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Lara Eckener

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wrong opinions about movies

.030 – Marry me, Lois Lane?

Five weeks ago we reviewed Superman: Man of Steel for the Wrong Opinions About Movies podcast. The movie itself is muddled and violent. I came away from it confused. I don’t want to go too in-depth into why, because we talked about it at length on the podcast, but it boils down to the fact that I don’t know very much about Superman. In not knowing very much about Superman I have a very specific image of Superman in my mind that’s been cobbled together from 30 years of seeing him show up in Batman cartoons and hearing the way other people and the media refer to and revere him. Let’s say my understanding of Superman lives somewhere about my shoulder like a parrot, and the Man of Steel version lives two states over, possibly Mississippi. After I talked this out with my podcast cohorts I decided I had some learning to do.

Earlier this year I took a Gender Through Comic Books SuperMOOC, which on top of being fun and educational, forced me to read some of the comics that I had long known I should read but was avoiding for various silly reasons. One of those books was Superman: Birthright, written by Mark Waid and drawn by Leinil Francis Yu. Birthright is an excellent comic with a well-told story and I would encourage you to pick it up. It does a good job of staying mindful of Superman’s Kryptonian origins while giving Clark Kent some dimension of his own. It lets him occupy his own space in the DC universe without growing too large for it, which has always seemed to be part of the problem with the character from my place on the sidelines.

In my prejudices Superman is the boy scout. He’s too powerful as a being to be interesting in a fight and too mindful of his power and his place among the people on the earth to really break out and fill his own space in it. Reading Birthright began the process of breaking down those barriers by introducing me to the larger world around him and letting me see how he interacted with people of different creeds and races and locations. I got the sense that he’s a good guy to have in your corner. He’s understanding and patient and fiercely protective, which are all traits I can admire. But, I still wasn’t convinced that I could actually care enough to read more about him.

Up until Matthew had us watch Superman II to pair with Man of Steel, I had never seen Superman in a live action incarnation. Never a movie or an episode of Smallville or Lois & Clark. I was prepared for it to be somewhat hokey, given the age of the practical effects and the source material. Superman II took my breath away. It’s not the best movie ever, and I still haven’t seen the first Christopher Reeve Superman which might make II make more sense really, but Superman II perfectly captures the awe and reverence that I get the general sense of from Superman fans. It captures everything I understood about Superman from the collective conscience and it really is inspiring in practice. I can cotton on to why so many people would want to stand behind the arbiter of truth, justice, and the American way. (Well, truth and justice anyway. I hear he stepped a bit away from America and became a world citizen before the New 52 took hold of the DC universe.)

So, Superman. He’s not so bad I guess, and I have an oddly large amount of respect for the reverence we have for the look of Superman. Christopher Reeve, Brandon Routh, Henry Cavill, and Tom Welling all bear striking resemblances to one another. Clear blue eyes, square jaws, black hair that can be sculpted sleekly into a front curl or modified pomp. They worked to build physiques for themselves that would make audiences believe they could pluck and aircraft out of the sky. I can’t think of another superhero that has worked his way across the collective conscience in such an acutely specific way. When you’re talking about Batman, for instance, the look of Bruce Wayne as a man isn’t as important as the look of the suit or the feel of the world. Because Kal-El’s face IS the face that Superman shows to the world, it’s imperative that casting agents get it right. This brings me back, in a roundabout way, to Tom Welling, who is not really that great as an actor, but who looks the part in a way I think most people in their early 20s can’t.

After watching Man of Steel and being confused by my own Superman feelings and how they’d just been trampled all over, I decided to give myself a Superman education. I’m going to try to un-puzzle him for myself, which will involve watching all of the things and reading a whole slew of comics. Because it’s something of a tradition for me now to watch terrible TV for teenagers over the summer, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and tackle Smallville as the first step to that end.

Smallville ran from 2001 to 2011 and, at the beginning, was meant to show us Clark Kent’s life without the cape. What would it be like for Clark to grow up as a powered being among mere mortals in a town where the very dirt and drinking water was teeming with kryptonite? This is an interesting premise which, unfortunately in this case, has an exceedingly poor execution. I’m not a stranger to WB/CW shows geared towards teenagers and how frustrating they can be. I was ripe Dawson’s Creek age when it aired. I am familiar with the formula of the frustration/betrayal of the week and the circular relationships and the holier than thou dialogue that’s supposed to make the teenagers seem wise beyond their years. On top of this, because Smallville has to acknowledge the impact of kryptonite on Clark himself and the rest of the world, it started as a monster of the week series. And it drags.

It took me five weeks to make it through the ten seasons. The acting doesn’t really get better. The number of times I yelled at Clark for telling someone not to do something and then TURNING AROUND AND DOING IT probably hit a hundred. It’s rife with my least favorite of superhero tropes, which is that of the “I have to protect you, so I’m leaving you.” (In speech with my friends I refer to it as Peter Parkering, which sounds dirty, but is really just a call back to how he did the very thing to Mary Jane.) YOUR PARTNERS ARE ADULTS. LET THEM MAKE THAT DECISION. Well, they’re mostly adults, with the exception of Lana Lang who was a boring teenager and then an aggravating young woman and then pretty badass for about fifteen minutes before they wrote her off the show entirely.

