Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Spooks spooked, goblins gobbled, UFOs K.O.ed

This is something i've been thinking about all year, but it seems i should bring it up now that Dan Aykroyd insists that the third Ghostbusters will be coming without Bill Murray.

It's time to make the third one. - Aykroyd
 Mostly i want to talk about how wrong he is. (With or without Murray)
Not that i'm against sequels or anything, it's just the movie will be severely out of place if made now.

You see, Ghostbusters was a film built on the zeitgeist of the 80s. Ghost movies were rampant and New Age spirituality was on a rise.

The film came on the heels of the Shining, the Fog, Poltergeist, and countless other films not nearly as interesting. Not to mention everything that came after, culminating at 1990's Ghost. Ghostbusters II, opinions on he quality aside, was still set in the times of the paranormal.

These days however, ghost movies seem few, there aren't as many shows about hauntings either, the big topic today is, well:
The biggest movie series right now is probably Transformers, a series about robotic cars from outerspace, then there's Cowboys & Aliens, Skyline, Battle: Los Angeles, Battleship, Prometheus.... and that's what, the last three years? Ancient Aliens nearly has its own channel at this point.

So instead of busting ghosts, a movie today should feature a group fighting aliens, and i know what you're thinking

But you'd be wrong. You see, i thought of all this before i had even heard of the Watch, and even if i hadn't, that just looks like some aggressively unfunny comedy that happens to involve aliens. i mean shit, compare that long rambling "I'd fuck an old dude" joke to this:  
Ray: Everything was fine with our system until the power grid was shut off by dickless here. 
Peck: They caused an explosion! 
Mayor: Is this true? 
Venkman: Yes it's true. This man has no dick. 
i'm guessing all that movie is about is no one takes them seriously, and then they save the day, the end.
 But you see, there's another issue that Ghostbusters plays around with, namely classism.

The design of the Ghostbusters is brilliant, they dress like exterminators, drive in a hearse style ambulance, and work out of a run down firestation. They're the unsung heroes of society, i mean, it's no coincidence all of their clients are wealthy. Walter Peck is the primary antagonist, he's a government man, the enemy of the blue collar workers (which, despite their PhDs the Ghostbusters are presented to be). Just look at the simple scene where he goes to shut down the containment unit, the guy in the hardhat doesn't want to shut it down, and the cop calls Peck a pencil neck. It's Peck's fault the apocalypse starts. Damn the man.

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.

So, a new movie would have to have a ragtag group against some aliens, and also deal with some socio-poltical issues of today, and when this all clicked in my mind, i realized, this film had already been made:

 Yes, Attack the Block is the modern day Ghostbusters. You've got a group of inner city kids, it examines how they were brought up, how they live, how society views them, and the main antagonist is a drug dealer, oh and there might also be some aliens running about.

Ray. It's looking at me.
i have a feeling this isn't incidental, that Joe Cornish came to the same conclusion as me, that this is what was needed, hell, he even threw in a namedrop to the Ghostbusters. And while i wouldn't say Attack the Block is as great of a comedy as Ghostbusters, it's still a damn fine film, and one of my favourites.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

How I learned to embrace anarchy, and love the Bat-man.

i feel i've come a long way since starting this blog, i've matured (somewhat!), i've read, watched, and listened to so much art, and have learned to appreciate it in ways that never would have occurred to me before.

There's a somewhat infamous internet forum poster, that claims Watchmen was the movie that "broke" them, that it got them to see the art of film, recognize and interpret the symbols and subtext, and so on. There is more to a film than what lies on the surface. My best guess to the film that broke me was Enter the Void "This is us, this is now" were my words, well close enough anyway. Since that film, i've written fewer reviews, but i feel, they're hopefully more well thought out than "i didn't like it because plot" or "comics books" and more thinking on what the movies are about, and why they do the things they do.

The first film i reviewed on this blog, would be the Dark Knight, i've reviewed it twice actually, once after first seeing it, and then watching it again months later. i also used it to contrast Batman's death in Final Crisis. And now, i'd like to talk about for the forth time. Because, what can i say, i love Batman.

Mostly, i'm interested in returning to TDK because of how bad my previous reviews were. "Not my Batman" seems to be my only point, and it's not even really a point, and certainly not anything i agree with now.

Let's start with Final Crisis:
pew pew
Previously i talked about how, in this scene, Batman dies by gun, the very act of picking up a gun and killing someone is the end of Batman, he knows this, hence the chuckle before the beam hits him. Now what i failed to realize is that at the end of the Dark Knight, Batman also dies by gun.

