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By: Genevieve Hayes,
Stars: Ana Torrent, Fele Martinez, Eduado Noriega.
While researching her Honours thesis on audio-visual violence, overachiever Angela (Ana Torrent) enlists the help of Chema (Fele Martinez), a freakish loner who collects ultra-violent movies. But when the pair stumble across a video that appears to show the brutal murder of a fellow student, they soon find themselves the targets of an on-campus snuff ring.
Before achieving international fame with The Others
, writer/director Alejandro Amenabar launched his career with Tesis
, an American-style horror-thriller that earned seven Goya awards (the Spanish equivalent of the Oscars), including Best Film and Best Original Screenplay, in his home country of Spain. Pretty impressive for a first-time film maker, especially considering the prejudice normally shown towards the horror genre.Tesis
is a well-written, well-acted movie that works on a number of different levels. If all you’re after is a straight-up horror-thriller, then Tesis
delivers that. Amenabar himself admits to borrowing many of the techniques used throughout the film from Hollywood. Furthermore, Tesis
is one hell of a mystery. Amenabar places Angela at the apex of a love triangle, with Chema and good-looking but dangerous Bosco (Eduardo Noriega), then spends the rest of the film shifting the audience’s suspicions as to the identity of the killer between the two (or is it someone completely different?). However, through the character of Angela, Amenabar also explores the simultaneous attraction and repulsion the viewing public has towards violent images.
In spite of its subject matter, Tesis
is not a gore film. At a number of points throughout the film, it appears that Amenabar is about to show the audience some particularly grisly sight, only for the camera to pull away just at the last moment; Amenabar, instead, preferring to focus on Angela’s reaction to what she is seeing. Angela insists that she is only interested in violent movies from a purely academic standpoint and that she considers what she is seeing to be disgusting, yet she is every bit as fascinated by it as Chema.
, Angela serves as a proxy for the viewer. Anyone who wants to watch a film like this to begin with, must have a certain desire to see violent imagery and in the final scene, Amenabar takes his audience to task for having such a desire. Nevertheless, if horror is your thing, then you could do a lot worse than watching Tesis
, an American-style horror film that outdoes the films that inspired it.Verdict
: Released three years prior to the similarly themed 8mm
, this ground-breaking Spanish horror-thriller simultaneously borrows from Hollywood and shows the Americans how it’s done.
By: Genevieve Hayes,
Charley Brewster is convinced that his new neighbour, Jerry Dandrige, is a vampire, but when even his friends won’t believe him, he is forced to turn to Peter Vincent, a has-been horror star, for help.
Rewind – Fright Night (1985)
William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandon, Roddy McDowall
Although it was never anywhere near as successful as some of the other horror films released at around the same time (such as A Nightmare on Elm Street
or Child’s Play
, the latter of which was also written by Fright Night
writer/director Tom Holland), there has always been a soft spot in the hearts of many horror fans for Fright Night
. Starting life as a modern up-date of The Boy Who Cried Wolf
, with vampires and elements of Rear Window
thrown in for good measure, this horror-comedy has established itself as a modern horror classic in the 28 years since its release, and has given rise to a sequel, numerous rip-offs ranging from Never Cry Werewolf
, and of course, the inevitable remake.
Even though I love the original Fright Night
, I have to admit that the whole film is based on an unbelievable premise. I’m not talking about the idea that vampires exist – I can suspend disbelief for long enough to accept that – I’m talking about the idea that a 17 year old boy would, firstly, leap so quickly to the conclusion that his neighbour is a vampire, and secondly, actually believe that an actor is a genuine vampire hunter just because he says so on TV. It would work if Charley were younger, say 12, or uneducated, like the villagers in Three Amigos
, but a seemingly normal 17 year old? No way! I also have to admit that, by modern standards, Fright Night
now feels a bit slow moving and Charley’s girlfriend Amy comes across as more than a little pathetic. The film could have benefitted from losing around 15 minutes from its running time – preferably the clichéd subplot about Dandrige falling in love with Amy because she looks exactly like his long lost love. Yet, if you can get past these drawbacks and improbabilities, Fright Night
has a lot going for it, mostly in the form of its cast and characters.
The best thing about Fright Night
is, without a doubt, Roddy McDowall. As Peter Vincent (a character presumably inspired by horror greats Peter Cushing and Vincent Price) McDowall steals the show. He’s as arrogant and over the top as ever, and his transformation from unemployed loser to genuine hero is what makes this film worth watching. At the same time, though, Stephen Geoffreys does an excellent job as Charley’s best friend, the seemingly insane or stoned Evil Ed (a surprisingly complex character who I would have loved to have seen more of) and Chris Sarandon portrays Dandrige using the right mix of seductiveness and menace, just as you’d expect a modern-day Dracula to be. The special effects aren’t bad, given their age, and the overall innocent feel of the film (mostly due to William Ragsdale’s boy-next-door portrayal of Charley) provides a nice break from the cynical teen films of today.
Remake – Fright Night (2011)
Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, David Tennant, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Toni Collette
Given Hollywood’s seeming lack of new ideas in the horror genre, a remake of Fright Night
was inevitable and the only surprise is that it wasn’t made sooner. Written by Marti Noxon, who has previously worked on Buffy
and the under-appreciated Point Pleasant
, the Fright Night
remake transplants the action from the suburbs to Las Vegas, turns Peter Vincent into a Criss Angel-esque stage magician and amps up the action, fixing many of the plot flaws that plagued the original in the process.
In this version, it is Charley’s former best friend, comic book geek Evil Ed, who first becomes convinced that Jerry Dandrige is a vampire and that Peter Vincent can help stop him, and Charley only comes to believe after Evil goes missing; Peter Vincent has a smaller role in the story than in the original, which in a way, is disappointing, but at the same time focusses the action more closely on Charley; and the ridiculous sub-plot about Dandrige and Amy (who is far more in control than her 1985 counterpart) is, thankfully, nowhere to be seen. As I mentioned previously, though, plot was never greatest strength of the original.
The strength of the original lay in its casting, and that’s where Fright Night 1985
really outshines its remake. Don’t get me wrong, all of the actors in the remake do justice to their roles and David Tennant (whom I never liked as Dr Who) won me over with his over-the-top, warts and all portrayal of Vincent… but he’s not Roddy McDowall and Colin Farrell lacks the magnetism of Chris Sarandon. Even William Ragsdale did a better job as Charley Brewster, giving him an air of boy-next-door wholesomeness that Yelchin lacks. Surprisingly, the original also surpasses the remake in terms of special effects. Sure, the exploding vampires in the remake are awesome (especially the first time you see one), but the vampires themselves looked more realistic in the 1985 version, where make-up effects were used, than in the CGI-laden 2011 version. Nevertheless, without the original to compare the Fright Night
remake against, I would have no problems with the actors or the effects in this film, so I don’t consider these factors to be a deal breaker.
I hate to say it, but overall, the improved script of the Fright Night remake makes it superior to its predecessor. However, both films are essential viewing and worthy additions to any horror fan’s collection.
By: Genevieve Hayes,
Stars: Vegar Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen, Charlotte Frogner
While on holidays in the mountains, a group of eight medical students are terrorized by an army of Nazi zombies who have been hiding in the area since the end of World War 2.
Well, that’s 90 minutes of my life I’m never getting back. With a fantastic concept that could have been used as the basis for either a highly original zombie thriller or a hilarious black comedy in the vein of Shaun of the Dead
, Dead Snow
seemed destined to become an international cult hit. Yet, second-time writer/director Tommy Wirkola clearly lacks the experience and talent to do justice to his idea, with the result being an under-developed, amateurish waste of time.