Their main objective from the start was no capes, so in practice the series gave us the boring parts of Clark’s life: his frustrations with Luthors, his need to be on the football team AND save a revolving door of students we’re supposed to believe are his friends even though they definitely weren’t going to that school in the five episodes before, his failed college career, and his eventual and accidental slide into journalism, which I’m pretty sure only stuck because every one of his bosses was uber obsessed with the ubermensch and wanted him in a place where they could study him easily. This is what we get ten seasons of with Smallville. People have been asking me, since I announced triumphantly over Twitter that I was on the last episode, if it was worth it. And no, no it was not. Do not watch all ten seasons of Smallville. Especially do not watch them at the break neck speed of two seasons a week. At some point the name Clark starts to lose meaning, like when you say refrigerator a hundred times in a row. A season or so after that the same thing happens with Tom Welling’s face. I think I stopped recognizing it entirely. Why would you do that to yourself? Justin Hartley would really like to know. It will not teach you about Superman.

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But it wasn’t all bad. Their Green Arrow (pictured above), while wildly different from the Ollie I got used to in CW’s new Arrow series–which is pretty good! watch that!–is incredibly charming and affable. Even when he’s been possessed by Darkseid I can’t bring myself to be mad at him. I would watch the show of him dating Lois Lane for ten seasons. Lois is another good thing about that show. Actually, pretty much every time that show introduced a recurring female character she was awesome. If you’re going to get something right, I can stand for that to be it.

Kara Zor-El threw Clark for a loop. Neither Oliver Queen nor Clark Kent was a match for Lois Lane. Even the introduction of Tess Mercer, as the Luthor proxy when Michael Rosenbaum stepped away from the show, could more or less handle her own. In the later seasons when Ollie had pulled together a group of heroes and entrusted Watch Tower to Chloe Sullivan, who had been a pretty rad female character from the beginning, there were glimpses of the show that I wanted to be watching. That show could have been amazing for ten seasons, but by that point they were only begrudgingly making that show, because Clark and Welling were getting older and eventually you would run out of Time When He Could Not Be Superman.

So, Smallville was a terrible plan for the beginning of my Superman education. It showed me a version of the character that was self-righteous to a fault, overprotective, paranoid, and dull. But maybe it’s for the best that I got this out of the way early. Maybe now as I do my further reading and watching I won’t be slowed down by this parody of the character that so many people love. I’ll be free to explore what it is that makes Superman so much a part of the fabric of our comic culture.

As of right now my plan for furthering my education involves the movies Superman and the Mole Men (1951) and Superman (1978), the television show Lois & Clark (1993 – 1997), and the comics Trinity, Kingdom Come, Superman: Red Son, and All-Star Superman.

Are there other things I should read or watch? What parts of the Superman character speak most to you? What should I be looking for and keeping in mind as I do my research? Have you watched ten seasons of Smallville? What did you think of them? Let me know! Link me to proper analysis, or heck, link me to your Ollie/Lois fanfiction. I won’t tell anyone it’s yours.

Friday Four #1

Someone remind me that I wanted to make a post about Rise of the Guardians and childhood dreams. I really meant to, but time slipped away from me, as it often does. In fact, some of you might notice that this went up after midnight eastern standard time, which actually makes it a Saturday Four. Anyone who speaks up about this will be kept after class and made to write “I will not question people in their own blogs” a hundred times. And I want that handwriting neat!

I was in a bit of a conundrum over what to make the first Friday Four about. I have spent the last two days trying to pull together stuff to talk about for our 2012 reviews at the Wrong Opinions Podcast. (Well, when I wasn’t trying to figure out how to warp one of the Big Damn Existential Scifi Novel characters into something I could write for a call). I’ve also spent a lot of that time feeling sad that I couldn’t talk about We Need to Talk About Kevin on the podcast this evening because it came out last year. Then, finally as so rarely happens, the two separate sides of my brain connected somehow and I realized I should make the first Friday Four about movies I watched last year and couldn’t talk about on the review podcast. So here, in no particular order, are four movies you should definitely watch if you missed them the first time around.

1. We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

Before I begin this, I need to warn you that this movie will never let you go. It’s brutal and effective in its attempts to force the main character’s unease on to you. I watched it many months ago and yet I was just last month in the middle of a long car trip when all of a sudden out of nowhere I was struck by the immense sadness of the ending of the movie and couldn’t breathe for a moment.

