Thursday, February 24, 2005

A long time ago in these pages I mentioned that Scottsdale, one of the cities surrounding Phoenix, was sort of the equivalent of Westlake in Austin. But that's not really accurate, because Scottsdale is also the defining area of The Valley of the Sun. Folks here don't want to live in Phoenix (which is not really considered much of a destination at all). Scottsdale is where the rich folks live and spend money, and where folks of more modest means live in order to bathe in the glow. It's where Mike Tyson disappeared to, and even luminaries such as Maureen O'Hara make it their home. It's the part of town where people actually own H2s and can't understand why you don't shop at the Pottery Barn (although there are vast expanses where Pottery Barn is more or less considered dorm furniture). To associate yourself with Scottsdale is to associate yourself with a certain image of wealth and beauty and a happening night life, etc...

But the point is, it's not just living in Scottsdale, it's the dream of living in Scottsdale.

A few days ago I trekked down to the Supercuts, which is where The League chooses to spend his meager pay on keeping his hair out of his eyes. Parted to the side, kept high and tidy... This time, despite the fact that I walked in with pretty much exactly the haircut I wanted and I gave the same instructions I give EVERY time I get my haircut, something went wrong. Not too wrong, but the girl didn't really leave it the way I wanted it, and then she started spiking my hair straight up. Sort of in the fashion of, say, Ashley Simpson's rhythm guitarist. This was immediately after I'd explained I worked in an office and was headed right back to work.

So I returned to my office, having tried desperately to smooth down my hair, and explained to my co-workers that I was NOT happy with my haircut, and if they could ignore the little spikes of hair going everywhere, I'd appreciate it. Thank you.

"But that's the style," one of my co-workers insisted.
"I could care less."
"All the guys are spiking their hair straight up."
"I'm 6'5" and chubby. I don't need a hair cut ten years too young for me and meant for guys really into Blink-182 drawing attention to my Klingon head."
"But that's the style."
And that's sort of how I feel about the whole deal. 1) If you don't go with the asinine WB/MTV house-approved hair style, you're doing it wrong. And people genuinely feel you're doing it wrong. 2) It was a stupid looking hair cut, and it wasn't what I asked for (if I wanted fancy, God knows I would not be going to Supercuts), and yet the Supercuts lady gave it to me because it was the style. Because that's what the beautiful people in Scottsdale are doing.

I'm surprised the barber didn't glue the all-popular chin fuzz to my face all the kids are sporting.

And do you know what the hot new trend is which is being sold at the Abercrombie and Fitch? I know this, because I work near Abercrombie and Fitch... It's basically the Izod/ Polo/ expensive "golf shirt" with the collar turned up. Which was a good idea about the same time as Teen Wolf was a swell notion.

Even then it was a stupid sort of thing to do, but there have been so many, many dumber things since then, that I think a little upturned collar is probably manageable. I'm just surprised that, for their personal styling, folks are adopting movie short-hand for rich, arrogant, bastards in sore need of a come-uppance. It's sort of like getting a top hat and growing a long mustache you plan to twirl.

But I guarantee you this. By Monday, all the kids in Scottsdale will be wearing their collars turned up to match their bleached hair and chin-slinkees.

But part of not going nuts out here has involved saying to yourself "Okay, I have absolutely zero interest in playing golf, in going shopping at The Biltmore, in going and looking at resorts I am not staying at. But I don't need to be a jerk about it to the folks who live here and that's why they moved here." They moved here to be young and beautiful, to live in a place where it's sunny all the time (but you still fake-tan), to be able to golf at over 400 courses. They moved here to spend two or three years having get away weekends to San Diego and Sedona before they shoot out their own version of Kelsey and Tyler, give the little runts a credit card, and, when they're 18, the kids go to the state university.

