Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Dark Knight, right-wing propaganda, and mack truck plot holes.

Went to see The Dark Knight on Friday. I'll admit, I was excited to see it, even tho I hated Batman Begins (boring, poorly done action, and the CARDINAL SIN of incorrectly portraying a character I cared about). I love the Joker. Unfortunately, I walked out of the theater at the end of the movie not only disappointed but angry.

OK, the good stuff first. Some of the dialogue was great. Heath Ledger was indeed wonderful as the Joker, tho I would have made him a little more likable as well as psychotic - that's always been one of my favorite parts of the Joker, that you love him at the same time he's doing monstrous, horrible things. Still, the lack of lovable dialogue was not that big a deal - they did include some classic Joker bits such as him having a "multiple choice" past. Jim Gordon was also played beautifully by Gary Oldman; unassuming, caring about his family, being the dedicated uber-cop. Aaron Eckhart plays the first Two Face that is anything at all like the character - and his makeup is grotesque, awesome, amazing, stunning, and wonderful. There was one shot in the movie that really was beautiful - the Joker leaning out of a squad car window, with no sound effects, just the sense that he was at peace with destruction. It was a virtuoso visual moment in a movie that was visually... well, we'll get to the bad stuff.

I honestly didn't mind the movie for the first hour or so. I thought the pacing was slow, and the action scenes flaccid and boring, and I was a bit bothered by Batman leaving Gotham for an "extreme rendition," but I didn't dislike it at all. That changed when a major character was suddenly "killed." It was done with so little fanfare, and so much disregard, that I was able to immediately lean over to my husband and whisper "fake out." At that point the spell was broken and I was left with nothing but sluggish editing and propaganda leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

Another title of this film could indeed have been "George W. Bush, The Dark Knight." Don't believe me? Try googling "right wing dark knight" or "conservative dark knight" to find out how conservatives are excited about the comic-style apologetic for their man. Perhaps the speech given by Batman to Lucias Fox is the best example of the agenda of this film, that "its necessary sometimes to do things that are wrong when you're fighting terrorists." Of course, its supposed to be ok because Lucias Fox has control of the apparatus and can destroy it when he's done. Oh, and then there's Batman's speech about how people don't need to know the truth, that other things are more important. *AHEM.*

Enough political commentary. Visually, the film was dull, with the exceptions noted earlier. I've said it before and I'll say it again, digital grading kills me. The editing left me scratching my head way too many times... the Joker lit a giant pile of money on fire, with a man sitting at the top, but it was never shown in wide angle, and you never really know if the guy (who at that point in the movie you actually are interested in what happens to as Batman went to fairly extreme lengths to get him) dies of immolation or manages to roll off the other side of the pile while we weren't watching. Another example would be the chase through Lower Wacker (I have no idea what it was supposed to be in the film). A chase that should have been interesting an exciting (see: Blues Brothers) ended up being repetitive and dull.

Worst of all, they got some of the most important characters wrong - Alfred and BATMAN. Alfred is best when he's an proper English gentleman, not a leering cockney Michael Caine (I love him in other movies, but holy crap, stop mugging!!!) Batman was a travesty. In the first movie Batman shows no compunction about killing Ra's Al Gul (sorry, he didn't kill him, he just didn't SAVE him. Ahem.) In this movie he repeatedly doesn't kill the Joker... REPEATEDLY. A huge point is made of NOT killing the Joker. But then, at the climax, Batman seemingly kills Two Face in a completely offhand manner, but then takes a long time to discuss with Gordon how they need to lie about Two Face's deeds. Not Batman on either count, sorry. When he decided to self-destruct the Batmobile, he did it in such a way that innocent bystanders would have been blown to little bits (and don't tell me "its just a movie" - Christopher Nolan's big thing is supposedly how this Batman is so "real world".) Oh, and then there was Christian Bale trying to affect a gruff Batman voice - every time he opened his mouth I couldn't help but start laughing. Seriously, that was so awful it transcended into the unbelievably funny category.

Of course, there was also the moral of the movie, which was apparently that anyone can be driven insane when pushed too far. Sort of the opposite of "The Killing Joke," where Commissoner Gordon sees he daughter shot and apparently repeatedly raped by the Joker, over and over for hours.. and manages to stay sane and demand the Joker's arrest "BY THE BOOK!" Way to miss the point there, guys.

I know all of America except me is in love with this film, I just can't figure out why. Anyway, I'd say avoid it, but you probably won't listen. *sigh* I think I'm going to go see Iron Man again. There's a movie about a rich industrialist turned vigilante that still manages to maintain moral culpability - and a sense of entertainment. Or I'll go watch my copy of Batman - Mask of the Phantasm, the best version of Batman ever put on screen. Or good ol' Tim Burton's gothic 1989 Batman - Jack is still the best, and Michael Keaton IS Batman. Or maybe I'll even watch Batman - the Movie.

Dark Knight was still better than Batman and Robin tho.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Serenity vs. Unsernity

I've been asked a couple of times now what my "Unserenity prayer" means. Here you go.

I've always been bothered by the serenity prayer. I understand its message is about trying to accept things as they are, de-stress, be calm. But something about it also says "Don't bother trying unless you know you can win."

Hopeless causes are sometimes the best causes - and even if you personally can't change something, it doesn't mean that your attempt to affect change is meaningless. You might inspire someone else - or many someone elses - to try to make the change happen. Or in a more cynical view, you might shame someone who has more power into making changes happen.

Perhaps I just read Dylan Thomas one time too often as a kid.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Wine thoughts for today - told you I was obsessed

I've been re-reading The Wall Street Journal Guide to Wine, probably one of my favorite books on the subject of wine. Its a great book that talks about wine in a very non-snooty, approachable way. But.. it still concentrates on France and California (tho mention is made of Oregon's Pinot Noirs.)

And then there's the new movie that I saw a trailer for while waiting to see "Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr.Hunter S. Thompson" (which was a great reminder of how much this world needed that man, and still does, and how pissed I am at him for being so selfish)... "Bottle Shock." Its based on a tasting that took place in Paris, in 1976, when (SPOILER ALERT) California wines won every category. The supposed "shock" of this movie is that an AMERICAN wine could outdo a FRENCH wine. Mon Dieu!

Of course, something like this had happened before, but you don't hear about it because for some reason we've all been led to believe that the American wine industry sprang full grown from the hippie enriched soil of California in the 1960's. But... in the 1873 Vienna World Exposition, a Norton wine from MISSOURI won the gold medal, and was declared "best red wine of all nations." Of course, in those days Missouri produced 48% of the nations wine, so you'd have to expect that there'd be some good stuff coming out of there.

But in came prohibition - and, well, I went on about this before. The good news is that when prohibition went down (and in Missouri that was in the 1960's), the winery that made the 1873 gold medal Norton was revived and is making Norton today - Stone Hill. I'm going to get me a couple of bottles pretty soon, and I'll let you know if I think they're still "the best wine of all nations" - or at very least if you can drink it with dinner.

Maybe next time Hollywood makes a wine movie it'll venture outside California? *sigh*

My unserenity prayer

God, grant me the strength to change what I can
the courage to try and change what i can't,
and the inability to tell the difference.