To give Wirkola his dues, though, the beginning of Dead Snow
is actually pretty good (hence, me not giving up on it like I should have). The film opens with one of the students being stalked and killed by an unseen monster and Wirkola springboards off this to create tension and suspense – which he then proceeds to throw out the window by boring his audience with scene after scene of his characters behaving like uni students on holidays (about as much fun as being the only sober person at a party full of drunks) interspersed with the odd, very brief zombie attack so that people don’t mistake the film for someone’s vacation footage.
At about the half-way mark, the students finally realize they’re in danger and we get to see a zombie clearly for the first time. This is the point where the film should have picked up, but instead, it completely loses focus and spins hopelessly out of control. None of the characters were adequately developed as individuals in the first half of the film, so it’s impossible to care whether they live or die; once they start being attacked, the characters all but stop talking to each other (and the zombies can’t speak), so things keep happening with little or no explanation; and anything that was previously set up is completely forgotten. For example, we are told several times that one of the med students is afraid of blood, but then, suddenly and with no transition scene, he’s hacking at zombies with a chainsaw. By the time the disappointing ending rolled around, I was only still watching because I’d seen so much of the film, I figured I might as well keep going to the end, but I was happy to be through with this completely pointless waste of time.
Nevertheless, clearly not everyone shares my opinion of Dead Snow
. The quote on the DVD case (and we all know how reliable cover quotes are) says “zombies, Nazis, blood on snow… it doesn’t get any better.” I wonder if we saw the same movie? The cover also describes this as a black comedy. Unless your idea of humour is seeing people’s intestines (which Wirkola seems to find hilarious), it’s not. And of course, someone in Hollywood must have liked it because, following making this film, Tommy Wirkola was given the opportunity to go to Hollywood and make Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
. I haven’t seen Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
yet, but based on Dead Snow
, I am rapidly losing interest.
Verdict: There are many great foreign language horror movies out there. Dead Snow
isn't one of them. Anything you could do with your time is better than watching this film.
Apocalypse Please (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Hey all. I procrastinated ALL WEEKEND when I have a huge deadline this week. And now that I’m sitting down to work and realizing that at last count my new novel The Storytellers..the one I should have been editing all weekend has…wait for it…50 CHARACTERS! Egads!
50 is my new favorite number. It’s going to be my muse not only for this week but for the entire month of May.
I’m turning 50 soon–very, very soon. And I’m going to throw a little book birthday bash here. I can’t wait Some awesome authors have joined in to celebrate with me which is so much fun. They’ll be some fun surprises and a great giveaway with lots of fabulous free ebooks. More on that later….
But, back to this Monday’s muse. In the face of the number 50 the muse made me procrastinate. I SHOULD have been home swimming through my edits. Trying to stay afloat. But I didn’t, I did everything but. That’s SO 49 of me! I’ve done the opposite of everything that I probably should have done this year. And it’s been wonderful. So I went with my gut and did everything I wasn’t supposed to this weekend. Here’s three things my muse picked up on while I procrastinated.
1 & 2: I saw two amazing movies that I never heard of, and I’m kind of a movie freak, so this is rare. One was Winter’s Bones….egads! If you like it scary and horrifying and love Jennifer Lawrence this is for you. The other is The King of California…if you like it cooky and weird and love stories about outrageous quests and impossible relationships, this one is for you.
3: I love church for lots of reasons but one of them is because it’s so old fashioned hearing stories told aloud. This week’s story was about a man who couldn’t walk and had waited to be healed at a healing pool for 38 years. For 38 years every time the time was right for a miracle to occur he never was the first one to the healing pool. He always missed his chance. He was really caught up in the how of healing. Not in the who. This made my muse thankful and determined.
What’s inspired you this week? What’s your muse up to?
- Musing Mondays (May 6) (cynthia2729.wordpress.com)
I’m sort of fascinated by how and which films and filmmakers become underground hits. That is, not mainstream movies, but indies and such that become embraced and then recommended and screened in off-beat places, say dorms and such. For example, decades back when I was at Columbia, there was an organization that showed weekly art movies (the organization had a name that had something to do with a zoopraxiscope, but I can’t remember exactly what it was). I recall Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali’s bizzare Un Chien Andalou, Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar, Tod Browing’s Freaks, and Philip de Broca’s King of Hearts. There were other cultish movies out and about at the time that I avoided because I suspected I couldn’t take their creepiness, say David Lynch’s Eraserhead, John Waters’ Pink Flamingos, and Alejandro Jodorwsky’s El Topo. It took me a while to finally attend a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Pictureshow, but I must say I had a great time when I did.
One of my personal favorites is Lindsay Anderson’s If… (you can read a bit more about my feelings about it here) and I was thrilled to see that it seems to be a favorite of Neil Gaiman’s too as it is one of the films he has selected to screen in a brief series he and his wife Amanda Palmer are doing. And was further tickled to see that she had selected King of Hearts. I haven’t see it in years and wonder how I’d respond to it today. I have seen If.. and still love it (partly…er…mainly…because of the young Malcolm McDowell), but do wonder how others will respond to it today what with the horror of school shootings. Haven’t seen King of Hearts in decades and now am curious how it would hold up for me.
What movies speak to you in somewhat cultish fashion? I’m suspecting the films of John Hughes, perhaps? Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings? I’m curious.
Hi, everyone. It's time for a new batch of book trailers. Most of these are pretty recent though some may be a little older since I don't keep super up to date with book trailers. I have some mixed feelings about them (most are kind of cheesy) though I do like the idea of having a promo for a book. Anyway, here are a few book trailers and a couple of film trailers thrown in for good measure at the end. Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Ugh, I a so excited for Siege & Storm! Can someone please lend me their ARC?
Still have not read this series yet though it looks good and I kind of love that each book has a color theme. And emerald is one of my favorite colors.
I really like this whole campaign. The trailers look high quality and they're intriguing. Has anyone read The 5th Wave yet?
I don't have much to say about this one since I haven't read any of the books yet. I don't really love the voice over, but that's just me.
I had no idea they were going through with making another Percy Jackson movie. The first one was so bad. At least Annabeth is blonde in this one. I will probably wait to see this one on video.
Well Katniss doesn't seem too whiny in this trailer. Catching Fire
was my least favorite book of the series (sorry - don't hate me!). I totally thought it was a filler book. This trailer makes it seem like it's going to have a lot more going on though so I am optimistic. And Effie promises to have some fantastic outfits.
What did you guys think? Are you looking forward to any of these releases?
I've only known of Roger Ebert's death for an hour, but I can't focus on doing anything else
right now, so I might as well write this, raw and unformed and rambling as it may be. So be it.
A couple weeks ago, Ebert stuck my video essay on Clint Eastwood's endings up on his blog
. The last time I felt so close to fainting was when Samuel Delany first called me on the phone. (I bet Ebert would have appreciated that. He was, after all, a science fiction fan
.) I wish I'd sent him an email to thank him, to say how utterly gobsmacked I was to have somebody who'd been a constant presence in my life suddenly notice something I'd done, and approve it. I was too shy. I knew it was the right thing to do, knew he might even be pleased that his notice meant something to me, but ... I was too shy.
Roger Ebert was always there in my life. Well, not always. I suppose before the age of 10 or 11, I hadn't seen his TV show (one with various names, but I'll forever think of it as Siskel & Ebert
), a show that was born the same year I was
. In the days before the internet, that show was a lifeline for a kid like me, living in New Hampshire, in love with movies and yet without any easy way to get information about any but the most mainstream and blockbuster. I would watch with a pen in my hand and take notes on which ones sounded interesting. Thus I discovered so many films that I later came to love (or loathe). Often, I had to wait till they were on videotape; sometimes, I was able to see them at a Boston theatre on one of my occasional trips to the city. Who I am as a film viewer was deeply shaped by those years of watching Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel argue about movies on TV.