"So have you and Jamie made it up to Scottsdale on the weekends?"
"No. Not really."
"You should go up there." My co-worker had sort of brought the topic up, unprovoked, during lunch.
"It's like an hour drive from my house," I shrugged. "That's a hike to go grab dinner."
"Where have you been?" my other co-worker asked.
"I dunno. Sometimes we come up to Tempe."
"You need to come up to Scottsdale."
"To do what?"
"To see the resorts." (I've learned not to question this. You're supposed to go and marvel at hotels you can't afford to stay at.)
"And there are a lot of places to eat up there."
"You need to go."
"It's like an hour. That's like, if I were in Austin, jumping in the car and going to San Antonio for dinner."
"There's other stuff to do."
"Okay. Like what?"
"We have a movie theater..."
And he was sort of getting pissed at this point. And do what? Go out to eat and then do what? I'm all for a nice meal, but I think an hour to drive to sit in a restaurant is kind of far. I'm not really interested in looking in store windows and hanging out at hotels I'm not staying at...
But I couldn't shake the feeling he was taking my disinterest as a personal attack, so I made something up about going up there and he sort of let it go.

I want to have fun. I really do. I like to, uh, hoot and holler. But sometimes people's definitions of a good idea just don't mesh. There's something about the worship of glamour and leisure which seems disingenuous, and trying to be somewhere just to say you were somewhere without somehow, I don't, at least trying to not just be a tourist in your own town seems like an odd choice.

And I guess this is what they mean by "outside the mainstream". If we learned one thing in the past year, it's that it is bad to not be caught up in the middle of what the hell else everyone else is doing. And don't mistake this for some sign of me patting myself on the back for feeling that living an hour outside of anything considered interesting is some sort of rebellion. This is a goddamn pity party if there ever was one.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

I'm not passing judgement, I'm just bearing witness.

Mov. file. Manages to be both totally office safe, and yet not office safe.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Superman, my Loyal Leaguers, is a dick.

I think I linked to this a while back, but it's been re-brought to my attention by Mssrs. Harms and D.

But HE'S SUPERMAN!!! How can he be a dick?

Check out both this link and this link.

Keep in mind how DC was dreaming up its story ideas under Julie Schwartz. Julie would get one of his cover artists to draw up a cover with a crazy concept with a bizarre and seemingly inescapable situation for our heroes. Then, he would make the writers and artists drum up a story which would work to fulfill the expectations set by the cover WITHOUT upsetting the status quo of the comics. This led to some of the kookier, zanier ideas which were the hallmark of DC's Silver Age.

Again, thanks for the links. Now go take a look and be amazed at how cold hearted The Big Blue Boyscout can be.

Boy, does THAT bring back some memories.
Teaser art from the upcoming All-Star Superman comic series from the amazing Grant Morrison and Astounding Frank Quitely.

This is honestly the creepiest thing I've ever heard.

"The head that was removed from Manar in the operation which ended early Saturday had developed no body, and was capable of smiling and blinking, but not independent life."

--Mrs. League
I now know what I want for my birthday.
Welcome to the World, John Edward Thweatt

Congratulations to Lee and Sarah. They done had themselves boy numero three.

John Edward Thweatt was born, I think, yesterday. He's reportedly:

7 lbs, 10 ounces
19 inches long

Likes: Floating inverted in amniotic fluid and eating with his navel.
Dislikes: Air conditioning, staying awake for longer than ten minutes at a time (proof positive he's Lee's child).

John begins his plot to overthrow civilization.
Teaser art for the upcoming All-Star Batman and Robin by Frank Miller and Jim Lee.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson is dead at 67.

May he find a place wherein he no longer has to take any guff from those swine.

For those of you in the Austin, Tejas area, or for those of you who might be travelling there for SXSW, I got a show for you to see.

My student worker, Tom, is all set to play SXSW with his rockin' band, Asleep in the Sea.

Here is what their little blurb says:

Indie pop-rock group; together since Spring 2004. Self-released debut EP “Yay! OK? Yeah.”, as well as their childishly amusing live show, can be characterized by beautiful three part harmonies, cute yet disturbing lyrics, and catchy sing-along choruses. Currently recording full-length album; seeking label and booking.