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(TRAILER)

The story is that of a mother’s (Tilda Swinton) frustrations over her inability to understand and form a relationship with her son (played at different ages by Jasper Newell and Ezra Miller) and her husband’s (John C. Reilly) inability to listen to what she’s really saying when she talks about her fears. The whole thing culminates in a school shooting, but it’s not really the end that sticks with me as much as all of the build up. Ezra Miller and Tilda Swinton turn in outstanding performances. Miller’s performance in particular haunted me for days after I watched it. (And then gave me some wicked whiplash when later that weekend I went and saw him The Perks of Being a Wallflower. He’s one to watch.)The friend who recced the movie to me told me she wished she could forget having watched it, it’s so disturbing. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s a horror film, but a lot of the elements of suspense are there. It grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go.

If you like deft character development, scripts that don’t mince words, and aren’t afraid to get your hands (or your imagination) dirty, then this movie is for you.

2. The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927)

This is one we did discuss on the podcast, as part of our Hitchcock Extravaganza at the beginning of last year, but I will never be tired of trying to force people to watch it.

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The Lodger is a silent film about a murderer who is loosely like Jack the Ripper in the way he carries out his crimes and who he targets. It mainly concerns a man who takes a set of rooms during this turbulent time (Ivor Novello) and the daughter of his landlords (June Tripp) whom he falls in love with. This movie had my undivided attention about five minutes in when it gave me some awesome shots of the room sized newspaper printing presses of the time…and then Ivor Novello happened. I think maybe you need to have been raised on Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff like I was to understand how such an expressive face and entreating eyes can capture my heart so, but I fell fast and hard for our hero.

…or is he? He’s mistaken for the killer and then cleared after a harrowing mob scene, but you can’t be sure. The movie itself has the normal narrative snags that we often find when we watch movies structured for audiences of a different time, but you can see Hitchcock’s developing style in it. Especially in the very last scene where all of the intent of clearing the lodger’s name that was in the script–Novello was a popular actor and they couldn’t sully his name by having him play a murderer–is undermined entirely by Hitchcock lingering on a particular lit up sign.

If you like the brand of suspense found in silent films or learning about where famous directors got their starts, then this movie is for you.

3. Circumstance (2011)

I wanted so badly to see this film that I almost broke my keyboard ordering it on Netflix when it finally showed up there. I knew absolutely nothing about it except what I’d seen in the trailer at the beginning of 2011, but that was enough.

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(TRAILER)

This movie was so much more than I expected it to be. I thought it might be your average coming of age lesbian tale with enough cultural differences to keep me intrigued. I did not expect to see the harsh realities of living as a young person of suspect in Tehran, how the things that a person does can get back to their families in a hundred painful ways, or the strength of rebellious spirit in a growing class of young people who refuse to live in the world their parents have left for them. I cannot deny that I take a lot of things for granted about my life, and watching things like this kicks me outside of my head, which is a good thing. The girls (Nikohl Boosheri and Sarah Kazemy) in the movie give engaging performances, and their group of friends made me smile as often as they made me think. There’s also an incredibly creepy plot with one of the girls’ older brother (Reza Sixo Safai) and his obsession with her girlfriend that was way left field from what I was expecting, So good job, movie.

If you are interested in LGBT youth or stories about coming of age in Iran, then this is the movie for you.

4. La planete sauvage (1973)

Billed as Fantastic Planet in the US, La planete sauvage is a feature length animated film written by René Laloux and Roland Topor, and animated at Jiří Trnka Studio. It reminds me a great deal of many things, but I feel like all of those comparisons would be unfair because of the cultural differences between where I’m coming from and where this coming from. Though, that isn’t to say that those things I’m thinking of weren’t influenced by this or other works by the studio.

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(TRAILER)

The main action of the story concerns itself with a human boy named Terr who is being kept as a pet by one of a race of gargantuan blue aliens called Draags. The aliens believe humans too stupid to learn, so Terr passes his many bored hours by listening to his owner’s school lessons. When he finally manages to escape and find more people like himself his knowledge of the alien race helps the other humans (referred to as Oms, a term too close to the French word homme for me to ignore) fight back in a way they hadn’t been able to before.

The ‘camera’ here lingers long and heavy on the surreal landscape of the Draag planet and its many strange and wondrous creatures who seem to enjoy capturing and taunting or torturing smaller animals for fun. It’s this behavior that probably informs the Draags opinions of the Oms as unfeeling beasts, but in the end a shared reason saves the day.

If you like speculative science fiction, existentialism, surrealist art, or listening to people speak French (look, I’m easy for French), then this movie is for you.

And that’s enough of that for one night, as it’s now way past my bedtime. Is there a movie you’ve been dying to tell someone about or that you think I should see? Share in the comments! And have a good weekend.

“Ian MacArthur is a wonderful sweet fellow who wears glasses and peers out of them with delight.”

 That was the first sentence. The problem was that I just couldn’t think of the next one. After cleaning my room three times, I decided to leave Ian alone for a while because I was starting to get mad at him.

The Perks of Being a Wallfower, Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower came out my sophomore year of high school. If I’d read it then I probably would have loved it just as much as everyone else seems to. I felt like a watcher then, especially that year. But as is my custom I didn’t get around to it, and then everyone else loved it so I avoided it. I do that sometimes, because I’m afraid that if I don’t love something as much as the other people I love and respect, that their love and respect for me will diminish. Better to be able to plead ignorance and nod along to the lecture you get about the thing. At least it’s still pulling you together that way.

