Monday, February 12, 2007

Good Bad Stuff Up Ahead: Number One: (of 20)

Yes, I have been absent. No, as Garth so graciously checked, I'm not dead (here)

I like to balance my media intake with generous helpings of silence, song writing and the sounds of my typing holding off a valiant attack from my fingers. Sometimes, I see that 15th picture of Micheal Bay's Optimus Prime and I just want to turn off the hype nozzle. So I did, for a while. After all, you don't pay me do you? Do you?

So here we are, almost through the first month of 2007 and the rusty gears of the Comics 2 Film Genre are starting to turn, breaking the momentum of winter's stagnancy. What are the top twenty good possibilities that could so horribly go bad? Let's start at the pinnacle of achievement and the dream project that may be impossible to film as less than a 12 hour movie.....

(Click on pics for larger image)

Number One: Watchmen

Watchmen may be falling into very capable hands. If it has, it isn't that it fell from poor ones, since it has been falling into capable hands from capable hands, again and again and again, in it's never ending "hot potato" journey through what we call "Production Hell." This has been a welcome resting place for many fans who think that comic's magnum opus should stay clear and away from and real possibility of being fleshed out in the celluloid realm. After all, it is to some, (this one included) near perfect deconstructionist science fiction, fueled with bitter political passion and activism and boiling over with violence, disgust and dear love for the near dead and now much revived modern genre of the superhero.

Alan Moore's "Watchmen" is the kissing cousin to Robert Altman's film "The Long Goodbye" in which Altman destroys the "Hard Boiled Detective" story by casting Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe and placing the story in 1970's Los Angeles, a world devoid of the drama, passion and the suspense that fueled "Film Noir." Altman positions Raymond Chandler's classic writing against the blandness of casual sex and morals of the 1970's and the lack of titillation and sensationalism nullifies the story's power.

Altman's destruction of "Film Noir" didn't just kill it though, it set "Film Noir" on fire, a Phoenix's fire, which has allowed the genre to be reborn and expand. Because he broke all the rules, Altman freed modern filmmakers to update and experiment in the medium. "Blood Simple," "The Last Seduction," "Blue Velvet," "The Usual Suspects," "Blade Runner," "Sin City," "Dark City," "Angel Heart," "Devil In A Blue Dress," "City of Lost Children," and "L.A. Confidential," all benefit from the ability to change the rules on the tradition of "Film Noir" while keeping its spirit.

"Watchmen's" similar legacy on comics is proportionately much more profound, since the super heroic genre is the mainstay of the medium. "Watchmen" and it's contemporary "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns" freed comics to be both cowled, fetishistic and serious, adult and character driven. The down time, the small conversations, the self-doubt and questions of purpose (what I call "Parker Time") all became legitimate sources for deeply driven character building.

Moore's ability to both embrace traditional genre staples and then cast them in bizarre new perspectives, allows both the obvious, never before asked questions like "Why would someone go around in long underwear and a mask?" and the chilling answers we didn't want to know like "Because that person is fucking nuts!" As if he was turning up the lights at a late night S&M party, Moore shows us Superheroes as they truly are, sad and well meaning perversions, living daydreams full of lofty ideals, existing somewhere between childhood and reality. All of a sudden a man in a suit isn't funny, it's scary or sad or deadly serious.

Comics like "Starman," "Preacher," "Hellblazer," "Daredevil (Volume 2)," "Fables," "Powers," "Astro City," "Identity Crisis," "Civil War," "Sandman," and many, many others gratefully acknowledge lying in "Watchmen's" barbaric wake.

So now Zack Snyder, director of "Dawn of the Dead," and more recently Frank Miller's Spartan Epic "300," has been cast comic's ultimate hot potato and plans according to www.firstshowing.net (HERE) to start filming sometime this Summer. Snyder says:

“There has been a push on I think everybody's… on the other scripts that exist about trying to update the movie or make it take place in present day, or things of that nature. I think that by setting the movie in ‘85, by having the Cold War, having Nixon, having all that stuff you reinvigorate what the story is about. It allows all the metaphors...I think what Alan Moore has, in his book, the comic he's made about authority and government and all those things, they're big themes. Maybe if you make that movie right, [then] what that has to say makes people think about what's happening maybe now or in their own lives. That's my hope for what the movie can be.”

For my part the stunning visuals of "300" do greatly whet my appetite for the possibilities of a Snyder helmed "Watchmen," but until I see this film, I'll have no opinion on whether Snyder has the sophisticated chops to handle this deep and complex story of antiheroes, gods and bastards, with the skill needed to bring it off. Truth be told, Watchmen has been in Terry Gilliam's hands and Mr. Gilliam felt it couldn't be done in less than twelve hours.

Recently, Paul Greengrass, a thoughtful and subtle filmmaker had the reigns and an apparently scaled down, but successfully adapted script from X-Men and X2 scripter David Hayter. All of that has been scrapped and truth be told, all this could be too. Snyder advises that the best way to insure his helming "Watchmen" is to go see "300."

"I think that the appetite for me is to make a movie that feel's more like Taxi Driver than like Fantastic Four, again. So it's a balance.....I have to remind them (the studio), I go, ‘look, it's much more Strangelove than Fantastic Four,’ which they don't like hearing.”