I believe they are playing the first night of SXSW. You should go check them out, and keep shouting "TOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!" throughout their set. Tom would appreciate that.
A Super-Invitation, continued...

Hey, all.

After getting an e-mail or two, and checking the comments section, I thought I'd pop in and clear up some logistical details on the Superman movie screenings.

1) Jim has not yet secured the film prints. This means a) this might not happen if he can't get the prints, and b) we can't say when the screening will be until Jim knows when the film is available.

So, don't ask me when the screening is until we know when Jim can get the prints. I would estimate mid-Summer.

2) Everybody is welcome. Superman is a PG movie, so bring your Ma and Pa for all I care. This is an open invitation to come check out THE GREATEST MOTION PICTURE EVER MADE.

So, if you can read these words, Jim and I would want you there.

See you in Otisberg.

Sunday, February 20, 2005


So, As mentioned here a short while ago, The League was deeply skeptical over the new Warner Bros. film, Constantine.

I'm not going to re-hash my reservations about the film AGAIN, so if you want to know what they were, and you were too lazy to click the link the first time, you may do so now. We'll be here when you get back.

Viewed without any prior knowledge of the Hellblazer comic books, I think Constantine stacks up fairly well. Or at least I think it does. It's sort of hard to tell. Jamie seemed to think it made sense, anyway.

Viewed with knowledge of the comic books, it was a sort of "Oh, why did they do that?" mish-mash of items from and not from the comics. The flick was definitely sculpted in the studio system, and thusly, a lot of stylistic choices were made from the second scene of the movie which I might not have agreed with, but which seemed to work fairly well.

To attempt to drop a synopsis of the plot here would either drag on too long or make the movie sound sort of more ridiculous than it really was.

Keanu Reeves plays a snarky version of Keanu Reeves as titular character John Constantine. To discuss Reeves' poor acting ability is to belabor the obvious, and yet, doing so fills me with a warm sense of self-satisfaction... Reeves, after dozens of movies and now at two decades as a major actor, is still one of the most wooden actors I can think of, and, honestly, I think he was terribly miscast for the role. The decision to add him into the mix was no doubt a business decision, made when the studios were misinterpreting the success of the Matrix films as being drawn from Reeves' 10-gigowatts of star power instead of Kung-Fu and explosions. Hoping to score big once again, WB tossed him into this picture, in order to, I guess, make another franchise picture. (For further examples, check out how 2 years ago some WB execs really, really, really wanted Ashton Kutscher to play Superman. Because he has a bajillion gigowatts of pure STARPOWER!!!!!!)

I didn't really notice Reeves' was looking so awkward until he had his scene at about page 30 with Gabriel, played by Tilda Swinton. Apparently this Swinton person is a very popular actress in a bunch of movies not containing robots, monkeys or people in capes, so The League saw her 11 years ago in Orlando and then immediately forgot all about her. BUT, she's really very, very good in the few scenes she appears in.

And therein lies Reeves' dilemma. Alone, in short, choppy scenes, he's okay. But give him the rest of the assembled cast to deal with, and suddenly he's sticking out like a sore thumb.

For people unfamiliar with the way Constantine works, and the way magic more or less works in DC Comics, they provide us with the token "Tour guide" character in the form of Rachel Weisz. She's also the love and interest, who serves as a landing pad for the exposition as Constantine moves from scene to scene. She's the lynchpin of the plot, and she plays her part about as well as could be expected, so I pretty much forgave her for taking on this thankless role.

