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N.K. Carter

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  1. Actually, Don Bluth's early films all feature tender parent-child relationships: - Mrs. Brisby sacrifices life and limb to save her youngest son (admittedly a fever-stricken rallying cry without much personality) and the rest of her children. - Fievel and his father in An American Tail share a genuinely affectionate bond — though they spend most of the movie apart — and it's his father's music that guides him home in the end. This is probably the best example, and in fact the Mousekewitzes are an affectionate, in-tact, mostly functional nuclear family, which is, as you've pointed out before, pretty rare in American animation. - Littlefoot and his mother are very close, although she, in the tradition of Bambi's mother and Mufasa, dies early in the film.
  2. Last-minute write-up on filmwell. Incidentally, religion crops up in 4 out of the ten nominated short films, and not in an especially negative way. There's actual church scenes in Dimanche/Sunday and Pentecost (neither especially reverent, although there's a bit of affection in Dimanche), a brief interview with a vicar in Wild Life, and a sweet if tactless character who's a minister from a local "Jesus Club" in Tuba Atlantic. Pentecost is the only one with much to say about religion, though, humorously flipping around the old "sports as a religion" to "religion as a sport."
  3. Well, this thread went to a weird place this morning. I think that Simon and Kirby were first and foremost trying to create pulp fiction that flew off the magazine stands, and like most successful pulp creators, they knew their audience. Most of the early successful comic heroes were pretty WASPy, even when they were from another planet. If you look at marketing decisions surrounding children's films in recent years, there's an emerging sense in Hollywood that, by and large, you can make a boy's movie and girls will watch it, but it's much harder to make a girl's movie and have boys watch it. That's not a good creative principle, but I begrudgingly admit it might reflect current cultural trends accurately enough to work as a marketing principle. I imagine a similar principle was in vogue with regards to minority/majority comics during Captain America's time. Moreover, as a symbol of America sold to Americans, I don't think Captain America could be anything other than the "All-American" image of the time and have been successful. Is that reflective of some sort of racism in the population? Sure, and I don't want to minimize how troubling that is, but it is what it is and was what it was. Why blond in particular? I don't know, though I like Nezpop's summation of the irony of it. What makes Captain America interesting these days to smart storytellers, and the reason I think he's not dismissed as an anachronism, is that he can play the role of a man out of time, a representative of ideals that are no longer– or at least not as much– valued. He was created to give his country something that they're no longer capable of receiving, and that's a melancholy place to be. Normally, that's played as a commentary on how cynical, divided or venial we are these days, but it can also be played as a commentary on the weaknesses of Captain America's era, as this thread is trending. I hope that Whedon, who loves this sort of dynamic, does something interesting with it in The Avengers. To clarify, are you saying that Steve Rogers fits into the eugenic moment because he, a weak link in the genetic pool, can go fight the war while the good genetic material stays home and has kids? I suppose a eugenicist could take comfort in that, but it's a pretty tertiary point. The essay would have to work overtime to convince me that's a more plausible explanation for Captain America's creation and success than "some skinny funny-book makers thought it would be awesome if they could get buff and punch Hitler in the face, and a bunch of kids and adolescents agreed." Captain America may be part of a mindset of "science will make mankind better!" which is troubling in its own ways, but it's hard for me to see him as having anything to do with genetics. I'll admit to never having read the original comics, though.
  4. I came away from the film with the impression that the boy-who-would-be-Sean-Penn and the middle brother are the only ones that matter. Isn't the middle son the musical one? Does the youngest son ever do or say anything at all? I spent the latter half of the film wondering why Malick bothered to include a third brother at all — his obscurity seems so complete as to border on intentional. In retrospect, it's a good bet he's a victim of Malick's notorious editorial process.
  5. Someday I'm going to make it all the way through this thread and post my thoughts. Probably long after anyone cares. But yes, Godawa is off his rocker.
