately destroyed her career — although my memory is that Hedren was an awful actress, which may have also had something to do with it.
Many young people nowadays are indoctrinated to believe that American culture has always been dominated by conservative, racist, and other nasty influences. Understanding this complex history has not been balanced by this new indoctrination and distortion. It’s merely been made biased in the opposite direction far more systematically than it ever was before. Racism against African-Americans and many other things in American history are undeniable — and shouldn’t be.
Consequently there was plenty of room for improvement. But that same history also shows there is no need for endless self-flagellation. I’ve often noticed this but it came to my attention again in rewatching the film that brought a certain man to stardom. So what better way to learn about the true and dominant themes than that classical Western directed by John Ford, Stagecoach (1939) [For full script see here.]
Let’s examine the politics of the film. As a traditional Western, it shows the Americans — not whites, Americans — as good guys in a battle with the Apaches. Aside from this, though, are the following plot points:
— The stagecoach driver is married to a Mexican-American woman. No negative aspersions are cast at all. This is totally accepted. Incidentally, all three of John Wayne’s wives were “Hispanics.”
— The heroes of the film are an outlaw, whose motives for killing a man are portrayed sympathetically, and a prostitute.
— One theme that runs through the film is how the “respectable” people are mean to the prostitute and that’s a terrible thing.
— Although the women are treated by the male characters as delicate, etc., their behavior shows them to be courageous, clear-headed, and as tough as circumstances require.
— The main villains are a banker and an ex-Confederate officer who has turned gambler, shot men in the back, and is a social snob.
— The banker, who is absconding with his bank’s embezzled funds, is a super-patriotic hypocrite. He actually says the following things and I am NOT making this up:
“And remember this — what’s good business for the banks is good for the country.”
“It always gives me great pride in my country when I see such fine young men in the U.S. Army.”
“America for Americans! Don’t let the government meddle with business! Reduce taxes! Our national debt is shocking, over a billion dollars! What the country needs is a businessman for president!”
That’s not in 2012 but 1939. And remember that he is the bad guy so when he says these things the audience could be expected to groan and think that such a person is horrible and disgusting. When the mass media in 2013 portray a group like the Tea Party as racist or in 2012 portray Mitt Romney unfavorably — a businessman for president? — the ground has been well-prepared. In what film was a community organizer a villain?
— The moralistic and deliberately uglified respectable women of the town are presented as narrow-minded prigs.
— One of the stations the stage coach visits is run by a Mexican-American team, including the manager, who are portrayed sympathetically.
— When one of the passengers makes a racist remark about the Apache wife of the Mexican-American manager, he’s made fun of. And note that the man’s statements are made in the context of fear that she might somehow be a spy for the Apache forces whose imminent attack they fear. And on top of that he’s not from the West and unused to seeing Native Americans. The other man who distrusts her is, of course, the evil banker. While she might actually be helping the Apaches, the banker is wrong when he accuses her of being a thief of his stolen loot, which he soon finds.
— In an early scene, the cavalry scout has reported that the Apaches have gone to war. Asked how do they know he’s telling the truth, an officer replies, “He’s a Cheyenne. They hate Apaches worse than we do.” So all Native Americans aren’t alike; some are allies. Today, the fact that some tribes were aggressive and “imperialistic,” engaging in massacres and tortures of others — motivating the latter to side with the U.S. army — is hidden, since that would distract from the narrative that only whites are racist and aggressive.
One of the best parts of the holiday season has to be Christmas movies. There are hundreds of them and a few dozen classics among them. As a father of two, I’m always interested to see how popular films portray dads, so it makes sense to find the best papas in favorite Christmas flicks who can teach us all how to be better parents.
Let’s focus on five who would make Father Christmas proud.
5. Clark Griswold, The Do-Whatever-It-Takes Father
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is the third film in a series following the hilarious Griswolds. The family patriarch is the lovable goof Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase), whose greatest desire is for his family to have the perfect Christmas. How many dads can relate to a guy with Christmas cheer who can’t catch a break in trying to make the season bright? Clark’s frustrations abound as he just tries to give his family a “good old-fashioned family Christmas.” Clark forgets the saw when finding the perfect Christmas tree, he can’t figure out how to get his million lights to light up (been there), he can’t make annoying in-laws happy (won’t say I’ve been there), and he buys a huge gift for his family and then doesn’t receive his Christmas bonus to pay for it. He struggles and fails, but he keeps on fighting for that wonderful family Christmas.
Time rightfully put Clark in their top ten list of perfect movie dads. They praised him as the ultimate example of “determination.” He was always willing to go the extra mile to provide experiences his family would never forget.
Clark makes our list for doing whatever it takes to bring joy and special memories to his family for Christmas. Yes, he fails and sometimes fails miserably, but his heart is in the right place. While many men may ignore Christmas or leave it to others in the family, Clark takes the lead to bring his family the joys of the holiday. I can relate to that and so can countless other fathers. We are kids at heart and want our families to experience the wonders of the holiday season.
