Month: July 2008

Filmed Strips–No, this is not about Showgirls

Filmed Strips–No, this is not about Showgirls

So I just saw The Dark Knight.

Wasn’t bad. Ledger certainly personified a reactionary’s notion of “anarchy.”

And that’s what the Batman formula is (reactionary, I mean). The character and his narrative are 100% hardwired with the Florentine Republican ideas that J.G.A. Pocock has done the best job of elucidating (coming from a vantage point that is anathema to me). All he wants to do is hang on. Exercise virtu and excise “corruption.” Keep the money in the hands of the people that are already (“legitimately”) rich, and the underclass in its place. The only “systemic” critique this concept is capable of generating is a law n’ order screed against legal loopholes that allow the criminals to go free.

That’s why I hate Batman–but you already know that if you’ve hung out here before. I really should check out what Morrison has done with the character–’cause Morrison, as you also probably know, is the one writer (or, the one living writer–’cause Mark Gruenwald had pretty much the same agenda) who seems to believe–along with me–that superhero comics should make inexorable war against the status quo/totalizing narratives.

I also saw the trailer for Watchmen.

Now there’s a concept that could go any way at all–politically. But who can tell from that trailer where that 300 guy is going with it? I’m not optimistic. How could I be? And what’s the point of a Watchmen movie anyway? The book was so cinematic that I would argue we’ve all SEEN the best film that could possibly have been made out of it. The trailer would seem to support that statement. It looks GREAT–’cause it looks EXACTLY like the comic panels…

Of course I’m gonna go see it.

Then I read this thing on The Spirit.

My only response to that is–the spirit is willing, but the Miller is weak.

good evening friends!



T-Shirt Philosophy

T-Shirt Philosophy;
or, Verhoevens To Betsy!

    I’ve always prided myself upon my imperviousness to the critically commonplace, but I’ll admit that they got me this time! For thirteen years! And I would still be in the dark if visiting friends hadn’t set my sights Verhoeven-ward once again, by instigating a Starship Troopers/Total Recall double-feature over the weekend.

    I got so excited about this pair (especially the glorious Heinlein ad-slap-tation) that I announced my intention to watch everything the man has done, since coming to America in the mid-’80s. “Not Showgirls though, right?” my friends inquired. Of course Showgirls! How could I skip that one? I wasn’t expecting to like it–but I did think that it would at least fit with the theory that the Dutch director’s entire career in Hollywood constitutes some kind of meta-critique of the culture the industry serves/helps to create…

    Well I’m tossing that theory out the window. Forget meta-critique–the films themselves offer the purest critique you will ever see. Even purer than Motime fave Grant Morrison’s The Filth, because Verhoeven really dares to produce exploitation films that vibrate on a plane SO closely in tune with the worst in the culture that you could very easily fail to find your way into the anti-chambers (and I DO mean anti–, not antechambers, no matter what my word processor says!) they contain. And most people have done just that. Failed.

    Where to start with Showgirls? Well, first off, I’d say, the All About Eve comparisons have to go. I understand them. Even considered them. But they can only lead you astray. This is NOT a critique of “ambition” or “show biz shallowness”… Those have been completely acceptable targets since the dawn of Hollywood–a part of the whole “the rich and powerful have problems of their own” strain of thought that keeps the capitalist treadmill rolling, despite the inequities it breeds.

    What to compare it to then? My choices would be Robert Rossen and Abraham Polonsky’s Body and Soul (1947) and Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange (1971). The earlier film is a classic noirish expose of capitalist exploitation, as seen through the prism of the fight game, which grinds up the bodies of the poor boys it feeds upon. It features incredible performances by John Garfield and Canada Lee–both of whom would be destroyed during the “Second Red Scare”–and I love it–but I’ve always been disappointed by the popular front humanism (saintly working class mother, neighborhood solidarity, the very idea of a “soul” existing apart from an exploited “body”) that dulls its critical edge. Kubrick’s film, on the other hand, has this rep for being an ultra-cool satire that drowns the viewer in the crocodile tears which are the life’s blood of do-goodery and moral/ethical thinking. (and I suppose it IS that–but it’s ALSO an ultra-cheezy paean to the prerogative of the “sensitive artist/intellectual” that is no less sentimental than a fuckin’ Julia Cameron self-help guide).

    Verhoeven’s film goes so much further than either of these predecessors. If you want a REAL comparison–you might want to check out Richard Wright’s Native Son. Think of Elizabeth Berkley’s Nomi as Bigger Thomas, and you’ll begin to see the movie aright. Shallow? Violent? Unable to tell friend from foe? Yes. Yes. Yes. Patriarchy creates its own form of lumpenproletarian.

    Is the dialogue  terrible? I’m never sure what people mean when they say this. It’s not erudite? (how could it be?) It’s not realistic? (fuck off!–to paraphrase Marx–artists have done a decent job of describing reality in the past century or so–but the point is to CHANGE it) It’s not appropriate? That depends upon what you think the movie is. Reviewers are shocked by the stupid lines. “It must be nice not to have guys coming on you every night”???? That’s supposed to be heartwarming? Yes. Yes, it is. (supposed to be) And no. No it’s not. (why should it be? What resources can these people call upon in order to create that special moment that audiences seem to want?) All of the <> scenes in this film expose the ways in which seemingly-sophisticated viewers are looking for exactly the same things that a movie-of-the-week specializes in serving up. I happen to think that the script serves the narrative perfectly.