I was perfectly content to live out my years in that ignorance, even though I had easy access to the book. There was a copy on my To Read shelf that had been given to me by a friend at some point along the way. It looked like it was going to be destined to sit there between Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park and Jasper Fforde’s The Big Over Easy forever. And then the movie came out.

The movie–surprisingly well-written and well-directed by the author, two things almost unheard of in the Making Movies Out of Books business–is a thing of pain and beauty.  The three leads do a wonderful job of portraying the tumult of teenage life and offering lines that might seem a bit silly in any other context with a large amount of unabashed sincerity that reminds me very much of what it was like to be a teenager. Everything felt so big then. The whole of my life was in front of me, yet every feeling I had and every slight I suffered felt like the last time. I held on to everything, worried that without any of it the rest of my life would unravel empty. In the movie, it’s Patrick (the amazing Ezra Miller, whom I’ve developed quite the crush on) who plays these things out the best, trying to maintain his air of ease and amusement while dealing with an unhealthy relationship that is eating away at him.

The movie broke open my heart and then sewed it up again. I laughed. I cried. I sobbed like a child. The book, which I finished on a plane on my way to Boston this past weekend, is something else entirely.

It’s unusual that a movie affects me more than a book, but I did not leave the book with the same sense of catharsis and hope that clung to me after the movie. In this case I’m tempted to say that the movie got there first, but I don’t think that’s it. I tried to leave the movie out of my reading of the book entirely, knowing that they’re two very different things. The format of the book left me stilted for a large part of it. It’s composed of first person, epistolary, observations from a young man just trying to figure out himself and the world around him. He seems to be a pretty reliable narrator when it comes to everyone but himself, because he’s not trying to persuade us to think things about these people, simply documenting the ways he interacts with them and the how that makes him feel. And maybe that’s it. Because he feels so removed from even the things he’s directly involved in it sometimes reads like a case study of modern youth. I didn’t quite feel the love he said he had for them for most of it.

That’s also one of it’s strengths, though, and the reason I wish I’d read it in ‘99. Because Charlie is viewing everyone through a window you get to see a lot of things that you probably wouldn’t see at all were the book written in another format. The people around him are in messy relationships that leave them vulnerable in different ways and are, for the large part, unable or unwilling to let go of them, even though they might hurt less in the long run.

I wish I’d known in high school that sometimes girls would have boyfriends that hit them and that sometimes girls would make hard decisions about their mistakes and their bodies. I wish I’d known, in a more than academic sense, that sometimes boys fell in love with other boys and that sometimes girls want to ‘explore’ lesbian relationships and that it’s okay. Normal even. I wish that I’d known that it wasn’t a weakness to cling to the small amount of love you think you have, because that’s what everyone does, even well into their adult years. And I wish I’d learned earlier that sometimes you have to laugh, because there’s nothing else you can do. The thing that the book does in an amazing, resonant way, that the movie doesn’t quite do for me, is normalize a whole host of different relationships that would have saved me time and agony had I just known that I wasn’t alone.

And that’s the whole point of it, really. None of us are alone, even when we think we are or want to be. Someone has lived this life before us. Someone has left behind instructions. We just don’t always know how to find them, and even if we do, we’re sometimes too proud and stubborn to believe that we’re not different and special and that the things that happened before aren’t going to help us.

Not only do we accept the love we think we deserve, but we accept the lives we think we’re owed, and we’re not always fair to ourselves. That’s a lesson I really could have used at sixteen, if only I hadn’t been too busy being afraid of the things I wanted to take them.

 

My friend Matthew Bowers and I discuss the film version in more depth over at Wrong Opinions About Movies, so give that a listen if you’re interested in all the ways that film broke me and put me back together, because that would be another 5,000 words if I tried to nail them down here.

.025 – Where’ve ya been, Lars?

Oh hey there, internet. I did not mean to run quite so far away. I just started going and then found myself somewhere near the end of it all and decided to turn around and start over again. It’s basically the story of my life.  How have you been?

 

The places I’ve been.

I’ve been quite busy while I was away.  I went to Dragon*Con, which my friend Alli and I discussed a bit on the Jaws/Raiders of the Lost Ark episode of Wrong Opinions About Movies. When people ask me about whether or not I think they should attend Dragon*Con I always give them an enthusiastic and slightly pushy ‘yes’. For me it’s the best weekend of the year, and even though I start out every con weekend with the same plan of attack, it always ends up being a unique experience. This con was no exception, as I did maybe half as many panels as usual, spending my time instead dabbling in costuming and hanging out with people I don’t get to see on a day to day basis. It gave the weekend an entirely different feel, but was still completely wonderful.

And while I was at Con–more specifically, while I was sitting in a Tactical First Aid panel learning how to deliver your babies during the mother effing apocalypse(!)–I got the email notification that a poem I wrote had finally been published online. I’m so excited!

