Thursday, July 31, 2014

I'm (writing about) Batman


I'm not the biggest fan of Batman. He's cool enough, but a rich playboy vigilante isn't the most relatable character for me. I was more of a Superman kid; Christopher Reeve's Superman/Clark Kent remains my favorite cinematic superhero. He's sensitive, gentle and driven by empathy for the people, without delving into the jingoism that defined the character at its worst. Also, he works at a major metropolitan newspaper. Come on. (Yes, he's an alien, but aren't we all in a way?)

I've liked the recent glut of Marvel movies because they're closer to the Christopher Reeve-as-Superman mold than the Christopher Nolan-Batman mold. And yes, comic gatekeepers, I'm fully aware of the irony of this comparison.

But overall, superheroes aren't my thing. There's an inherent fascism in the idea that a person or entity is unstoppable to the masses. (And all too often, they appeal to a black-and-white dichotomy that is impractical and insufferable in real life.) The better books and films mitigate this as best as they can, but the principle always lurks. Batman, at least, is a regular human being, but he still requires a bizarro world (again, I know) in which he can function. But even that unreal universe needs to strike a balance to be effective.

This is why Tim Burton's entries remain my favorite Batman movies. 

(Full disclosure: I haven't seen every Batman movie. I've seen only the end of Batman Forever and was too busy with high school football and bad press to see Batman & Robin, and have watched only the hospital explosion from The Dark Knight. I saw Batman Begins, but remember exactly one scene from it. My knowledge gap is bridged by what I read about them, which obviously didn't motivate me to see them in full. I also saw the beginning of Adam West's 1966 film, but the DVD nearly shorted out my player a few minutes in.)

Burton's Batman was a more serious take on the character that hadn't been done before, but it's still the right amount of ridiculous. Because Batman, like all superheroes, is ridiculous. As a kid, I particularly enjoyed the Gothic set pieces, which were radically different than anything I saw in my everyday life. That helped to immerse me in the action and, more importantly for me, separate it from the real world. 

Many people prefer the Nolan films because they did the exact opposite. Gritty reboots are big these days, but most have skewed too dark for my tastes. They try to be true-to-life, and succeed. Too well.

For example, the football scene in The Dark Knight Rises takes place in a real stadium with real players and with real fans waving towels that they wave at real Steelers games. I find it hard to watch for exactly that reason. The scene is powerful and well-done, and makes you hate Bane as you should, but I start thinking of all the dead/injured innocents and get real-world depressed. I could never imagine myself in Burton's Gotham City, but I've been to many football stadiums. Also, I couldn't unread the many comparisons of Christian Bale's Batman to George W. Bush, who seemed to fancy himself a real-life superhero. That was hard for me to cheer for when so little disbelief was otherwise suspended.

Joel Schumacher took the opposite extreme, making his films way too campy and marketing-friendly, without the wink that made the West series so enjoyable. George Clooney supposedly refunds money to anyone who tells him they bought a ticket for his take. It requires a lot to make Batman bad, but for a couple of years in the mid-'90s, a nation saw it happen.

So given all that, the Burton/Michael Keaton Batman films struck the right balance for me. Batman is a uniquely quirky take benefited by its Edward Scissorhands-like anachronisms and its embracing of the limits of its reality. Batman Returns had an endearing quality as well, pitting the Bat against the Penguin and Catwoman. In an interview at the time, Burton called it "just one big animal movie."

That's the spirit.

Heard in a public place

A conversation between strangers:

"There are no good Muslims."

"Obama's part of the Muslim Brotherhood, you know."

"Mm-hmm."

Yes, Fox News was on nearby.

New SyFy Originals

Inspired by the @midnight hashtag and this classic cinematic moment
Vampire Batboy
Torricaño
Horror Roll
Dismembers Only
Amputate Crazy Nights
Sharks With Braces!
The Quicksandlot
Candy Hearts from HELL
Hotel Discomfort
Dead Meat at the Deli
E.Teen the Extra-Clearasil
Twerkicane
Anthraxhail
Ant Farmer's Daughter
Origaminami
Footballcano!
RoboCano
Man Rain
My So-Called Flood
Penguinzzard
BEAR COMET!
Ice Suns of the Moon
Solar Syrup
Selling Seashells at Satan's Seashore
Cold Front Full of Dolphins
Goatmeal
House of Horticulture
Geysers With Guns
Extremely Unsafe Deathtraps
Scissors Race

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

An interesting wager


Obviously, this is a provocative notion, one that I'm not even sure I agree with (I suppose it depends upon the market in question). But I like its overarching idea — that we make work pay. Lots of important, front-line jobs performed in the service of high-profit companies are seen as menial, minimum-wage work. No matter that they can be grueling and risky, often far more so than more prestigious jobs, and that society couldn't function without them — they're looked down upon by the public at large, almost as a penalty for lacking the connections/education/drive/whatever to get a better job, so those in them deserve whatever they get.

In fact, that's often how we view work in general, and it's destructive. When the workplace is seen more as a competition/value judgment than as a way to make a living, it's all too easy to forget that these people often struggle and that we foot the bill one way or another for their trouble.

That's what comes to mind for me when I hear people complaining that raising the minimum wage, or wages in general, would mean they would now be making minimum wage. I doubt that; in a market where even the lowest-wage work is competitive, higher-level jobs would have to offer more to keep up. But even if that didn't happen, so what? Why would a decent salary be so bad if it now be considered minimum wage? That would speak well of our standard of living. 

When people are competitively compensated for their jobs, they will perform better, out of senses of loyalty and stability. That helps the individual and the company alike, as turnover is less likely. It gives the employee more money to spend, thus spurring the economy and in turn the company, which leads to more jobs all around. That was true for America's most prosperous decades and it's true today.

So while $40K might be steep for a cashier in most places, it would be cheap not consider some kind of bump.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Dog Movies

As seen on the @ianyourhead tweeter and here for the first time

The Truth About Cats and Dogs Should Be Obvious To Everyone
Dangerous Fleaiasons
A Hard Day's Bite
Fetch Lives
Happy Treat
A Fistful of Collars
Leashal Weapon
I Know What You Vacuumed Last Summer
Pit Bull Durham
Dachsund Hollywood
I Am Lifting a Legend
Beggin' 2: Electric Boogaloo
I, Ruffbot
Mange Max
Purina Luck
Hair EVERYWHERE
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Panting
Scootch Pilgrim vs. the World
That Thing You Poo!
Fifty Shades of Greyhound
The Fan (That's Terrifying)
The Good Son (Is the One Who Plays With Me)
Spaying Alive
In Heat
Without a Baggie
Who's a Good Boy, Charlie Brown?
Alpolice Academy
8 Heads in a Doggie Bag