  6. I'd lowballed my expectations on this one, so I was pretty pleased with the result. Solidly written with some surprisingly tender moments, appealingly old-fashioned, cohesive and featuring a great cast. Evans acquits himself nicely, and the film delicately sidesteps most of the worries from early on in the thread (It might still induce superhero fatigue, but if I were to cut this year's superhero output down to size, I'd cut Thor and Green Lantern to keep this and X-Men). The use of the USO bond tour to both explain and contextualize his origins was very clever, and while there's a bit of modern bemusement to the way that section is played, I liked that Cap felt some affection for the costume and his role. I also think the complaint that Cap is too wholesome and therefore boring says more about the critic than it does about the film. The idea that characters need a moral arc and therefore they need to be jerks at the beginning of the film has really bogged down a lot of films lately. There were two big structural flaws, I thought, that prevented it from being really top-shelf: one, the Red Skull's strangely non-specific agenda (I'm going to destroy everything! Because it will make me feel powerful!). Putting, I don't know, everyone in danger has the net dramatic effect of putting no one in danger. There's some gesturing with the adorably hand-labeled mini-Valkyries at the end towards New York as the immediate target, but it's too little too late. Still, I guess that's what mad scientists do. The other flaw is more serious. After Cap gets together the Howling Commandos (or the Invaders or whatever no one has any time to call them), we get a montage, one short action sequence, and then suddenly it's time for the final battle. This wouldn't be too much of a problem except that Bucky's death comes in that short action sequence, meaning that he's been an active member of Cap's team for about 5 minutes in movie time before he bites the dust. The poor pacing (He's dead! No wait, he's alive! Actually he's dead again!) makes Bucky's death feel awfully perfunctory. (Although the little mourning scene in the wrecked bar was quite nice.) By the way, Peter, if we're looking for conspiracy theories and "we never saw the body" plots: Bucky's conspicuously on a lab operating table when Cap finds him, he's apparently a great sniper, and he falls to his supposed death with no evidence of the body. The elements are clearly in place for the "Winter Soldier" (Bucky was found by the Soviets, bionically enhanced, brainwashed and used as an assassin who was only brought out of his cryogenic chamber when needed ... that plot as Brubaker writes it is a lot less stupid than it sounds) if the franchise wants to go there some day. Incidentally, how did I miss an argument over the relative merits of Spectacular Spider-Man and Batman: The Animated Series? If it wasn't six months old and in the wrong thread, I'd make the case that Batman is more important, but Spectacular Spider-Man is better.
  7. That's where I am-- the books are so a part of my brain that I can watch the movies and feel as if I've had a really satisfying literary experience when in fact I've just been reminded of one. That's a great line for a film review, if Roger Ebert hasn't already used it – "This isn't a good movie, but at least it reminds me of one."
  8. I'm glad! Since your review of Prisoner of Azkaban is pretty much the framework for how I view the rest of Kloves' failures. Incidentally, I know you said you got bogged down in Goblet of Fire and stopped reading the books, but given your comments on the movies I think there's a lot of moral material in the seventh book especially that you would find really, really interesting and heartening. A lot of things you would find objectionable, too, but still as a cultural bellwether really interesting.
  9. I'm going to throw in with the side that doesn't mind the reboot. We get a new version of Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre every ten years or so, right? That's much more restricted in terms of plot than Spider-Man. Spider-Man is incredibly fertile ground for adaptation, with decades of stories and dozens of different writers' takes to draw on. There are alternate continuities, future histories and standalone stories, not to mention television series and other media constantly reinterpreting and streamlining the material. I love the Raimi films, but they are the work of a very idiosyncratic director, and I'd honestly rather future films not be beholden to him. Films, unlike television, have rarely been good and maintaining continuity and quality over long franchises without some sort of rebooting, and no continuous superhero franchise has ever produced an excellent third film, much less a fourth or fifth, etc. Judging from the trailer, the comic con reports and various interviews and promotional materials, Webb's picture is doing everything it can to justify starting over. It's taking a more grounded tone, focusing on the high school years (which Raimi abandoned very quickly), emphasizing Spider-Man the wiseass, taking an interest in Peter's parents and pursuing the one important Spider-Man story that Raimi forever barred himself from doing properly: the Stacys. So we have to watch Peter get bitten by a spider and watch Uncle Ben die again. The rest of the film looks to be different enough that I think it's worth it.