Truthfully, it wasn't until he lost his voice that I came to love Roger Ebert, though. As my film taste was shaped watching the TV show, I tended to side more with Gene Siskel. Then, once I was in college in New York I was reading film reviews in the Voice
and some of the film journals (whichever ones the Barnes & Noble at Astor Place carried: I'd grab a pile, sit in a chair, and read them cover to cover). Siskel and especially Ebert seemed, to a callow youth rather arrogant in his opinionating, utterly mainstream and utterly bourgeois. I suppose I was trying to expel his influence, to kill a father. Such is the nature of callow youths.
Then the Sun-Times
put his reviews online. He started blogging. He became Master of Twitter. He expanded his blog to include all sorts of younger critics from around the world. I learned about Ebertfest. I learned about all he had done for film culture in Chicago. I learned.
And though our taste wasn't ever exactly the same, I found I loved reading his reviews. Actually, I liked
that our tastes differed, because he was so good at expressing what he appreciated or didn't appreciate, even if my response was the opposite. What I had never known from the TV show was just what a marvelous writer Ebert was. A writer who happened to be a film critic. But a writer first.
Ebert's most interesting reviews aren't just reviews. They do the job a review is supposed to — they tell us about a cultural product we probably haven't yet encountered ourselves, and they give us the writer's take on it — but they are full of tangents, side remarks, bits of fact or philosophy. They are essays
in the broadest and most classical sense: moments of thought. The familiar Ebert voice is always there in the words, and it is a comforting voice, an entertaining voice, the voice of a friend or beloved family member, somebody really smart and passionate, somebody you just want to talk to — about anything, really. It's no surprise that when he wrote his memoirs, he did so masterfully. His reviews were also pieces of memoir.
Could one critic ever be so important again? Probably not. The cultural landscape has fragmented, fractured, gone all rhizomatic. Overall, I think that's a good thing. I wouldn't want to go back to those days of having to rely on Siskel & Ebert
for all my movie information. I like the easy access to variety today. But still. Roger Ebert, man. We often say a particular death is the end of an era. With Ebert, it really is.
He inspired millions of people to care about movies as something more than just entertainment, but without forgetting that entertainment is central to the experience, that visual pleasure and narrative cinema are nothing to be ashamed of.
Again and again, people have spoken of his generosity, his decency, his humanism. It is remarkable that a man who published three whole books of his most negative reviews could be so beloved! But Ebert wrote wonderful negative reviews. (Even of movies I like!) His generosity of spirit comes through, even as he is saying that a film is utterly awful, a terrible waste of time or effort or talent, even immoral. And when he praised, he praised like a poet.
I learned about one of my favorite movies, David Lynch's Blue Velvet
, from the Siskel & Ebert episode where Ebert lambasted it
. I wouldn't get to see the film for at least a year after that episode aired, but I remembered it, and I watched the movie while trying to evaluate what I thought of Siskel and Ebert's discussion about it. I decided I completely disagreed with Ebert on it. I still do. And I am utterly grateful to him for what he said, because it provoked me and haunted me and challenged me. There are worse ways to learn about aesthetics and morality, worse ways to learn about yourself.
Neil Steinberg at the Sun-Times
chose a perfect quote from Ebert's Life Itself
“‘Kindness’ covers all of my political beliefs,” he wrote, at the end of his memoirs. “No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”
Carve those words in stone. Better yet, project them through celluloid.
Tonight, I will choose one of the movies from his most recent Sight & Sound ballot
to revisit, probably The General
because it would be nice to laugh, and to watch that most graceful of all screen graces, Buster Keaton, my favorite silent film actor.
Thank you, Roger Ebert. All our thumbs are raised high in your honor.
It's two hours now since I learned of Roger Ebert's death.
The signature closing words of Siskel & Ebert
are today among the saddest in our language:
The balcony is closed.
Zoe Saldana might just add to her geek cred by adding Gamora from Guardisna of the Galaxy to her nerd icon roles as Lt. Uhura in the Star Trek reboot and Neytiri in Avatar.
If the gets the role, it would not be her first comic book performance. She played Aisha in The Losers, a role which required her to fearlessly do summersaults clad only in white panties, a useful skill should Gamora’s ultra-skimpy costume be adapted for the film. Saldana is known for being physical in her roles, so she’d be perfect as the tough assassin Gamora. Plus, they both look good in green.
GUARDIANS has previously cast Chris Pratt as Star-Lord, and former wrestler Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer.
By: Pam Bachorz ,
I was poking around for an interesting documentary recently and ran across THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES. I wasn't sure I'd like it, but it really sucked me in. It follows Orlando millionaires David and Jackie Siegel through the real estate market crash and out to the other side.
Here are five reasons why you should watch this film:
1. You'll never be so glad to not be rich.
2. You'll find yourself rooting for someone you'd think you'd hate (Jackie Siegel proves to be surprisingly endearing, although entirely imperfect). This a great study for any writer.
3. You won't feel so bad about loving Chicken McNuggets. Even the rich must have them sometimes.
4. You'll feel hope for the economy. If David Siegel takes a huge hit and keeps fighting, then there must be plenty of other businesspeople out there like him too... right?
5. You'll finally know what happens behind the doors of those enormous mansions you like to drive by, all slow and casual-like, when you can slip behind the gates of a community. Not that I would EVER do such a thing...
Here is the trailer, for your viewing pleasure:
Hello, dear friends. Good to see you again. Today I am doing a brief post about The Mortal Instruments panel that I went to at WonderCon over the weekend. Let me warn you that these pics are alright at best and I took no notes, so I am going to try and remember as best I can some of the fun tidbits that I heard at the panel.
The panel was in the Arena (which is the biggest space I think at the Anaheim Convention Center). We thought we were going to have to get there super early to get seats but it was surprisingly not too full and we were able to grab good seats. The hall started filling in at that point though and, by the time the panel started, it was pretty full.
Panel started off with some questions by the moderator (writer from EW magazine). Cassie talked about how she didn't expect to be consulted about the movie after she sold the rights. But she asked for the casting director's number and they gave it to her. She in the casting director were in close contact over a period of months where she got to weigh in on the casting process which included watching audition tapes. She was also consulted in the look of the film was really involved in helping make the world a reality.
|the cast of the mortal instruments|
Lily Collins was really great. I don't know much about her, having only seen Mirror, Mirror
, but she was really well spoken and passionate about the movie and playing Clary. She said that she experienced a lot of emotional growth during the movie and that it will always remain special in her heart because of it. She also said that, while she wanted to be true to the character, she didn't focus too much on thinking about what people's expectations were of how Clary should be because that would only prevent her from being in the moment and really doing Clary justice.
|jamie campbell bower|
Jamie Campbell Bower was seriously hilarious. He was really fun and just seemed like he was having a good time. He said that his favorite character from the books was probably Isabelle. He thinks she is pretty badass.
I don't know what rock I have been living under but I had no idea that Kevin Zegers was in this movie. I kind of loved him in The Jane Austen Book Club
(yeah I own it). Anyway, Kevin was really cool and he talked about how all of the cast really bonded making this movie. He and Jamie got along really well and the cast was like family. He also talked about how the tattoos were kind of a pain and took several hours to put on each day.
The floor was then opened up to Q&A from the audience. A lot of people asked really specific questions about the book and series. I think some of the questions may have been a bit spoiler-y but Cassie kept it cool and didn't divulge anything. The best part was at the end of the panel when a woman came up and didn't have a question but wanted to introduce the panel to her son, Jace. So cute.
I was kind of on the fence about seeing this movie but, after watching the panel, I really want to see it. It just looks like a lot of fun and the cast and Cassie were so cool. It also makes me want to catch up on the series since I am a few books behind by now. Anyone else excited about The Mortal Instruments
? The film hits theaters Aug 23, 2013. And if you're interested, we have a few more pics up on our FB page
The rumor’s provenance was impeccable: director Bryan Singer.