I linked it around before, but in case you missed it you can read “HOPE for the AFFLICTED!” here at Exercise Bowler along with some other rad steampunk themed poetry.

I feel very grateful to Exercise Bowler, not only for posting poetry that I like on quarterly basis, but also for sharing something I wrote with the world. It’s my first published piece and I’m very excited to be able to produce things people won’t absolutely hate in the future. Let’s all raise a glass to that possibility.  

And in the theme of possibility, I’ve started a Tumblr Blog that I really want to share with you. I turned 30 while I was away, and while I’m not anymore stressed about 30 than I was about 29–because seriously, nothing can be worse than 25–I would still like to spend this year focused on learning about myself and my place in the world around me. So Wasting My Thirties is there just for that. Come learn with me. Come teach me. Come point and laugh and just be along for the ride.

 

The places I’ll go.

In the vein of the things I’ve been doing while I was away, I’ve been trying to figure out how best to use this space. I want to use it talk about writing and share information about when my friends and I are published or start exciting projects, but I also want it to be fun and informal and a place for us to just chat. So here are some things you might see here in the future.

Wrong Opinions About ALL The Movies! Sometimes I watch a movie for the podcast and find myself unable to really discuss what it is about it that has affected me, partially because I’m incredibly dense when it comes to sorting out my own feelings and partially because conversations sometimes just don’t work that way. I also watch movies that aren’t going to be discussed on the podcast, but that I still feel a need to touch on somewhere. I’m going to start doing that here as I feel the urge to. The first movie will probably be Circumstance, because that film was so much more than the American trailer led me to believe it would be.

Research, the breakfast of champions! The other thing I want to start sharing more often is the off the wall research I do for the projects I’m working on. I write a lot of science fiction, mostly steampunk and cyberpunk, which leads me down the rabbit hole of Wikipedia and peer reviewed magazines on a quite regular basis.  I think it would be fun to start sharing some of the more interesting things here. It would also give me an excuse to do that post on underwear my friend Chrysta requested.

Any old thing you want me to be! And to that end, because I want this to ultimately be a place you like checking in on, is there anything you’d like to see me post? Is there anything you just want to have a conversation about with another person? I’m here for all your conversatin’, distractionary needs! You just let me know what I can do for you and I’ll probably do it! (Because I’m easy that way. Just love me!)

 

So that is a plan. We’ll see how well I stick to it. If nothing else I have a draft of a short story due to someone by the end of October, so I really should get on finishing and fixing it, or possibly weakly calling for help. Whichever. You’ll know when I do.

.022 – He’s here. The Bat…man.

With two short hours until the official east coast release of The Dark Knight Rises, my entire twitter feed is bursting with excitement.  But this isn’t a fresh flurry of twitterpated fans, this has been ramping up for months now as marketing people and DC employees have worked tirelessly to not let us forget that the most important Bat-event of our lives is about to rain down on us like glass from an art museum ceiling.  Everything everywhere has been all Batman all the time.

I’d be remiss in pretending like I haven’t been a part of that deluge.  The Wrong Opinions About Movies podcast crew worked with a whole host of guests over the last two months on a project we’ve affectionately dubbed Batcon.  We watched almost every Batman movie and then unpacked each one in a mini-episode along with some stellar friends.  My personal favorite of the bunch is the Batman Forever episode, which we recorded with comedian Andrew Sanford.  Nothing says the universe loves me quite like Val Kilmer in the cowl.

Since we started this immersion course in a universe I already have a lot of love for, I’ve been doing some thinking about Batman and the movies they make about him.  Watching anything back to back to back will throw the things that you dislike into sharp relief with the things you do, and I’ve been turning over in my head a list of things I’d like to never see in a Batman movie again.  (The Waynes dying in an alley, Barbara as Not A Gordon, ice puns, etc.)  But along with that I’ve also been thinking about the things that I’m pining for.  The comics universe that has been built around Bruce Wayne and his made family is massive.  Why do we make the same movies over and over again?  It seems that no matter who writes the movies we get Bruce’s manpain, several villains picked out of a hat, and an added dash of origin.  According to the Wiki article there are 16 current members of the more or less immediate Bat-family.  (I would argue whether some of them are appropriate, but that’s a whole other post entirely.)

So, with this information, what other movies could we write that would engage the lay-audiences while not boring those of us who spend way too much time thinking about Gotham anyway?  I’ve come up with five I’d like to see.

1. Under the Red Hood
This is an easy starting place, because Warner Brothers already released a nicely done animated version of the story line straight to home video in 2010.  The average film going audience isn’t going to be familiar with Jason Todd (or any Robin that isn’t Dick Grayson), but it wouldn’t be hard to compress his meeting with Bruce–trying to steal the rims from the Batmobile–and his capture and subsequent ‘murder’ at the hands of the Joker.  The fact that Jason comes back to Gotham as a hard hitting, life taking, smarm monster does more to dent Bruce’s self-worth than Poison Ivy, Bane, and Mr. Freeze can together.  And Jason’s lack of redemption in Bruce’s eyes would be an excellent driving force for a sequel.