Dent has taken Gordon and his family hostage, Batman shows up, trying to save them all, but Dent wants to make the men responsible for all that has happened pay, he flips his coin and shoots Batman who falls down, dead. He then flips his coin again, to choose the fate of Gordon's son, but something comes back from the dead in the guise of Batman and kills Dent before the coin lands. This is shown to be pointless, as the coin lands "good" side up. Batman was gunned down, and whatever was left was let to come back and kill. i like it. Not really sure why i had such an objection to Dent dying anyway, it makes sense for his character, he wanted to share his pain, nothing else matters. Perhaps just some objection to the world feeling smaller, i mean seeing Crane in all three films was a joy, but i failed to realize Dent was more than just a freak of the week. He was a half-dead man, a tarnished symbol,  the other side of Batman.

Now i also complained about Bruce being a whiny baby.
My childhood crush was going to wait for me!
Batman is childish though, and this complaint is weird, because it's kind of what i love about him. You can go on about how fascist and classist Batman is, and you'll probably be right, but the most important thing is that he's a childhood fantasy. "I want to beat up the bad guys" says ten-year-old Billy. Bruce Wayne never stopped being eight years old, that childhood fear, confusion, and rage, it's all he is. This is why Rachel is so important to him, she was part of that childhood, his first love, his only love. This is true of Batman outside of this movie as well, i mean the reason he hangs out with a young boy isn't because he's sexually attracted to Dick, no, he's best friends with a kid because that's all he really is. Not to say Batman has never been portrayed as gay, but for the most part, i don't think Batman has a sexuality, he's too busy playing Cops and Robbers.

i was right about one thing though, that the Joker is the star, and that he is the man who laughs at how ridiculous Batman is.
Ha Ho He Ha
i actually have a reason for posting that meme. Batman is a superhero that can't escape his origin, to the point where "My parents are dead!" is also a meme. He's forever a kid bound to the death of his parents, now the Joker on the other hand, he's a man with no origin. When he offers multiple explanations for his scars, Nolan is quoting Alan Moore's the Killing Joke:
I mean, what is it with you? What made you what you are? Girlfriend killed by the mob, maybe? Brother carved up by some mugger? Something like that, I bet. Something like that... Something like that happened to me you know. I...I'm not exactly sure what it was. Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another... If I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice! Ha ha ha!
The Dark Knight really is the same deal as the Killing Joke, the Joker trying to prove he can make anyone mad like him, in the comic he goes after Gordon and fails, in the movie he goes after Dent and wins. And it's interesting because i've heard people argue that he loses because the people on the ferries don't blow eachother up, but as the Joker says, it was never going to come down to a fist fight between him and Batman, that was all a fun distraction, Dent was a main event. The Joker succeeds in ruining the holy trinity of Gotham. The White Knight is sullied, Dark Knight is dead, and Gordon, he lost everything he believed in.
Though it is interesting in how low key the movie plays the Joker outsmarting everyone, he flat out lies about the locations of Dent and Rachel, Batman goes to get Rachel, but finds Dent instead, so suddenly, this is the plan, Batman has always been going to rescue Dent, and in my experience, the audience goes along with it, without realizing anyone has been duped. The disappointment on their faces is amazing.

One really fantastic scene is Alfred's "Some men just want to watch the world burn." speech, he's so caught up in his sense of duty, the status quo of colonialism, that he fails to realize that the bandit is eliminating a currency that's being used to enslave his people, and that Alfred himself, was the one that failed to understand what he was up against. The further irony of this speech of course is that Alfred and his men are the ones that burn down the forest.

There's a theme of communication being a weapon in this film, i already talked about the Joker's misinformation, he does something similar when he burns the cash "I'm only burning my half" If you want to understand, let me drink the bottom half of your milkshake. But more than that, Batman and the Joker directly use cellphones as weapons. Batman gets his sonar ears all over the city and Hong Kong, and the Joker blows a dude up with his one phone call.