But given the date…
Still, casting Gaga as the resident mutant singer/dancer/disco queen, it would kinda be genius.
Marvel is getting all cosmic with the looming threat of Thanos in the second Avengers movie, and in the run up to it, the new Infinity comic will reintroduce the weirder side of the Marvel U, with the Inhumans mixing it up weith Thanos in a saga penned by Jonathan Hickman (Avengers, Avengers VS. X-Men) and illustrated by Jim Cheung (Avengers: Children’s Crusade) Jerome Opena (Avengers, Uncanny X-Force), and Dustin Weaver (Avengers, Uncanny X-Men). Infinity kicks off with a Free Comic Book Day preview and then as a six issue mini-series in August.
“I’m very excited about Infinity for a number of reasons,” said Hickman. “First, I think it’s wonderful that the story is coming organically out of what’s been going on during Marvel NOW!. Things that we’ve seen unfold in Avengers, New Avengers, Thanos Rising, Guardians of the Galaxy, and others are the catalyst for Infinity. And second, for me personally, Infinity is the first big step in a series of big steps that make up the long term plans for the Avengers books I have the privilege of writing. It should be a lot of fun.”
And what is that long term plan? With an Inhumans movie almost certainly on the horizon, and Guardians of the Galaxy already in the works, those of you who thought they would never see Karnac on the screen may just be surprised.
Hickman, Axel Alonso and Tom Brevoort will participate in a fan chat tomorrow April 2 at 2 pm EDT. More info here.
is running a series of essays on the Coen Brothers' films this week, and they very kindly asked me to contribute and let me pick the movie I wanted to write about. I chose Burn After Reading
. The essay is called "They Know Not What They Do"
. Here's the opening:
When Katie Cox (Tilda Swinton) descends into her husband's basement office and copies financial records off of his computer, we get a glimpse of a book on the desk, a book that looks to be George F. Kennan and the Origins of Containment: 1944-1946: The Kennan-Lukacs Correspondence. This should not surprise us. We have previously heard Oswald Cox (John Malkovich), while struggling to dictate his memoirs, declare: "The principles of George Kennan—a personal hero of mine—were what animated us. In fact they were what had originally inspired me to enter government service."Continue reading at Press Play.
Burn After Reading is a film about containment and knowledge, or, to put it another way, a tale of wars against chaos. Necessarily, it is a farce.
2013 is a busy year for comic book movies — we’ve already had Bullet to the Head and coming up there’s Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Man of Steel, Two Guns, Kick-Ass 2, R.I.P.D. and many more on their way.
As is The Wolverine, a new take on you know who. We haven’t had much to say about it, but here’s a new poster where Hugh Jackman gives new meaning to “rip”. A trailer will be along any second now as well. In addition to Jackman, the cast includes Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hal Yamanouchi, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima and Brian Tee. James Mangold directs.
Oh boy, this is going to be dramatic! How is Tony going to get out of this one?
Iron Man 3 opens on May 4.How is Tony going to get out of this one?
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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The biggest success for comics over the past five years hasn’t actually been comics at all: it’s been the movie industry. Superhero films are gigantically big business now, with The Avengers pulling in over a billion dollars worldwide, and the industry paying top-dollar for any new comic rights they can get their hands on. At the same time, superhero films are in a very good critical position as well - Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy won Oscars! Top directors are almost literally battling for the chance to get their hands on characters like Daredevil or Luke Cage.
While movies have taken the characters and distilled them into their most winning core – the comic book version of Iron Man was essentially revitalised by Robert Downey Jr’s energetic portrayal of Tony Stark – the comics themselves have struggled to keep up that mindset. Whilst the Iron Man of the movies was flying about, smashing racecars and saving the world, his comic book counterpart was busy being a fugitive, living a miserable life as he attempted to clear his name. The X-Men in X-Men First Class may have been enjoying themselves, but the X-Men in the comics were hounded, segregated on an island and blocked from society. In terms of tone? Mainstream superhero comics have been downbeat rather than optimistic.
Take any comic book version of a character and compare them to the film version. Hal Jordan is nominally dead right now in the DC Universe, but in the films he was Ryan Reynolds! Even Professor X, who is lovely Patrick Stewart and James MacAvoy in the films, has spent the last decade at Marvel being a terrible bastard. And, y’know, dead. For all that the movies may offer superheroes as a safety net for people wanting to be inspired, comics have been offering superheroes as corrupted, agonised people. Now, this isn’t bad storytelling – it’s always been the way. Drama requires a little tragedy from time to time, and comics have had a long time to dwell on their characters. Eventually you run out of ways to move a character, so things have to take a turn for the darker.
And that’s why it’s going to be so fascinating, two years from now, to sit in a cinema. Because two years from now, Gwen Stacy will die.
Whoa! Spoiler. True, though. The relaunched Amazing Spider-Man trilogy are setting us up for some major tragedy just around the corner. They’ve hired an actor to play Green Goblin, they’re bringing in a Mary Jane, and thematically the first film made it blatant that Gwen has to die for the narrative to be complete. The first film hammered the point that Peter Parker is dangerous for Gwen Stacy, and his decision not to end their relationship (which seemed sweet at the time) is going to look very ominous in two years time.
The other films coming up aren’t going to be much different. If Kick-Ass 2 remains true to the original comic, then fans are going to line up for a horrible rape sequence midway through their movie, followed by a lot of murder and horror. The Man of Steel has been marketed as a brooding, mournful take on the most iconic superhero of all time, while the Wolverine franchise is soon going to introduce doomed love interest Mariko Yashida. And if this wasn’t enough, the next X-Men movie will take us into the Days of Future Past dystopia.
In essence, the movies are going to hit unsuspecting audiences with a wall of ‘darker and edgier’ storytelling all at the same time. Comic book fans have been experiencing this for a while now, with formerly silly characters getting brought back, made miserable, killed off, tortured, or turned evil. The only notable upbeat characters of the last few years have been, perhaps, Stephanie Brown, Pixie, and Squirrel Girl. For the most part, comics have moved their attention towards an older audience, with more mature stories – well told stories, but stories which focus on human drama and horror rather than fantasy and idealism.
Film fans have no idea what they’re going to get into. While comic fans are aware that Gwen Stacy is doomed, the majority of film fans have no idea what’s coming up. It’s going to be MASSIVELY shocking for to see her die. People were prepared to see Uncle Ben die, because it’s what he always does – but adorable Emma Stone? Killed off halfway through a blockbuster trilogy? Film audiences expect superhero films – with a few exceptions – to be comforting, safe, and for all-ages. That’s a big twist for them.
What they’re going to get over the next few years are an unexpectedly brutal series of events, which could completely sour the idea of superheroes as comfort food. Comic fans accepted the move away from all-ages stories – how will film fans react? And Spider-Man is barely going to scratch the surface - are we eventually going to have to deal with Iron Man’s alcoholism? To what extent might that Ant Man film deal with Hank Pym’s history of domestic abuse? Is Channing Tatum still going to die in GI Joe 2?
The reaction of film fans to these next two years of superhero films will determine the future of comic book stories, I think. The reaction people have to this upcoming ‘darker and edgier’ period of films could have massive implications for comic companies. There’s a perception in general that comic books are fun entertainment for kids – but if movies now subject audiences to an onslaught of rape, murder, abuse and horror, what will that do for the next generation of comic fans? If the films are rejected by the public, will that mean the superhero genre of cinema will fall out of favour?