2. Batman Beyond
Even the curlicue of storytelling that comic books call continuity has to admit that Bruce Wayne can’t be Batman forever.  Eventually he’ll grow old and resign himself to a desk.  Enter Terry McGinnis, the Batman of the future.  I’ll leave you to search for the main plot points in the wikipedia article if you’re curious, but Batman Beyond could have all of the elements that we as a society fear the most these days: corporate conglomerates, chemical weapons, a whole gang devoted to the memory of The Joker.  Batman Beyond as a movie would be the most radical change you could make at this point, since it would leave us with very few remembered characters.  It would be a drastic pull away from the Batman movies we’ve grown comfortable with.

3. Nightwing
Eventually, Dick Grayson grew up, and much more gracefully than Chris O’Donnell ever let on.  At the age of eighteen he was dismissed from his Robin duties and took on the mantle of Nightwing (along with some truly tragic costumes).  This is a movie that could happen in Gotham, but it could also introduce his part time home of Bludhaven, where Dick went to get away from Gotham and be out from under Batman’s teflon wing.  He worked on the police force during the day, so the investment in keeping his alter ego and his true ego separate would have even more at stake than Bruce, whose eccentricities can often be played off as just what money does.  The great thing about a Nightwing movie would be the shift in tone.  Dick is very much not Bruce Wayne, even when they’re together.  Given room to breathe his character is inspiring and responsible while also being a bit silly and game for a laugh.  Even for the short time that Dick wore the Batman mantle himself he let hope and his heart rule out over his head.

4. Oracle
Ladies!  There’s been a lot of talk lately about whether or not a female superhero can carry a film franchise.  I like to think that one could, given the right writer.  (If the universe could arrange for Joss Whedon to write the Black Widow movie, I’d be eternally in its debt.)  And even without the ‘right’ writer, Barbara Gordon is so much more than a cape or a character confined to a wheelchair.  As Oracle Babs is a fighter, a librarian, and the world’s greatest communications/research gal a detective, Suicide Squad, or group of female vigilantes could have.  Our daily lives are increasingly falling prey to the technology we let in, and Barbara’s ability to manipulate that, as well as her physical prowess, could make for a compelling and modern story.  The studio could even include the events of The Killing Joke if it had to, but I’d rather her story be more about strength and intellect and less about depression and fear.

5.  Batwoman  
Ladies on ladies!  This addition is even more personally indulgent than the one about Nightwing.  Kate Kane is my current favorite member of the Bat-family.  She’s relatively new, having been introduced as the current incarnation of Batwoman in 2006, but her story is timely.  She was a student at the United States Military Academy when she was outed as having a relationship with a woman.  When confronted by the higher ups and asked to just deny the claims so she could stay, she leaves her class ring on his desk and quits.  This happens several months before Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed for us in the real world.  From there she goes on to fight the ills of the world the best way she knows how.  Batwoman’s stories tend to have a more supernatural element than a lot of the other tales told about the Bat-family, so they would probably appease the paranormal romance crowd.  She’s contrary while holding strong convictions and she refuses to cowtow to Batman, even though she’s working within his city.  She’s honestly, and I have been holding off on saying this for a little over a thousand words now, the hero we need and deserve.  In my eyes, anyway.

Above all, I think the key to introducing new Bat-family characters to the movie going audiences is to not doubt the movie going audiences.  For the most part, we’re not stupid.  We are introduced to new characters and new stories every year and have no problems taking in their hopes and fears and journeys of discovery.  Why should it be any different with properties that might be familiar?  What do you think?  Do you disagree vehemently with the stories I’d like to see?  Would you hate or love these movies?  Which stories would you like to see them tell about Batman and his caped cohorts?  I can, as you might have noticed, talk about Batman until the Bat-cows come home.  So sound off!  But if you post spoilers for the movie, please give us a heads up so we can all avoid them until we’ve seen it.

.020 – The sweet spot.

***There will be spoilers for Brave, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and Seeking A Friend for the End of the World in this post.***

As of last night when Boogie Nights thankfully–finally–ended, I’ve seen 58 movies this year.  Most of those were for the podcast, or because of it in some way.  Some of them were because my friends talked me into seeing them.  (Hot Tub Time Machine is not a good movie, guys.  I don’t care if Sebastian Stan IS in it for a whole fifteen minutes.)  Some of them I made time to see simply because I wanted to.  (I am not a girl who turns down Hedwig and the Angry Inch sing-a-longs.)  I expected to love movies and hate movies, what I didn’t expect was that I’ve loved every single one of them, even the ones I hated and would never ask you to see.