    And what IS the narrative? Well! It’s the story of a soulless wreck of a human being who begins the film with a confused idea in her head about the way to salvation/empowerment/”a soul” and ends the film on a DIFFERENT confused route (leading out of Las Vegas) to the same never-never land. Along the way, she comes as close as she is capable of coming to two other people (her roommate and the woman she supplants in the show)–although, in both cases, this happens too late and can’t lead to anything that anyone could confuse with anything that is actually good. Like Body and Soul, Showgirls presents us with the ultimate survivor–a person who, for whatever Satan-given reason, has been granted the power to survive in ANY environment… Unlike the Rossen film however–Showgirls strips that power of all glamourous/inspirational/heartwarming qualities… John Garfield walks away from the fight game arm-in-arm with Lilli Palmer. Elizabeth Berkley makes good her escape in a cowgirl costume, holding a knife to the throat of the once-and-future dick who first brought her to Sin City–from a place, we later learn, that was worse than ANYTHING we see in the film itself… And she’s clearly headed back to the same dismal place. It’s called the world we live in. There’s nothing else. And no safe place to view it from. Verhoeven satirizes the half-smart satirists that give the genre a bad name (in my book, at any rate). Nathanael West would have loved this film. And so do I.

I could go on–but I need to eat!

good afternoon friends!


Meme 2 — The Movie

Meme 2 — The Movie

1974: A Woman Under the Influence
1975: Day of the Locust
1976: Killing of a Chinese Bookie
1977: Eraserhead
1978: The Buddy Holly Story
1979: Manhattan
1980: Elephant Man
1981: Reds
1982: White Dog
1983: Zelig
1984: Paris, Texas
1985: After Hours
1986: Blue Velvet/Peggy Sue Got Married
1987: Light of Day
1988: D.O.A.
1989: Crimes and Misdemeanors
1990: Miller’s Crossing/Miami Blues/Joe Vs. the Volcano
1991: Barton Fink
1992: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
1993: Groundhog Day
1994:  Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle/The Last Seduction
1995:  Georgia/Showgirls
1996:  Jude/Hard Eight
1997:  Lost Highway/Starship Troopers
1998:  Dark City/The Wedding Singer/Great Expectations
1999:  Pola X
2000:  Bamboozled/Nurse Betty
2001:  Mulholland Dr.
2002:  Punch-Drunk Love
2003:  Lost in Translation
2004:  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2005:  King Kong/History of Violence
2006:  Inland Empire/Marie Antoinette
2007:  There Will Be Blood
2008:  Iron Man (I’ve only seen THREE movies this year….)

I did this in, like, 20 minutes, so take it for what it’s worth (very, very little!)

addendum–well, now I’ve spent about 40 minutes on it–and I’ve pretty much invalidated the exercise by nominating too many movies in a few years…

good afternoon friends!


Meme and Memoranda

Meme and Memoranda

Hard to resist this one, which comes courtesy of David A.
(your favourite album in every year that you have existed upon the planet)

1974: Big Star–Radio City
1975: Dictators–The Dictators Go Girl Crazy
1976: The Ramones — The Ramones
1977: Wire–Pink Flag
1978: Blondie–Parallel Lines
1979: Fleetwood Mac–Tusk
1980: The Clash–Sandinista!
1981: Joan Jett–Bad Reputation/I Love Rock N’ Roll
1982: The Dream Syndicate–Days of Wine and Roses
1983: Elvis Costello & the Attractions–Punch the Clock
1984: Cyndi Lauper–She’s So Unusual
1985: The Smiths–Meat is Murder
1986: REM–Life’s Rich Pageant
1987: The Fastbacks–…And His Orchestra
1988: Pogues–If I Should Fall From Grace With God
1989: 3rd Bass–The Cactus Album
1990: Public Enemy —Fear of a Black Planet
1991: Nirvana–Nevermind
1992: L7–Bricks are Heavy
1993: The Fastbacks–Zucker
1994: Frank Black–Teenager of the Year
1995: The Red Aunts–#1 Chicken
1996: New Kingdom–Paradise Don’t Come Cheap
1997: Sleater-Kinney–Dig Me Out
1998: Hole–Celebrity Skin
1999: Peter Parker--Migliore!
2000: Elastica–The Menace
2001: Le Tigre–Feminist Sweepstakes
2002: Distillers–Sing Sing Death House
2003: Raveonettes–Chain Gang of Love
2004: Talllboys–Scallywag Tag (EP)
2005: The Gossip–Standing in the Way of Control
2006: Gwen Stefani–The Sweet Escape
2007: White Stripes–Icky Thump
2008: Wolf Parade–At Mount Zoomer

Not sure what I can add to that–other than the observation that I am FAR more predictable than David fears he is! We are what we are!

Also, in other Motime news–I am hoping, once again, to make good my return to blogging on a quasi-regular basis! (Of course, given my history here, you might want to take that announcement with a huge chunk of salt.) My situation has changed considerably, over the past couple of months. I’ve got a job writing for an entertainment company–and I’m seriously contemplating bailing on academia ( I WILL be teaching an American history class in the fall–but, right now, I’m expecting that assignment  to be my last stand, as a scholar—at least for a while)

The mere thought of escaping university has already spurred me to write A LOT of fiction (which may or may not lead to anything–but I’m sure having fun with it)–and that excitement could very well spill over onto this blog too!

I don’t think I’ll continue with the Roy Thomas stuff right now though… Instead, I believe I’ll do some ranting about Mark Gruenwald’s much-neglected (and more topical than ever!) run on Captain America  (in a format similar to the one currently serving Jason Powell so well, over at Geoff Klock’s blog). I’ve been itching to re-read those. Haven’t you?

good afternoon friends!