Films tentatively suggested for future release include a Lobo movie, Ant Man, and several Mark Millar projects such as Nemesis and Wanted 2. It’s interesting, isn’t it? There’s little hope for a Wonder Woman or Black Panther film, and yet film companies think audiences can support super-violent, misogynistic works. Films aimed not at all fans, but a smaller, older demographic. Just like happened in mainstream superhero comics! Rather than films suggesting a brighter future for comics, could their turn towards darker and edgier stories actually be the thing which helps to bury the medium entirely?
Steve Morris writes, tweets, and comics. Follow his epic journey!
David Goyer, a Hollywood vet perhaps best known for co-writing Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, is going to direct a a new version of The Count of Monte Cristo which is billed as having “a graphic novel approach” in Michael Robert Johnson’s script.
Now what does this mean?
This experience [producing the Man of Steel Superman movie] helped Goyer land the new gig because Constantin’s approach for Monte Cristo will be akin to the refurbished take Warner Bros. did on its Sherlock Holmes movies as well as its DC heroes. In fact, one source tells The Hollywood Reporter that a buzz phrase for Monte Cristo is “19th century Dark Knight.” Constantin put an ultra-modern spin on a literary classic with Paul W.S. Anderson’s The Three Musketeers, which didn’t catch on domestically but performed solidly internationally.
You may recall that Alexander Dumas’s original tale 19th century tale featured a man named Edmond Dantes who is wrongly jailed and then emerges from prison with a new swagga persona and a plot to find a treasure he heard tell of while in the pen to help exact his revenge on those who sent him to jail. So far, so good, as far as this “graphic novel” thing goes.
The surprising twist is that Dantes (played by Ryan Gosling) has a secret lab where he builds a giant robot with the aid of a wise tinkerer played by Morgan Freeman, and is able to transfer his persona into the robot. This comes in handy when aliens attack the Earth with the goal of stopping the French Revolution. While attempting to stop the aliens, Dantes teams up with another guy named Jean Valjean (Channing Tatum) who also has a giant robot. Together the two start a team called “Le Revengeaux,” gathering an unusual gang of misfits—a reformed thief named Oliver Twist who can turn into a puddle of water (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and a feisty prostitute named Hester Prynn (Jessica Chastain) who is trained in the ancient art of Qigong.
It will be an exciting film.
PS: When I was a kid I always thought this story was called The Count of Monte Crisco and wondered what it had to do with rendered vegetable oil. Later I discovered that there was a delicious sandwich called the “Monte Cristo” consisting of a deep fried ham and cheese sandwich. Life is beautiful.
PPS: because I just can’t let this go, over the weekend I was chatting with some comical folks about the co-opting of the term “graphic novel.” One had seen a magazine feature billed as a “two page graphic novel!” I guess there are worse things to have than frivolous co-opting of the name of your literary form.
Blog: A. PLAYWRIGHT'S RAMBLINGS
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Just reading a piece about the release of the re-make of the latest re-make of"The Great Gatsby." Personally, a large proporation of the film remakes that I've seen rarely matched up to the original. This leads one - me - to wonder why producers/directors/film production companies feel the necessity to update a film that on the whole, was good orginally.
In the way of background information and according to Wikipedia, the story, "narrated by Nicholas "Nick" Carraway, a 30 year old Yale graduate and WWI veteran from the midwest, who takes a job in New York as a bond salesman. He rents a small house on Long Island, in the (fictional) village of West Egg, next door to the lavish mansion of Jay Gatsby, a mysterious millionaiare who holds extravagant parties."
Checking further with IMDB, the first film version dates back to 1926 and starred Warner Baxter as Jay Gatsby and Lois Wilson as Daisy Buchanan. Furthermore, much to my surprise, a stage production opened at the Ambassdor Theater on February 26, 1926, ran for 112 performances and directed by George Cukor.
The next film version in black and white, was made in 1949 starring Alan Ladd and Betty Fields. I always liked Ladd as an actor and although I never saw the film, most likely he did a decent job. The next incarnation in 1974 was the one that I saw and being an admirer/fan of Robert Redford, I thought it was...okay. Didn't particularly care for Mia Farrow as Daisy and thinking back, there was very little chemistry between the two stars.
Last but not least, it appears there was yet another version in 2000 (wasn't aware of this) with Mina Sorvino and one Toby Stephens in the lead roles.
That brings us up to the latest incarnation to be released in May 2013, starring Leonardo di Caprio and Carrie Mulligan. Somehow, di Caprio, at least in my mind, doesn't have that suave, sophisticated personna necessary to play Gatsby. Then again, who knows.
This is all leading up to the question originally posted here, as to the necessity of yet another re-make of the re-make of.... One re-make is acceptable or even two re-makes but five? The point being made here is that script writers should be searching for their own ideas, rather than turning out scripts based on the story lines and scripts created by other script writers.
In as far as the newest and hopefully the last version of this story, I'm going to pass but for people who are intrigued to know what the film is about, here is the trailer: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1343092/?ref_=sr_1
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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Vertigo released Book 1 of its THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO graphic novel adaptation of the award-winning posthumously published Millennium Series novels by Stieg Larsson in 2012 in hardback, begging the question: do we really need a graphic novel of a series so popular that the novels fly off the shelves and two film adaptations (both Swedish and American) have already been made? But it’s more a question of what the comics format has to offer to the concept that the film versions haven’t done or can’t do in quite the same way. The choices that filmmakers have made in adapting the series also leave a great deal of room for alternative formats to bring out elements of the books that have been neglected or understated.
[*Spoilers for Book 1 but not for Book 2 ahead]
Firstly, there’s the English-language title, which Vertigo maintains, though the original Swedish title is, of course, Men Who Hate Women. The graphic novel series, more than the American film version, and perhaps more than the Swedish film series, emphasizes this theme with great consistency. In Book 1 from Vertigo, the narrative chapters are interspersed with what takes the place of single-issue covers or splash-pages in the form of artfully presented statistics about crimes against women in Sweden. The figures are sobering, and sometimes shocking, making American readers wonder how these stats compare to the USA. It’s a grounding in non-fictional reality that keeps reigning the story back into the society it depicts, reminding readers that the plot elements of DRAGON TATTOO may not be as fanciful as your average murder-mystery. Within the narrative of Book 1, also, smaller elements of characterization, setting, and back-story reinforce this theme even more fully than either film version. There’s a tension in the graphic novel between this overarching theme, which could well be the primary “message” of the story, and the massive gravitational pull of the appealing character, now pop culture icon, Lisbeth Salander. She steals the show at every turn. Hailed as a “super hero for grownups” by Vogue Magazine, getting sucked into her story becomes an experience of this abuse, but it’s easy to get caught up in her remarkable abilities and achievements and allow her origins in violence and trauma to fall by the wayside.
Book 2 of DRAGON TATTOO (set to be released May 7th 2013) shows the same focus, laudably, as Larsson’s series itself, and shows no signs of letting up as an investigation of gender-based crimes. Book 2 continues to cover ground contained in the first volume of the Millennium Series of books, the American film version (2011) and the two part Swedish film version of the first book, tracing the arrival of Lisbeth on the island to help shamed journalist Mikael Blomkvist piece together clues in the disappearance of another possibly wronged woman, Harriet Vanger 40 years previously. The grisly murders they investigate after deciphering coded information in Harriet’s journal reinforce the ongoing theme of the societal prevalence of violence against women.
While all of the essential plot elements that deal with violence against Lisbeth (at the hands of her state-appointed guardian), and the murder cases she investigates are present in the film adaptations, Denise Mina, who adapts the graphic novels, and Leonardo Manco and Andrea Mutti, who handle the artwork, decompress the narrative enough to give equal focus to violence against women as to action sequences and romantic encounters. This changes the feel of the storytelling and alters the reader’s sense of what the story is really “about”. It is certainly a story about a hero, Lisbeth, and a crusader, Mikael Blomkvist, but it also a story about society, a story that is essentially “ugly”, as it was branded when it first reached American readers. To be fair, the Swedish film version comes closer to giving this theme more space to breathe than the American film version, but the graphic novel trumps them both in this regard.