Couple of points:

a) This is an odd movie for product placement, and yet there it is. A Chevy ad plays a small role in the film. Jamie and I had a short debate over whether or not Quizno's and 7-11 had paid for product placement (she believed they had, I wasn't so sure). But the fact of the matter is that a Quizno's does, in fact appear in the film in big, neon letters. And, you sort of think that perhaps Constantine is headed for the Quizno's after battling a buggy demon.

b) The poor Mexican dude. What a thankless, and, in the end, pointless role. That whole character and "storyline" needed a re-write and could have been eliminated. Spoiler here: Why did the cows die but people are immune? What was compelling the dude to make a run for the border? None of this is really ever fleshed out. It sort of just happens.

c) Papa Midnight's club was kind of neat, but with so few "normal" people inhabiting this movie, it fell into the same trap as movies like Underworld. It's all monsters, so, you know, what's special about any one of the characters? In this movie, there's nothing special about Constantine. He's just one of many of these folks running around the world.

It's worthless to sit back and say "Well, if I'd directed the movie, I would have done x, y and z." But this is my review, and I'm going to do it anyway.

This movie could have really benefitted from the "less is more" school of story telling. The first two scenes involve some large scale special effects, establishing for the viewer that Constantine and his like-minded mystical pals must be operating out in the open. By NOT showing a demon in the first five minutes, the movie could have tried to actually build a level of terror. After all, you aren't afraid of the dark when you're in a dark room, you're scared of what you can't see that might be out there. Sadly, this movie cost $100 million, so you know they aren't going to NOT show off their very expensive effects, and thusly, removed any terror element which could have helped to build atmosphere.

The movie seemed to want to pick up on a lot of neat little plot elements from the comics and cram them all into one movie. Unfortunately in doing so, it sort of created a "Hogwarts for taxpayers" filmic universe. You get to see John's neat toys, and see some of the magical crowd he runs around with. The movie invents a sort of "Q" character to provide John with his magical shot gun (seriously), his cockroach, his Nimbus 3000, and other doo-dads. They brought in characters from the comics (but to tell is to give away the plot, somewhat), and turned Chas from an old, long-suffering pal into an eager-beaver Robin proto-type.

The decision to add a "Q" character, on the outside, seems like a decent one. It ALMOST worked in Van Helsing, but not quite. But these "Q" guys are meant to assist people who are too busy punching people to fill out Purchase Order forms. The movie does re-cast Constantine as a guy who can kick-ass (as we witness in the 3rd reel) , which is a serious departure from the comics, where John gets beat up quite regularly. I think in the context of the movie, John being a ninja-master of magic sort of works, but it wasn't really necessary.

Oddly, of the elements which they did keep, two of the most important were given only the lightest of lip service.

1) Magic has a price. Jamie felt this was mentioned, and it was, but it also defines who John Constantine is from the comics. He's not a snarky bastard because he was born that way, he's a snarky bastard because life made him that way. He found out about magic, and it's cost him at every turn. If he's cutting jokes, it's in order to keep him from crying. One doesn't just muck with the laws of physics and not expect some backlash.

2) For John, these things tend to come back at him in the form of dead friends. When John goes out of his way to, say, prevent the end of known existence, and even if he's done everything just right, somebody ends up getting it. To make matters more interesting, these people are usually damned to follow John around for eternity. Some would speculate that John doesn't really see the ghosts, he's just suffering from some serious guilt and a derth of friends.

John actually mentions how he "doesn't need any more ghosts", but they never really elaborate.

Instead, the movie kind-of, sort-of makes him a wise-cracking jerk. But they never really commit. It's an odd choice, and it doesn't give Keanu a lot of room fo rhis already limited choices.

In a way, this movie was better than I was actually expecting, but that isn't really saying much. It's a renter, but it's not going to be one to be filed away for future generations of movie fans. I suspect comic fans will keep it alive on video for years.

Had they spent 1/4 of what they did, I think the producers might have felt less pressure to fill every scene with bat winged demons and zombie types. That wasn't the case, and I think for some folks, this movie is going to be fun. It has lots of crazy stuff, nifty explosions, and manages to treat the material seriously.

I'll put it this way: The League enjoyed seeing it, but isn't going to be running out to buy the poster for his dorm room.

On the plus side, the trailers for Batman Begins and Sin City had me giggling with girlish glee.