There’s no denying it: ladies love the chick flicks. For men, they’re instruments of torture they must endure with their woman so they can be rewarded at the end of the night. Women, however, eat them up — especially the under-30 crowd. They’ll drag their boyfriends to them, bond with a group of girlfriends while watching them, or sit at home alone crying to them. Never mind that they’re vapid, formulaic crap that Hollywood can churn out faster than Sandra Fluke can go through condoms. They’re still successful.
Too bad they also send some of the worst messages to women in the history of mankind. Horrible stereotypes, insulting characters, idiotic relationship advice… it’s all there. Some chick flicks are better at hiding it than others, but generally, you can count on the same thing each time. The worst part is, women are actually starting to believe the lunacy they see in these movies!
So which are the worst offenders, and what damaging messages do they send?
10. The Notebook
Damaging Message: Cheating Is Great!
The Notebook is considered by many women to be one of the most beloved movies ever, a perfect example of what romance and long-lasting love are supposed to be. Too bad about half of the movie revolves around the main character cheating on her fiance.
For those who haven’t seen it, Allie and Noah are high-school sweethearts. Allie’s rich and Noah’s poor, so they break up after one summer. Noah joins the Army and fights in World War II; Allie goes to college and gets engaged to a handsome soldier turned lawyer. After getting engaged, she runs back to Noah, rolls around in the hay with him a few times, and ends up insulted at her mother’s insinuation that she’s a tramp. None of this matters, of course. Noah and Allie love each other so much that cheating on the man she promised to marry was perfectly acceptable. Heck, even her fiance didn’t get mad at her. It’s romantic, see?
The lesson here is that, hey, it’s totally cool to cheat on someone if that’s what your heart is telling you to do. It doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong. If you’re following your heart, then cheat away!
As a capitalist, it’s tempting to say that box-office receipts are a better judge of a movie’s worth than Hollywood award ceremonies. However, that ignores the sad reality that Americans sure do love some crummy movies. We’re not even talking “good crummy” either, like a fun zombie or chop socky flick; we’re talking “bad crummy.” Big-budget, high-powered, star-filled atrocities that bank hundreds of millions of dollars despite being average at best and mediocre at worst. Like, for example….
2010: Adjusted Domestic Gross — $295,152,300
Admittedly, in a theme that you’ll see repeated multiple times on this list, the movie looks great. It’s really cool to watch city blocks folding over on each other like a crisp dollar bill. The problem is that’s the only thing that makes the movie worth watching. Yes, it’s pretty… but it’s barely watchable, pretty garbage. The plot is dumb, the characters aren’t likable, the movie is full of overly forced action, and the rules the filmmakers come up with for their invented world are nonsensical. It’s almost like the CGI version of what’s going through someone’s head right after he takes bath salts, but right before he starts to eat people.
Ed Driscoll and I had fun last week with my brainwave about the preposterously-named Adam Smith’s freakish drive-by harassment of a (preternaturally Zen) Chick-Fil-A employee.
I was struck by the incident’s similarity to the famous “diner” scene in Five Easy Pieces (1970), right down to the “chicken”:
Ed quoted a film critic who held up that scene “as the point where American movies began to celebrate gratuitous anger.”
Anyone who’s watched other drivers careen out of the parking lot after the latest Fast & Furious movie has to admit that films affect our behavior; that cinematic ideas and attitudes trickle into the cultural water table, and sometimes pollute it.
To take one trivial instance: I’ve written before about the influence all those 1970s “Satanic children” flicks had on my decision not to have kids.
Three other movie tropes from that era impacted audiences in ways that continue today.
(Language and content warning:)
Over 17 years and a dozen feature films Pixar revolutionized computer animation. Today no other studio even comes close.
Pixar’s films have innovated not just with their technological expertise but in the realms of characterization, plot development, and creativity. With Brave debuting last week, Disney and Pixar raised the bar even higher, reaching astonishing new heights.
Fiery-haired Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is the daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) of the DunBroch clan in 10th century Scotland. Merida loves riding through the countryside and practicing her archery. She longs to choose her own fate and bristles at her mother’s attempts to school her in the ways of living like a princess. When Elinor invites the heads of the other clans to DunBroch to compete for Merida’s hand in marriage, the princess rebels, leading to a heated argument.
Merida takes off into the woods, where she follows will-o’-the-wisps to a witch’s cabin. She asks for a spell that will both change her fate and her mother. The result: Elinor transforms into a bear. Merida must then reverse the curse by repairing her relationship with Elinor. Along the way mother and daughter restore the bonds between the four clans and help Fergus face the legendary demon bear Mor’du, who took his leg in a battle years before.