The graphic novel has another ace up its sleeve in terms of format in comparison to film: readers can control their own narrative pacing. But Book 1 goes beyond that allowance by including visual detail and more minor linking scenes in both Lisbeth’s and Mikael’s life that can provide more of a sense of the world that they inhabit. Manco and Mutti do an excellent job of loading panels with atmospheric elements that go beyond the utilitarian basics of storytelling. The Venger mansion is a relic loaded to the rafters with remnants of a past way of life, a kind of gracious opulence that can quickly turn into a sinister reminder of even worse times for social injustice. Giullia Brusco and Patricia Mulvihill’s colors on the graphic novel in Books 1 and 2 deserve special attention for contributing to this sense of differing social settings, from the more brash hues of Mikael’s life in the city, and later at the Venger mansion, to the more muted and moody world that Lisbeth inhabits. Brusco and Mulvihill’s wise decision to color code flashback sequences according to character works well, from Mikael’s sepia memories to Henrik Vanger’s blue-washed narratives of past events.
The tour de force, though, in colors, and also in lettering by Steve Wands, comes in Volume 2 when Lisbeth’s own flashbacks to recent traumatic events are depicted in a disjointed but overwhelming psychedelic repeat of phrases and images from her life, set in punk colors on a black background. Book 2 shows the same strengths as Book 1 in its unrushed pacing, attention to detail in setting, and also its commitment to establishing the psychology of its characters through preserving as much realistic minutiae as possible.
[Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish film version]
Though Manco and Mutti’s artwork is fastidious throughout Books 1 and 2, it feels most confident when depicting Lisbeth. This may be because of Manco’s “dark and gritty” style, Volume 1 touts, established through working on comics such as HELLBLAZER, is given full reign. It provides the character with quite a wow factor, boosting the sense that she’s a form of superhero, since the art style that surrounds her often stands in contrast to the more staid (but nevertheless threatening) environments she moves through. She frequently seems to explode onto the scene, even when walking quietly, and is depicted in a heroic lower than eye-level perspective. Her qualities, suggested and emphasized by the artwork, are even more apparent once she reaches the Venger estate. It’s as if her personality, and visually the art-style surrounding her, disturbs and undermines the heavily ornamented, and static, world of the past. While this visual contrast is established in Book 1, it’s even more apparent, and even more effective in Book 2 because of changing environments.
[American film version poster]
Book 1 of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO was promising, setting up a lot of potential for telling a story in a way distinct from film versions that have been made, and though Book 2 by nature doesn’t have the same introductory force of Book 1, it does form a remarkably seamless development on the best features of the earlier volume from emphasizing violence against women as a governing, haunting theme, to including more detail about the lives of its characters than film versions have allowed. Book 2 also preserves and enhances Lisbeth’s hero status visually and narratively while guiding the reader deeper into the mysteries surrounding Harriet Vanger’s disappearance. If the prevailing sense created by the same team in Book 1 is “this could all be real”, Book 2 explores the implications of that assumption and so has the potential to be even more disturbing and more compelling in its revelations. If readers want realism that comes closer to the original novels by Larsson than the film versions, the graphic novels provide that alternative while still capturing the larger than life elements of the characters that have made the story such a phenomenon in the first place.
Title: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, Book 2/Publisher: DC Vertigo/Creative Team: Adapted by Denise Mina, Art by Leonardo Manco and Andrea Mutti/Colors by Giulia Brusco and Patricia Mulvihill/Letters by Steve Wands
Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.
I just found Blog30. I liked their questionnaire and thought I'd share my own answers:
Where do you look for inspiration?
Life. Truth. Music. Stories. Nature. People.
What's your favorite book?
I have favorite books in different categories. My favorite books include, but are not limited to:
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (fantasy classic)
The NeverEnding Story by Michael Ende (fantasy)
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (modern classic)
Body Bags by Christopher Golden (contemporary thriller)
The Boys are Back in Town by Christopher Golden (contemporary horror)
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (mystery)
What's your favorite movie?
As with books (and anything else you can categories), I have favorite movies in different categories. For example:
Favorite musical picture: Singin' in the Rain
Favorite film noir: The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
Favorite Hitchcock film: North by Northwest
Favorite screwball comedy: Bringing Up Baby
Favorite Barbara Stanwyck comedy: Ball of Fire
Favorite John Hughes film: Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Favorite Cary Grant/Irene Dunne performance: My Favorite Wife
Favorite Jack Lemmon/Walter Matthau movie: The Odd Couple
Favorite book-to-miniseries adaptation: Anne of Green Gables, 1986 version starring Megan Follows
Favorite Disney animated musical: The Little Mermaid
Again, give me a genre, theme, time period, director, writer, or actor, and I'll tell you my favorite film for that topic or person.
What's your favorite line from a play?
I just realized I don't have any lines from plays listed on my page of favorite quotes. I'm going to have to think on this and get back to you.
What play or production changed your life?
Since I've been on the acting/performing/writing/creating path since birth, I don't know that any play has changed my life, but many have touched me - either the script or the storyline really spoke to me, or the experience I had performing them. This includes but is not limited to Spring Awakening, The Polar Express, and the first school play I ever did. I'm also a writer - screenwriter, playwright, (hopeful) novelist, and poet, so I've performed original works, and had works published, and all of those experiences mean a great deal to me.
Is there anything you still dream of doing?
Everything I haven't done yet, but will: Have a great career, working regularly in television (including work as a series regular), film, and theatre (both musicals and straight plays) as an actress, writer, and director, creating and sharing roles and shows and songs that make me happy and inspire others.
I feel most like myself when I... am performing, singing or acting - or discussing something I'm really passionate about, or retelling the story of something I've experienced.
What is your best escape?
Performing. Writing. Reading. Watching films and TV.
What's the one thing nobody knows about you?
If I told you, then someone would know.
When I was about 18, I was in a community theater production of Robin Hood. As is so often the case with theater, there were more girls than guys who auditioned, but there were more guy than girl parts in the play. I was one of three girls cast as a silent, hooded "Merry Man." During rehearsals it quickly became ridiculous. Though we kept our hoods on all the time, three of us girls playing Merry Men were really bad at walking and moving like men. I remember talking with the lead male actors.
Me: Why do all of the Merry Men have to be men? I could still be a girl and be in the band.
Actor: But if there was a girl in the band, why wouldn't Robin fall in love with her and not Marian? We don't want to confuse the audience.
I was confused myself. Why would that even be an issue? The presence of a single woman in proximity to the lead other than the Love Interest would confuse the audience? In real life, do guys go around falling in love with every girl who happens to be nearby? Obviously, I thought, Marian happens to be Robin's type. He must like the polished, noble, girlie-girl, and a Merry Girl would be rough-and-tumble. What's confusing about that?
But it is. As I look at movies, especially action movies and animated movies, there are rarely any girls besides the Love Interest. Audiences are accustomed to this. The main character's Love Interest can have an elderly female friend, or even a comic-relief female friend her same age (so long as she's overweight, extremely quirky, lacking classical beauty features, etc.). But No Extra Girls Allowed. It's as if the only function of a female character is to be the Love Interest. So if there are, say, two female characters then the audience will be confused. But wait, there are two! Which is the Love Interest? We don't know who to expect will end up with the Lead and the unexpected is upsetting!
Just when I watch a film that's an exception--like Thor, which had several female characters (though male characters still represented the large majority)--I think, hey, we're over it! Then I see 4-5 action or animated movies in a row with an all male cast and one token female--the Love Interest.