When I first joined the Wrong Opinions Podcast I was worried.  My co-hosts love film and can talk in very specific jargon about cattywampus (Dutch, for some reason) angles and slow first acts.  I enjoy film, but don’t feel a particular affinity for it over any other kind of storytelling. In fact, I made it very clear in the beginning that all I could speak to was story and structure and characters.  That turns out to be enough sometimes, and I’ve learned a whole lot in the last year or so about film itself, but it’s still the story part that really interests me over any of the technical notes.  And when you mainline movies like I do, the differences in story start to stick out rather than blend in together.

Last weekend I saw three movies: Brave, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and Seeking A Friend for the End of the World.  Last weekend I felt like some sort of picky, sticky Goldilocks, and it’s because only one of those movies felt to me like it was trying to tell the right sort of story in the right sort of way.  It was, perhaps unsurprisingly, the film I went into with absolutely no expectations.

Too cold. Friday night I saw Brave.  I feel like I should preface this, as I always do, by telling you that I haven’t seen most Pixar movies.  I’m just not that interested in them.  I’ll watch Wall-E eventually, because the boyfriend and several other people keep telling me to, but I’m perfectly fine living a life where I don’t cry over the end of Toy Story 3 twelve times.  (That’s what I re-watch Band of Brothers for.)  But even though I haven’t seen most Pixar films, I’ve been left with a very specific set of notions about what a Pixar film SHOULD be, just by virtue of knowing other people who have seen them.  It’s hard to explain these expectations, since I’ve never quite seen them in action, but I suppose Pixar films should be warm and emotional and adventurous and unsure.  Leave it to a race car or a space trash compactor to remind us of what the human condition really entails.  And Brave, even though the story does focus on a human, felt like it fell way short of that for me.  It was too simple.

That’s somewhat fatuous of me, I know, to call out a children’s movie for being too simple.  And it’s probably just nostalgia that colors in Sleeping Beauty and The Last Unicorn as richer in some way.  That movie’s target audience will feel great about being able to predict what needs to be done before the witch even appears on screen, but I was bored after the half way point because of it.  And it’s silly, because there is nothing wrong with simple story telling.  You can get more out of your emotional payoffs if you keep things focused.  I’m also not saying that it’s not fun to watch, because it’s genuinely funny, and I adore the father character.  I laughed out loud quite a few times.  I just wanted something more.

Too hot.  We saw Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter on Saturday morning, and that just left me feeling vaguely dissatisfied and liked I’d definitely seen a movie directed by the guy who directed Wanted.  That movie did entirely too much.  Or it tried to anyway, it didn’t really succeed in anything.  A lot of the charm of the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter book lies in the fact that it takes a lot of factual information about Lincoln’s life and then just folds the vampires in.  Even when the book is delivering action it’s matter of fact and paced like a biography, not like an action-adventure tale.  The movie managed to strip away every last bit of that charm and then proceeded to shoe horn in a whole bunch of back story that the audience really didn’t need.  And then there was slow motion leaping off of burning bridges.  I mean, if you buy a ticket to something titled Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, you’re probably going to be okay when it leaves out his days studying law and working in shops.  The movie should have focused on ten years tops instead of forty.  (On the plus side, Dominic Cooper is still a person doing things, which is always nice to see.)

Just right.  And I guess it’s about managing expectations, because Sunday morning when we went to see Seeking A Friend for the End of the World I had no idea what it was about except for what I could infer from the title.  I left that movie feeling like I haven’t felt since I saw I Heart Huckabees.  Someone made that movie just for me.  It was funny and touching and a little sad, but that’s going to happen when the world ends.  Most importantly, it was paced well and it pulled out the right part of the story to tell like I felt the other two movies didn’t.  We didn’t need back story for these characters.  Their traits were given to us naturally through dialogue and action and not through exposition.  We just happened to meet up with two people three weeks before the world ended and learned what we could in that amount of time.  And it was wonderful.

Choosing the right part of a story to tell is hard.  For me anyway.  I am a total whore for back story.  I want to know what brought the characters here.  I want to know why they react the way they do to things.  That goes for my own characters as well.  A lot of the trouble I have with prose is separating what I need to know from what the audience needs to know, as well as making sure I get across the things that are just sitting in my head.  Because it’s one thing for me to think ‘well of course Edmund would kill that man’, but it’s another for the audience to be on board.  What have I shown them of Edmund before?   What is it about his demeanor or his upbringing or his social standing that would make killing a man seem like the only thing he could do in any given situation?

Why did Merida not question the way the witch said the word ‘change’?  What drove Abraham Lincoln to be so selfish in his pursuit to kill the undead?  What made Penny force Dodge’s dad to turn the plane around?  I can only answer one of those questions in a satisfying way.  The stories that fall short for us can be fun and they can teach us a lot, but it’s the stories that sit in that perfect space that really affect or change us.  I want to tell stories like the latter.  If only I can figure out how to do it every time.

.016 – You have made me very desperate.

The internet is for memes! (Or porn, if you’re of the over 18 set, but we’ll try and keep things here R or under.) There’s one floating around that tells you what part you play in the new Avengers film. I got this:

Lara Eckener is a member of Loki’s Army and married to Loki and is a/an Frost Giant.