  10. To be honest, I'm always surprised when I come back from these films to find that the critical notices are generally positive. I enjoy them, of course, but then I come pre-invested. I love these stories and these characters, and where the films rush past key plot points and major character developments, I can fill them in and feel relatively satisfied. As a visual highlights reel, they're pretty good. But I've always imagined non-readers reactions ought to be more like Jeffrey's or D'Angelo's. What's satisfying about a bunch of two-note characters running around with wand lasers killing acclaimed actors offscreen and answering questions with obscure references to minor plot points from half a decade ago? It's certainly not the whimsy any more, and it can't be the chemistry-less romance (Friends and I left the film naming on-screen pairings who had more chemistry than Harry and Ginny. Harry and Griphook, for example.). Is it the wonderful British cast? The occasional flashes of humor? The light show? The sheer spectacle of it all? Apparently the films are really successful with plenty of people who've never cracked open a book, so there must be something. Personally, I think Steve Kloves has been this franchise's achilles heel. He's a terrible editor, and while I think he catches some of the humor and general atmosphere of Rowling's books, I'm not convinced he understands the actual themes. Since Prisoner of Azkaban, he's kept the mechanisms of the plot but failed to explain why they matter. If this film left you wondering, Steven, why Harry throws away the elder wand, then it failed. It might still succeed on some basic, archetypal level, but it fails to capture even the most basic thrust of what Rowling was actually saying. Why keep the interminable itinerancy in part 1 but cut the actual revelations about Dumbledore that sap Harry's spirits and lend meaning to his dark camping trip of the soul? Why keep Harry's death and resurrection but ignore the deeper sort of magic that enables it? Why, for goodness sake, not give the protagonist and antagonist the proper final lines of their conflict – expelliarmus and avada kevadra, respectively – which surely cut as close to the heart of their differences as anything? The only film that's really felt coherent to me was Order of the Phoenix, which was of course written by someone else. (I love Prisoner of Azkaban, but not because it's especially coherent.) All that said, I got a little choked up nonetheless. I think the most powerful moment was the realization as the trio charged off into one of the battles that we have literally watched these three children grow up on screen. I know that's fairly common in television, but I can't think of a single film franchise that's been able to pull it off without recasting/skipping large periods of time/dwindling out. I may only love this film because I'm pre-invested, but let's face it, I am really pre-invested.
  11. My cautious optimism remains... cautious. It certainly doesn't look like a bad costume, and I like the notes of texture, although I can't quite figure out what's battle damage and what's just part of the costume. I can certainly appreciate the need to differentiate this film from the previous ones, too. I will say, though, that Spider-Man has one of the truly great superhero costumes; it's unusual but elegant, neither too simple nor too busy, and perfectly specific to the character. ( ) Any major modification to the costume, with the exception of adjusting for texture (as was necessary for the film), is likely to be a step down. More than the costume itself, though, my curiosity is peaked by the choice of this particular image as a first look, which looks very much like Spider-Man after a particularly rough night. I had assumed, when they hired Marc Webb, that they meant to keep the films playful, and I had hoped that script I would allow Peter himself to be more playful. This does seem to play up the "dark" look that's in among superhero films these days (going "all Dark Knight on us"), but then, the Lizard has always been a pretty dark counterpoint to Peter's friendly neighborhood Spider-Man persona. Let's just hope they can strike the right balance.
  12. If he thinks he's playing "generic spiritual leader™" that would explain why his performance is so boring.
  13. See, I'm not seeing it. I put The Family Circus on one side and Yogi Bear on the other, and while the thought of The Family Circus makes me want to run and hide my head under my pillow, the thought of Yogi Bear seems to elicit some kind of primordial, Stef-stabbing-a-doll-in-the-eye annihilating loathing. I don't remember having a traumatic childhood experience with Yogi Bear, or with any bear. Some of my best friends are bears. I'm baffled. I empathize. There's something about Yogi in particular and his soulless face and large, oddly blank smile that verges on disturbing for me. That particular design just CREEPS ME OUT. On the other hand, I think this movie would be the funniest movie I've seen in years if only they had Justin Timberlake following Yogi around using that voice instead of a CG Boo Boo.
  14. Actually, Hardcore Christianity is probably the previous big thing. Several of my church friends in high school flirted with or joined that scene, back in the early aughts. The song from which that essay gets its title, "Memphis Will Be Laid to Waste," came out in 2002. (Incidentally, that song features a blistering John Donne-inspired rant by Aaron Weiss, whose band mewithoutYou, which has earned some affection on this board, began its career in that very scene -- before going in a very different direction.) Many of those same friends grew up to resemble "hipsters," some Christian, some not, and some just went on to be endearingly strange. While I still find serious hardcore music baffling, I will say that "Christian hardcore" seems like an reasonable adolescent reaction for church kids raised on the gloss and platitudes of CCM.
  15. I don't disagree with your thesis about the relative merits of ESB/TT and this film -- although I think the comparison of the first half of a seventh film to any second film for good or ill is unhelpful -- but dude, can't HP at least get the animated Deathly Hallows sequence in the "more coolness" column? That's all I ask.