I want to be conscious of this. I want all of us to be aware. Because I don't want to see the reverse happen either. In an effort to over-correct, are we doing that with the boys? In YA novels, do we have female characters with 1 male character (The Love Interest) or two if there's a triangle? I'm begging writers of movies and books, be respectful of the girls. Include them in the stories. Girls can be funny and interesting and daring and shy and adventurous and evil and anything a character should be.
“Urgent superhero” music motive? Check
Hero in a wifebeater? Check
CGI helicopters at sunset? Check
Hero questioning the meaning of his role as superhero vs his personal life? Check
Vaguely seen villain vs. US Milliary/industrial complex? Check
Lots and lots of Iron Mans? Check check check.
Directed by Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) and starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwenyth Paltrow, Don Cheadle and Ben Kingsley, this opens May 3rd.
Related: Kevin Feige and Shane Black talk about the movie.
By: Jason Ambrose,
Blog: First Book
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First Book works tirelessly throughout the year to provide new, high quality books to students in need. One of the true pleasures of this work is to know that volunteers, organizations, and communities across the country are working toward the same goal.
Recently, we received a wonderful letter that highlighted the incredible creativity of one such group.
MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, Michigan, does an annual movie promotion event to benefit an organization of their choice. This year, the movie theater used its promotion for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey to help bring books to kids through First Book.
During the movie’s opening weekend, several of the theater’s managers and staff created a wonderful display of Bilbo Baggins’ iconic home, Bag End. One employee went above and beyond to dress up as Gandalf the Grey himself and posed in photographs with patrons for a small donation.
As a result of their hard work and imaginative fundraising, the night turned out to be a huge success. They combined the donations from the weekend with the funds from a year-long soda can recycling program to raise a total of $1,384.66 to help put books in the hands of low-income students.
The staff successfully combined the excitement of a fan base for a movie premiere with the compassion of their audience to help students across the country. It serves as a high bar for the rest of us and makes us think: what are some creative ways we could help the students in our own communities?
If the tale of The Hobbit has taught us anything, it’s that you can never underestimate the impact of a small band of friends. In the wise words of Gandalf the Grey: “I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” In this case, let’s pretend the ‘darkness’ he is referring to is illiteracy. First Book could not be happier to have such great friends, with innovative ideas, along to way to create a generation of successful readers!
I have a new video essay and a new text essay up at Press Play looking at Clint Eastwood's movies, called "The Ends of Violence: The Conclusions of Clint Eastwood". The text essay also contains links to two previous video essays I made on Eastwood, "Outlaw: Josey Wales" and "Vigilante Man: Eastwood and Gran Torino".
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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Spider-Man is hands down one of the most popular characters ever to leap from the pages of Marvel Comics, and is even a strong contender for one of the most popular comic characters produced by any comics publisher. He’s also displayed a particular trademark flexibility in successfully taking to the silver screen and flourishing through merchandizing. It may come as a surprise that it’s taken this long for a collection of scholarly essays on Spider-Man to make it onto the shelves, but it’s here at last with WEB-SPINNING HEROICS: Critical Essays on the History and Meaning of Spider-Man, edited by Robert Moses Peaslee and Robert G. Weiner, both pillars of the scholarly community when it comes to getting books and essays about comics into print, and colleagues at Texas Tech University. The field of comics scholarship is taking off at colleges and universities world-wide, introducing courses and even degrees in comics studies, prompting a need for texts about comics and models for approaching comics scholarship with attention to detailed analysis, historical context, and solid research methods.
[Dr. Robert Moses Peaslee and Robert G. Weiner. Photo taken by Isaac Villalobos, used courtesy of The Daily Toreador]
Peaslee and Weiner have quite an impressive track record in laying out that foundation for the future appreciation and celebration of comics while engaging with comics in an approachable way that can speak to the savvy fan and the graduate student alike. Their most recent project gives the Web-Slinger the attention he deserves while pondering some of the questions that have made him so fascinating for over 50 years. The essay collection WEB-SPINNING HEROICS contains contributions from over 20 scholars, ranging from both established writers to newer enthusiasts and explores topics such as Spidey’s cultural and historical context, issues of gender in Spider-Man comics, and in-depth studies of particular Spidey texts from comics to films, many of them “under-examined” by readers and scholars alike. The collection contains an impressive array of perspectives and suggests the diversity of interest out there today about Spider-Man’s ever-evolving role in the history of comics. Editors Rob Peaslee and Rob Weiner took the time to answer some questions for The Beat about their experiences putting the book together, and also on their own fascination with Spider-Man’s legacy.
Hannah Means-Shannon: What made you want to put together a Spider-Man based collection of comics scholarship? What’s your own personal history with Spider-Man comics and Spidey in pop culture?
Robert Moses Peaslee: It was really just a great opportunity for us to work together for the first time. We’d been looking for an excuse to collaborate on an edited volume, and a character like Spidey presented a perfect focus for our respective foci in comics and films. Rob’s background in comic scholarship is well known, and I’d done some analysis over superhero film characters – and Spidey in particular – previously.
Robert G. Weiner: I agree with Rob Peaslee here. It was a terrific excuse to work on something together. I’d previously done an edited volume on Captain America and with the new Spider-Man movie reboot, doing a scholarly book on the character seemed like an appropriate thing to do. I’d read a bunch of Spider-Man graphic novels while working on my Marvel Graphic Novels Annotated Guide so I was very familiar with the character and the surrounding mythos. I realized how compelling Spider-Man is as a character.
HM-S: Obviously, there was plenty of interest in participating in the collection, with over 20 essays in the book. Did the level of interest surprise you?
RP: Personally, no…I think the academy being what it is, you can do put out a call for an edited volume on the Performativity of Pancake Eating and get a fair amount of interest. And Spidey is of much greater interest in than pancakes…or almost any other pop culture icon for that matter. I’d say he’s top-10 globally in terms of most recognizable fictional characters.
RW: No, the level of interest was not surprising! I consider Spider-Man to be one of the big three of the most recognizable sequential art characters in the world (those being Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man). The one thing I was disappointed with was that we didn’t get much in the way of extended Spidey family Universe analysis (Spider-Woman, Spider-Girl, Cosmic Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2099, Scarlett Spider etc.). By the way, I consider Tom DeFalco’s writing on Spider-Girl to be some of the best comics writing period. That series was great.
We do have some well-known contributors working in the field of sequential art scholarship, media studies, film, education, journalism, business, and history among others.
HM-S: Does Spider-Man, or other mainstream, long-running superheroes get enough attention in comics scholarship? What do you see as still needed when addressing super-heroes in comics scholarship?
RP: From my perspective, the big black hole in sequential art study is engagement with the audience…what meaning is derived from these forms, characters, and narratives? How do readers/viewers/gamers incorporate them into their sense of self, worldview, etc.? Spider-Man, as a character ostensibly “more like us” than his superhero colleagues, would seem especially pertinent in this regard.
RW: I agree with Rob Peaslee here. One of the important questions to answer is how have the comic companies producing superhero “products” engaged with their audience historically? While there are good works out there on comic culture, there is still so much related to fandom that could be studied and understood from all kinds of angles. Comic conventions are a goldmine for scholars wanting to see how superheroes have impacted our ethos. What causes someone to dress up like Spidey, Batman, Green Lantern, the Flash or villains like, Poison Ivy, Bane, Doc Ock, Green Goblin, Venom? Is it more than just fun? There is something that fans identify with in the character that it becomes personal.
HM-S: The book has a foreword by Tom DeFalco. What was his reaction when you initially approached him about putting together the collection?