Putting down cash to see "300" will also be the best way to see if Snyder SHOULD be directing "Watchmen." Whatever happens, "Watchmen" remains, at least for now, the Holy Grail of comic book film projects, if done poorly, it will "Ishtar" the audience with confusion and a helping of geekiness too awkward for the general moviegoer to swallow. If it nears the greatness of the Comic, the comic book movie will have gained a level of seriousness that will make "Spider-man 2" look like "Winnie the Pooh."


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Mayor Menino VS. Aqua Teen Hunger Force!!

Look, it's illegal advertising with battery powered devices, so I would want police to investigate. It is also possible that a real "terror" device might mask itself as advertising. However, too many people (age 12-30) know the image on the box is from Aqua Teen Hunger Force (An adult cartoon which has been around for over five years) and had it been recognised as a Cartoon Network product, Boston officials could have verified that the advertising was benign with Turner, ending the panic in minutes and saving a lot of cash.

That fact that Boston was the only city that responded this way, either says that Boston is the least hip or the most prepared. The fact that Mayor Menino and the police now feel they have been made fools of and want payback, is going to be unfair and unfortunate to the kids who put up the art. Hopefully, when this dies down they will get some nice street cred in the "dumb ass white boys with dreadlocks" community. Either way if I were Menino, I would hire someone between the age of 12 to 30, so we don't have to go through this next time VH1 decides to paste Flava Flav Clocks all over the Tobin bridge.


From The Boston Globe 2/1/07

Froth, fear, and fury
Cartoon devices spur antiterror sweeps; two men are arrested

By Suzanne Smalley and Raja Mishra

Enraged city and state officials yesterday readied a legal assault against those responsible for a guerrilla marketing campaign that dotted the city with small battery-powered light screens, setting off fears of terrorism and shutting down major roadways and subway lines for parts of the day.

Authorities last night were retrieving the 38 magnetic signs depicting cartoon characters under bridges, on storefronts, and outside Fenway Park, among other locations, that were installed as part of a Turner Broadcasting System marketing blitz for a Cartoon Network television show.

For much of the day, police treated the signs, which measure about 1 by 1 1/2 feet and feature protruding wires on one side, as potentially dangerous. But their investigation shifted when they happened to move one of the signs into a darker area. The sudden lack of sunlight prompted the lights forming the character's image to brighten into color. Sometime between 2 and 3 p.m., according to a public safety official, a Boston police analyst recognized the image as a cartoon character, and police concluded it was likely a publicity stunt.

Turner Broadcasting System Inc. apologized about 4:30 p.m. for the campaign, which included cartoon characters making an obscene gesture.

Last night, in Arlington, police arrested Peter Berdovsky , 27, an artist originally from Belarus, who told the Globe earlier in the day that he installed the signs for an ad firm hired by Turner Broadcasting. Berdovsky, who described himself as " a little kind of freaked out," faces up to five years in prison on charges of placing a hoax device in a way that causes panic and disorderly conduct.

Attorney General Martha Coakley's office announced late last night that a second suspect, Sean Stevens, 28, of Charlestown, had been arrested in the case about 11:30 p.m. Like Berdovsky, Stevens was charged with placing a hoax device and disorderly conduct. Both suspects are scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. today in Charlestown District Court, said Coakley's office.

The deployment of scores of state, federal, and Boston police specialists, from bomb experts to terrorism analysts, exceeded $500,000, according to Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino.

While police responded to the episode with swiftness and gravity, some Bostonians, especially younger adults, were amused by the spectacle and suggested authorities overreacted. But Coakley said the placement of the devices, on key infrastructure points, like highway ramps and under bridges, alarmed even seasoned investigators.

Turner Broadcasting acknowledged that it never sought approval or alerted authorities that it would put up the signs. The company hired by Turner for the campaign, New York-based Interference Inc., declined comment.

The signs, installed about two weeks ago, were part of a 10-city marketing campaign for the cartoon "Aqua Teen Hunger Force." They had not set off terrorism fears in New York, Los Angeles, or any of the other locations, and it was not clear whether they had been widely noticed in those cities. Yesterday Turner Broadcasting scrambled to alert police in the other cities to their presence.

A visibly angry Menino said he would ask the Federal Communications Commission to yank TBS's broadcasting license for what he called "an outrageous act to gain publicity for their product."

The "Aqua Teen" program, launched seven years ago, chronicles the adventures of a talking box of French fries and his irreverent fast food pals. The images on the signs, including the characters with grimacing faces making the obscene gesture, are tiny video game characters that make cameos on the show, which airs during the Cartoon Network's late night programming block called "Adult Swim."

Menino and others said the campaign was especially reckless given Boston's sensitivity to terrorism threats, after planes that left Logan Airport on Sept. 11, 2001, were hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center.

Menino was also upset, he said, because top executives at Turner Broadcasting did not contact him directly to discuss what happened. The mayor said he did not receive a call from the company until about 9 p.m., and it was from a low-ranking press official.

"Give me a break. . . . It's all about corporate greed," Menino said, adding that he wanted make sure "not the guy we arrested today pays, but also the people in the boardroom have some obligation also on this issue."

But others were relishing the story, which rocketed around the Internet. Computer users e-mailed their friends links to video on YouTube that showed young people using telescopic poles to place the magnetic devices on recognizably Boston locations, as electronic music played in the background. Others went to eBay, where someone was already selling one of the magnetic devices, which was apparently removed from a South Boston location, with a minimum bid of $5,000. Read the whole Story HERE!

The Kid even had it all on Youtube!!