I’m telling you right out of the gate, this article contains spoilers for The Avengers. If you have not seen the movie (how’s life been under the rock this weekend?), you should probably bookmark this for reading later.
You’ve been duly warned.
* * *
The big news this weekend wasn’t that The Avengers owned the box office, smashing the previous opening record held by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. It was the appearance of Thanos, the Mad Titan, in the end credits.
Who is Thanos?
If you’re not a comic book fan, you probably have never heard of him, which makes his inclusion in the movies a nod of appreciation to the fans and a feeling that future movies from Marvel Studios will lead to even more stellar sequels to The Avengers.
That’s because Thanos is a more powerful villain than The Avengers have faced before.
Thanos is an Eternal of the planet Titan, born with the Deviant gene. This means he looks different than all the other Eternals. He’s a bit self-conscious about it.
Being an Eternal, he has some special powers:
Thanos possesses the superhuman physiology of all Eternals, granting him superhuman strength, endurance, reflexes, and agility. His skin in nearly invulnerable, particulary against heat, cold, electricity, radiation, toxins, aging, and disease, and he can survive indefinitely without food or water even before his “curse” from Death left him immortal, unable to die. His mind is also invulnerable to most forms of psychic attack, and can project a psionic blast of energy as well as blasts of plasma/cosmic energy from his eyes and hands.
Yeah, he’s kind of a big deal.
As expected, The Avengers dominated the weekend box office. Authorities on such things knew it would do well, but they underestimated just how well:
The superhero smorgasbord featuring Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and The Hulk brought in $200.3 million its opening weekend in 4,300 U.S. theaters, smashing the previous domestic record for any movie’s first three days, Walt Disney Studios said Sunday in a news release.
While “The Avengers” was predicted to be a hit, the performance outpaced expectations. Box Office Mojo, for instance, had projected the film would pull in $172.5 million on its opening weekend.
Its ultimate domestic haul is well ahead of the $168 million “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2″ conjured up in its opening weekend domestically in July.
On Friday alone, the movie took in $80 million.
No surprise: Disney announced a sequel:
Disney CEO Bob Iger has confirmed the obvious today. After smashing through the record books with its $207 million domestic opening weekend and ruling the world with over $702 million grossed to date, Walt Disney Studios is working on The Avengers 2.
Those wondering where The Avengers 2 might go need only to stay until after the credits of the first film. (Spoiler alert!). That’s cosmic villain Thanos, who makes a cameo at the end of the movie. He’s a force to reckon with, having killed every one of the Avengers in the comic book world.
You really can’t sum up Thanos in one line, so I won’t try. I will say that he is powerful; Black Widow and Hawkeye are probably going to be replaced in the sequel. They’ll need some Avengers with much greater powers than guns, arrows and acrobatics.
A primer is needed on Thanos, and the other news from Marvel Studios that you need to know for the future of the series. Look for that soon in my next Superhero List Post, here at PJ Lifestyle.
And see Duane’s previous hits:
A few weeks from now we’ll find ourselves knee-deep in the summer blockbuster season, inundated by a gaggle of loud, bright, overdone action movies. It seems like every year these big studio barn-burners appeal to the lowest common denominator, shortchanging plot and character at the expense of cheap special-effect thrills. But in early spring, movie lovers get a chance to treat themselves to a different breed of sci-fi action film — Disney’s John Carter.
I’ve already written about the background of John Carter and the hundred-year journey from the novel’s original publication to the movie’s release. Edgar Rice Burroughs published the first John Carter novel in serialized form in 1911, a few years before the Tarzan novels which earned Burroughs his fame.
telegram summoning him for a vist. When Burroughs arrives, Carter has died and left him his estate, including his valuable collection of artifacts from throughout the world, his unusual tomb, and the secretive journal of his adventures.
As Burroughs delves into the journal, Carter’s tale unfolds in flashbacks. In the Old West, the enigmatic Carter, a captain in the Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War, searches Arizona Territory for a cave of gold. When Carter and an Army officer find themselves caught in the crossfire of a skirmish between Apaches and American soldiers, they hide in a cave. Once inside, Carter discovers unusual markings and begins exploring. He sees a strange-looking man in the cave, shoots him, and steals his medallion. The next thing Carter knows, he is on Mars.
HBO’s new series “Luck,” has been cancelled unexpectedly after growing safety concerns for its equine cast members boiled. The show, which starred Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte, was responsible for the death of three horses in its short production span.
On Tuesday, a horse was injured and euthanized at Santa Anita Park racetrack, according to USA Today, and HBO agreed to suspend filming at the request of the American Humane Association, a group that oversees Hollywood productions.
HBO’s “Luck” had seen the death of two horses during shooting prior to Tuesday’s incident, both of which generated outrage from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). PETA sent a letter to L.A. District Attorney Cooley one day prior to the death of the third horse.