RW: Actually, one of our contributors was corresponding with J.M. DeMatteis, and somehow Tom De Falco found out through J.M. about the project. He contacted me initially. We are so grateful he contributed and gave his blessing to the project. I consider him one of the best (along with J.M. of course) in the long line of Spidey scribes. He was a delight to work with. It is always nice to have someone who has actually written or drawn the character get involved with an academic tome like ours.
HM-S: I have seen WEB-SPINNING HEROICS on the shelf in comic book shops. Do you think casual comic fans are likely to pick it up? Would it be accessible for all levels of readership?
RP: Most of it, yeah. There are a few essays that deal with some pretty formidable theory, but that’s as it should be. Spider-Man and his universe tap into some areas that we believe require some substantially sophisticated thinking to truly unpack. But we built the book to have something for the fans, the creators, the historians, and the scholars. Hopefully, that comes through.
RW: Yes I think there is enough there that all types of readers could get something from the volume. As Rob Peaslee says, there are a few weighty pieces in the volume, but there is also material anyone into Spidey could enjoy.
HM-S: Why do you think Spider-Man comics have endured so long in the popular imagination and in print?
RP: I think it’s the radical reliability of Peter Parker. Spider-Man is the disguise that enables him to be the Peter he feels he needs to be in order to live authentically.
RW: I agree with Rob Peaslee here. Peter Parker really was a different kind of superhero and the character resonated with the comic reading public in 1962-63. Peter/Spider-Man has never really waned since then. Despite having this “wonderful” power, Peter has lots personal problems and angst (and continues to do so). The supporting characters are all interesting and the villains are fascinating. Whether in red/blue, black, or even white, the Spidey costume is just plain cool.
HM-S: Why do you think Spider-Man has translated so well to the silver screen? What do you think film versions bring to Spider-Man mythology?
RP: Clearly, superhero texts are tailor-made for film. There’s the hero’s journey story-structure that fits so well in the dominant American cinematic mode of three-acts and climax. There’s the potential for fantastical or sci-fi-driven storylines that both maximize Hollywood’s potential for creating CGI and satisfy the audience’s desire for escape and spectacle. But what’s made Spider-Man and Batman successful on screen to a much greater degree than their peers, I think, is their flaws, which lead to much more compelling character arcs. People think they’re going for the explosions and the web-slinging, but what ultimately brings them value is a compelling inner story.
RW: I think the technology has gotten up to speed to make a believable Spider-Man movie. One only has to compare the 1970s live action Spider-Man television series with the films to see the difference. One of the things that the Spider-Man films have done right is the seamless way they combine CGI with live action. When Spidey is bouncing around New York it looks good and not “cheesy.” (Grant Morrison said it was “dreamlike”). One of the big problems with the Hulk films is that the audience is always aware it is watching a big green CGI creature and it looks that way. The Avengers did the best version of the character so far As Rob Peaslee mentions above, the “inner story” is what is compelling about Spider-Man. The relationships he has with the supporting characters combined with the villains.
HM-S: Rob Weiner, what motivated you to write about the romance between Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Mary Jane for the collection? Why did this relationship catch your attention particularly?
RW: Well I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of romance in superhero comics. For example, a lot of readers don’t realize that even Professor X once considered Jean Grey a “love” interest when she first joined the X-Men (along with the other X-guys). In particular, those early Marvel stories usually written by Stan Lee always had this anxiety concerning romance. Matt Murdock and Foggy always pining for Karen, Peter Parker getting turned down on dates, Sub-Mariner always chasing Sue Storm, Captain America always keeping his distance, Wasp/Janet always flirting with all the other heroes in her attempts to get Hank/Ant-Man’s attention.
Spider-Man presents an interesting case. I had original thought of the concept for the 2010 Film & History conference which had romance as its theme. One of the reasons the Spider-Man movies are so successful is that at their core the films are romances rather than action films. The opening narration in the first film sets this up as Parker discusses his love for Mary Jane. I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast the three films with three important events in their relationship from the comics from different eras. I found it amusing that Parker was always trying to avoid meeting Mary Jane in those early comics (which was a great plot device). In both the comics and films Mary Jane is a strong woman who demands respect, equality, and Peter’s loyalty. Even though in all of the films she gets taken by the villain and Spidey has to rescue her, she knows the risks of being Spider-Man’s partner and accepts it. She makes the choice despite the danger. I also thought it would be interesting to explore from the comics the marriage and subsequent erasing of their relationship. Peter Parker/Spider-Man doesn’t often get a “break” when it comes to romance, but there have been a few moments of happiness and joy.
HM-S: Rob Peaslee, what do you think that psychoanalysis can bring to an understanding of Spider-Man comics or Peter Parker/Spider-Man particularly? Why did you choose this topic to explore in the collection?
RP: This article was actually a reprint of a piece I published in a journal several years ago, and Rob Weiner convinced me that it had a place here. I think psychoanalysis is a rich theoretical framework not only for approaching Spidey, but for understanding the structure, content, and reception of the superhero text more generally. It’s not the only way to look at the superhero, obviously, but when we consider Freud’s ideas about the id, wish-fulfillment, degradation, etc., it’s hard not to see these notions on display in nearly every superhero story.
[A psychologically transforming moment in AMAZING FANTASY #15]
HM-S: What other heroes or topics could benefit from further study and discussion these days?
RP: Funny you should ask, Hannah! We’re working on another collection about a prominent character from the comics universe, but as that is under review right now and we don’t want to steal our own thunder just yet, we’ll have to leave you to speculate.
RW: Oh I think the field is STILL wide open. There is so much history and many heroes and villains that deserve the academic treatment. As I’ve argued before, I see comics as a form a social history. They are documents of the time in the same way movies and novels are. I’d love to see more analysis of the darker heroes like Spawn, Punisher, The Demon, Ghost Rider, Blazing Skull, Creeper, Deadman, Man Thing, Sub-Mariner, Moon Knight, Deathlok, and the Phantom Stranger not to mention those wacky superhero stories from the 1950s. I know there has been scholarship on these characters but there is always room for more. So much comics scholarship focuses on the last 30 years, but as someone trained as a historian, I like to know what do the earlier (Golden Age) comics say about our world past and present?
HM-S: What got you into comics scholarship and writing about comics?
RP: I came in the back door, as it were, from the movie theater. I’ve only recently begun reading comics…in fact, I’ve probably read more scholarship about comics than I’ve read actual comics. Rob Weiner has been a significant mentor in this regard.
RW: Comics have always been a part of my life off and on since I was a little. I started to write and study comics while I was working as a public librarian over 15 years ago. I started obtaining graphic novels for the library collection and began reading them. I wrote an article about collecting graphic novels for the Texas Library Journal and then it just took off from there. However, I always thought there was something “deeper” in sequential art storytelling. When I first read WATCHMEN in 1990, I remember thinking this could be used in a philosophy or political science class. I spent six years reading and writing for the Marvel Graphic Novels Annotated Guide, which was my trial by fire.
HM-S: Are there any upcoming projects you’re working on that you all would like to spread the word about?
RP: The piece we’re working on fills a void in the scholarship so large and obvious, that until we’re under contract, we don’t want to say too much. Somebody else might slap their forehead and beat us to it. Stay tuned…
RW: Ditto above! I do have a volume that I co-edited with my librarian colleague Carrye Syma on the educational power of sequential art (Comics and Education) forthcoming from McFarland.
HM-S: Flipping through WEB-SPINNING HEROICS, I have to confess, opened my eyes to how many great topics are worth discussing in-depth when it comes to Spider-Man, and also made me think of new directions for exploring Spider-Man as a cultural phenomenon. That’s certainly the role of good scholarship, providing springboards for the imagination of readers, so thanks for the tireless work, Rob Peaslee and Rob Weiner, in putting the collection together. Looking forward to all your mysterious projects yet to come documenting the role and significance of comics!
Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.