Of course, Batman's wiretapping brings comparisons to the Patriot Act and the War on Terror, breaking the law for "the greater good." And sure, it exists, that scene of Batman standing on the rubble is very clearly an homage to the aftermath of 9/11. However, the argument against that, is twofold.  Firstly, that has always been Batman's M.O. He's beyond the law, he does things that cops can't (and shouldn't) do. Fox's objection seems to be based less on liberty, and more on spirituality. "This is too much power for one person." This deus ex machina, turns Batman into a god, he's everywhere at once, hearing everything, look as his eyes glow white with his divine judgement. I Am Become Batman Secondly, the Joker has no ideology, he's not fighting for religious, social, or political  beliefs, he has none. As he says, he's a dog chasing cars (though again, he lies when he says he has no plan). And him calling himself a dog is rather important.

Bow wow wow, yippie yo, yippie yay.
Not only is that short car ride my favourite scene in the movie, it's by far the most beautiful.
Batman comes up against dogs a lot in this movie, at the start with the drug dealer's dogs (which leads to the great quip about the armour being good to protect against cats), at the end with the K9 units, and everything in the middle with the Joker.

Two-Face: The Joker's just a mad dog. I want whoever let him off the leash.
 Now the better translation of that, or at least more interesting, is "A stray dog sees only what it chases."
Though i'm not bringing up Kurosawa's Stray Dog to compare to the Joker, but instead Batman and Dent.

Stray Dog is about a rookie cop chasing down a thief that stole his gun, by the end, we find out after returning from war, both men had their belongings stolen from them, both wanted to retain a sense of balance, but one became a cop, the other a thief. Remember, Dent tells Gordon to come to the place where his family died.
The Joker: Why don't we cut you up into little pieces and feed you to your pooches? Hmm? And then we'll see how loyal a hungry dog really is. It's not about money... it's about sending a message. Everything burns! 
 How wonderful is Burroughs voice? 
Batman: Then why do you want to kill me?
The Joker: I don't, I don't want to kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no, NO! No. You... you... complete me.
Batman: You're garbage who kills for money.
The Joker: Don't talk like one of them. You're not! Even if you'd like to be. To them, you're just a freak, like me! They need you right now, but when they don't, they'll cast you out, like a leper! You see, their morals, their code, it's a bad joke. Dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you. When the chips are down, these... these civilized people, they'll eat each other. See, I'm not a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve. 
That right there leads me to believe that Nolan read some Grant Morrison, as there's this in  Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth
Dr. Adams: The Joker's a special case. Some of us feel he may be beyond treatment. In fact, we're not even sure if he can be properly as insane.
His latest claim is that he's possessed by Baron Ghede, the Voodoo loa.
We're beginning to think it may be a neurological disorder, similar to Tourette's syndrome. It's quite possible we may actually be looking at some kind of super-sanity here. A brilliant new modification of human perception. More suited to urban life at the end of the twentieth century.

Batman: Tell that to his victims.

Dr. Adams: Unlike you and I, the Joker seems to have no control over the sensory information he's receiving from the outside world. He can only cope with the chaotic barrage of input by going with the flow. That's why some days he's a mischievous clown, others a psychopathic killer. He has no real personality. He creates himself each day. He sees himself as the Lord of Misrule, and the world as a theatre of the absurd. 

And it is interesting to see Nolan give his version of popular comic stories, i already mentioned the twist on the Killing Joke, but the twists on the Long Halloween are also interesting. In the movie, Dent is the killer of the corrupt, it's Gordon in the SWAT suit, and Dent survives the courtroom scene unscathed by chance.

Puppy love.
i love the contrasts between the Joker and Batman, one hides his face, wears black, and clings to the edges. The other paints his face, is flamboyant, and stands out in the open. Batman is ridiculous in the Nolan films, from his bear voice, to his bulky suit, and tank-cum-motorcycle. And i think that's the point, the very idea of Batman is absurd. Every film ends with a lie, Begins with Batman's cop-out on how it isn't murder, Knight with covering Dent's crimes, and Rises, well, we'll get there. What Batman did in the first film, created the situation in the second, Sons of Batman running around with guns, the gangsters agitated, yet still untouchable, and of course, the Joker. The thing is, what brings down the mob, the corruption, and psychotic vigilantes, is the Joker. He is literally the hero of the story, and it's fantastic and weird.

Not that i'm saying the Joker is a good guy here, he's not, but neither is Batman.

Not sure if i've mentioned this before, but i love comparing this movie to Burton's Batman. In that film, we see the origin of the Joker, his rise, his insanity, his insights, the film follows him.  Batman shows up every now and then, when not brooding in the empty mansion. It made Batman more fantastic in that film, and it makes the Joker amazing in this film. The same idea, used in a different way.

Seems like i'll have to give Batman Begins another chance now.