I am perfectly pleased with this. Loki was my favorite thing about the Thor movie and I can’t wait to see the new Avengers film. Three days! Speaking of movies, let’s talk about something I watched recently that I found to be more inspiring than simply exciting.

More than occasionally, doing the Wrong Opinions podcast with Matthew Bowers teaches me things that I don’t think I would have run across otherwise. Sometimes it’s a bit of trivia. Sometimes I discover an actor or director I’d like to spend more time stalking. And sometimes I come across a new movie altogether that is simply wonderful. This weekend we were gifted with the latter.

The Adventures of Prince Achmed is a feature length animated film from 1926 by silhouette artist Lotte Reiniger. It’s considered the first feature length animated film and the only existing one from that time. We’re not actually sure what we have now is the way the movie was supposed to look, because it was considered lost and has been restored from rolls of silver nitrate and notes left by Lotte and others who worked on it. Made in Germany in the 20s, it tells the fairytale of Prince Achmed and some of his adventures. I spent a good amount of the first half of the film flicking through all the different filters we have to view this film with. Germany in the twenties, The Arabian Nights, early animation. It’s a fascinating artifact.

More than that though, it’s a gorgeous film. There are some bumps in the story telling, but the art more than made up for the simpleness of the tale. When I worked at Disney I sometimes helped out on the artist carts and would watch the silhouette artists do their work. One of the women would cut out intricate designs and scenes when it was slow and it’s incredible to watch the way their hands work and how sure they are as they cut away the negative space around the image they see. It’s that that I called back to as I watched this and marveled at how delicate and intricate the clothing was rendered and how clear the expressions of the characters were and how detailed the backgrounds had been made.

I really want to recommend this to everyone. I think I’ll buy the DVD and spend some time looking for other similar works. Searching Lotte Reiniger on Youtube will get you several of her animations. And in case you’re curious what us slackers have to say about it, you can listen to our latest episode. In it we discuss Prince Achmed, The Pirates: Band of Misfits!, and 21 Jump Street.

And if you’re interested in more animated features containing silhouette work, there’s also The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello, which I can’t believe I forgot to mention during the podcast.  Jasper Morello is a steampunk short film created in 2008.  It’s one of the very first things that I found when I was going on my mad dig for information about the genre.  It’s exciting and a little creepy and everything I love about an animated short.  The sillhouette work isn’t as intricate as Lotte Reiniger’s, but it’s in the same vein and lovely in its own right.

.014 – April.

Before I launch into the recap of first quarter of relative failure I wanted to share the link to a short write up that Sierra Houk did about the Wrong Opinions About Movies Podcast that I am lucky enough to be on with my friend Matthew Bowers and my writing partner Alli Martin.  It’s great fun for me to be able to discuss movies with my friends on the internet, but it’s even more fun if other people get in on the conversation.  Today we recorded our Titanic episode and in the coming months we’ll be doing a whole slew of Batman episodes with special guests in preparation for The Dark Knight Rises.  If you like movies and wrong opinions give us a listen!

So, back to March!

Words: 5,776

Flubs: That is a depressing number and I know it.  I would feel bad about it, but most everyone I know also had a bad March, word-wise.  Divided we blunder, together we procrastinate!  March was a rough month in general mentally, which isn’t an excuse, but it is part of the problem.  And now that I’ve rooted out where I am I can start to rebuild and get back to the important things.  The writing things.

Looking back at my Impossible 2012 Plan, this month I have failed at: completing Volunteer Vampires, finishing the rough of my parts of of The Steampunk, and submitting a second poem for publication.  I haven’t started a second short story either, but I’ve decided I need to try and be less ADD  about everything that directly affects the rest of my life.   We’ll see how that goes.

I will continue to be ADD in the day to day, though, lest you’re concerned I’ll stop derailing conversations with ridiculous non sequiturs.  Worry not!

Follow Throughs: But I DID start the second round edit of my friend’s manuscript and submit a poem for publication.  In case you missed my yelping when I got the news, that poem was accepted!  I will have a steampunk themed poem in the fall issue of a small online poetry zine–which I will link back to when it goes up–and I am very excited about it.  The non-writing people around me don’t understand my excitement, because it’s not “really being published”, but I don’t expect them to.  My writing friends understand and I feel personally like it’s a good start and a small victory in the war with myself, so I’m excited.  I wrote a poem!  People didn’t hate it!  I now need to carry that ego boost into a forward momentum and see what other things I can churn out that people won’t hate.

Words to date: 24,411

And onward to April!

I am going to finish the draft of Volunteer Vampires THIS WEEK, even if it kills me.  Alli knows where to submit it for me posthumously if I do die.  Barring that unfortunate possibility I am also going to write at least two more chapters of The Steampunk and edit half of my friend’s manuscript.

I can do this.  Deep breaths.  One railway tie at a time.  Or at least, that’s what I imagine my good luck hard work charm telling me.   

 

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