  16. Psshaw. If that Bone movie ever comes to fruition, it will premiere on the frozen landscape of hell to an audience of winged pigs. (And it will be terrible. Because 90% of what makes that book work is Jeff Smith.) For myself, I'm pretty happy to keep watching big, bright, joyful superhero movies; I can munch popcorn with the best of them. I am pretty burned out on the Snyder/Miller/Millar hyper-stylized cynicism. Who knows, though, maybe once all of the tentpole comics are out of the way, studio executives will find themselves left with only the smaller "indie" books, and they'll accidentally greenlight something challenging. Funnily enough, Scorcese is adapting The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which as a heavily-illustrated children's book is a close cousin to a comic book.
  17. You may find this list helpful in your quest to spiral further into depression. The big, actually-likely-to-come-out-in-the-foreseeable-future ones not listed above are: Priest Scott Pilgrim Green Lantern X-Men: First Class Green Hornet Red The comic book movie revolution has completely changed the way the comics industry works. You can now pitch a comic based on its eventual likelihood as a cinematic property, not on its potential success as a comic book. People release comic books that are basically elaborate film pitches. For better or worse.
  18. Wow. All of the right themes, yet drawing exactly the wrong conclusions. Right? Succumbing to the "thought that ends all thoughts" is the film's central tragedy. And the ending suggests that, at least for Cobb, seeing the faces of his children is enough to put to rest all of the "is reality real" handwringing. What I can't decide is whether the parting shot from Nolan is a tease or a dare. Probably both. Also, the Matrix glamorized vampire subcultures?
  19. I'd like to post some more extensive thoughts eventually, but just for the moment, I thought I'd ask: Was I the only one that thought that the last shot suggested only that maybe Cobb never makes it out of limbo? That the shift from Saito to the plane, which we never see onscreen, is just one of those abrubt-but-somehow-convincing shifts that happen in dreams? That would leave all of the rules of the film in tact -- which, given how much time the film spends explaining those rules, is a little more satisfying.
  20. Yeah, that's pretty uninspiring. It has all the hallmarks of a Shrek film: bad pop music, anachronism, strained imitations of unrelated genre scenes, classic fairy tale lines followed by "ironic" reversals. Heck, the male lead even looks like he's wandered in from Road to El Dorado. Nice colors, though. Nice and glowy.
  21. Both trailers make Wells' point FOR him, what with Scott's sister saying "Next time let's not date the girl with the eleven evil ex-boyfriends." So I'm a little baffled he's not considering that maybe the film is interested in this question, too. The books certainly are. They're not shy that Ramona is an emotionally damaged (and emotionally damaging) person, and the fifth book is centered around the question of whether someone like that can change. The sixth book, when it comes out, will likely hinge on the answer to that question. Besides, I think that he's underselling O'Malley to say that it's merely "comic exaggeration." The whole "defeating the seven evil exes" is a magical realist device of taking emotional and spiritual struggles and making them somehow physical, somehow literal. Scott Pilgrim IS a kind of magical realism, albeit one that would completely baffle the fathers of the genre. So the fights are Scott dealing with Ramona's emotional baggage writ large.
  22. There's Run, Lola, Run, which doesn't ever explain how or why Lola gets to re-do everything, but she does.
  23. N.K. Carter

    Where's Waldo

    You know, my friends and I once were discussing the increasing ridiculousness of cinematic source material, and we decided that the absolute critical mass of Hollywood awfulness will be contained in... Where's Waldo, the Musical. We even figured out the plot: Waldo, only weeks before his marriage to beloved Wenda, is abducted by a clan of Waldo imitators (The Waldo Watchers from the later books), who want to make him their leader. He's sorely tempted to stay among his admirers, but meanwhile, his nemesis Odlaw has taken over his life and is even intending to marry Wenda in his stead. But his faithful dog woof travels across the country to find Waldo and warn of this terrible turn of events, and Waldo realizes that he must claim not the identity that earns him the most acclaim but the one dictated by his inner light. He returns triumphantly at the last minute to stop the wedding and win back Wenda. Because, you see, it's about Waldo finding himself. You've been warned.
  24. I'm actually doing major first-quarter surgery on a book I wrote as my senior honors thesis, Danse Macabre, about a boy who meets the angel of death in the cafe on the outskirts of Florence after the death of the boy's father. Four years later, he goes on another search for the angel, leading him to dive bars where Gabriel plays solos, downtown alleys where Michael and Satan tussle, and highways where Raphael's just looking for a ride to San Francisco. Also, there's the restoration of downtown Los Angeles, leukemia, San Quentin, the Odessa mafia, freshman year of college, and naturally, the danse macabre. Look, I'll write a good cut line when I absolutely have to, which is not yet. You can read the prologue here, which is as good an indication as any as to the tone. I'm actually quite happy with the prologue, which existed long before the rest, and with the second half of the book, but I obviously had no idea what I was doing writing the first half; it was clumsy and haphazardly assembled from spare parts. Those spare parts ended up, thank God, fitting together about 1/3 of the way of through, but now I've got to bring that first stretch up to speed. With God as my witness, I'll be finished with that this summer. And then maybe I can sit on it for another half a year absolutely terrified of the publication process.
  25. So I see this album, which might well be my favorite of all time, even if I only listen to it two or three times a year, has a lot of cred on this board -- what with all its nominations for "best album of the decade" in the Joe Henry thread, and lots of nods in the five-star albums thread -- but it doesn't actually have its own topic, as far as I can tell. So to inaugurate one, here's an essay I wrote about it nearly a year and a half ago in some hard times that I never really did anything with, but feel silly just keeping hidden on my hard drive. --------- Ruth Shorey, a friend and mentor of mine, passed away late last year, suddenly and unexpectedly. At the time I was some 1500 miles away, just beginning my post-collegiate life, and so there was little to be done: no seven days to sit with my friends, no mourning garb to don, no wake to prepare. I was trapped, lost, impotent. I wandered for a time the quiet greens of USC's hidden oases, lit candles at the altar of a nearby church, then, as I began to prepare dinner, I put on Time (The Revelator). Revelator has been my companion through many a troubled evening — this year especially it has been on too often. It begins, its dissonance apparent even in those first few notes, and I take to chopping the vegetables, one by one, slow and methodical and absorbing, until they are at last prepared for a stew; normally I'd wander off to work while that meager supper simmers, but when Revelator is playing, I stay, leaning alone against the counters, drinking down the last of the wine, the western sun warm against the windows, Welch and Rawlings' voices intertwining, a winding ribbon with a band of gold. And under its melancholy sway, I am forced to remember. My move several years earlier from the evergreen woods of East Texas to the cracked streets of Los Angeles stripped me of a great many things dear to me, few more dear than the Shoreys. My love for their eldest daughter had been fierce in its season, and they had welcomed me gladly into their family, with their countless Sunday afternoon dinners: long and loud conversations on theology, literature, the church both great and small, any subject that flitted across their table, which was covered with food enough for their six children and any stray soul that wandered into their fold. I always counted myself among those stray souls — In so many ways I owe them my faith. Ruth had been the kindly matriarch who presided over it all, her loud and irrepressible voice calling for the blessing, hers the arms that welcomed the beloved rabble. These days, when Welch and Rawlings whisper, over and over again, "I dream a highway back to you," I know exactly what they mean. As near as I can tell, Revelator is a record about rock and roll and death, and most of the time when it's about rock and roll it's still about death: Elvis Presley's death in the long decline; a sad-sack rock and roll band placed amidst such great American tragedies as the Titanic and the death of Abraham Lincoln; "Quicksilver Girl" lingering against the backdrop of a relationship long dead and buried — all gracefully twisted wreckage dotting the album's desert landscape. Some things will pass away, Revelator suggests, and others remain, with time the terrible force — surgeon or perhaps butcher — stripping away, piece by piece. Welch's characters are trapped in the passing world, longing but unable to move forward, mired in the muck in "Red Clay Halo," struggling with the information revolution in "Everything is Free." With gospel sincerity, Welch herself proclaims, "I want to sing that rock and roll," but she never does: Welch and Rawlings, whose "Honey Now" on their previous album Hell Among the Yearlings would be perfectly at home on the setlist of "April the 14th's" wandering and dissolute rock band, never raise their voices, up the tempo, or electrify anything here. Why is an album so devoted to rock n' roll so damn languorous? It's trapped somewhere between a passing artform and the world that now overshadows it, drowns it out. These days I listen to Revelator mostly as a counterpoint to the economic and political anxieties that fill the airwaves. Revelator takes place on a much smaller scale than all of that, but the feeling is much the same. The space into which we'd settled will no longer do; an old world is passing away, and what now? I listened to Revelator when USC instituted a hiring freeze, and the job I had just interviewed for, a chance to write about and cover the academic world that is so dear to me, suddenly disappeared. I listened to Revelator when my friends left Los Angeles to pursue their own dreams in schools and jobs and countries far away. It has been a comfort to me, sad as it is. There is a verse, near the album's close, in which Welch pleads: Step into the light, O Lazarus. Don't lie alone behind the window shade Let me see the mark death made. That mark -- "an indisguisable shade of twilight" -- weighs heavily on this album, on all its whispered tales of passing and loss. But in the throes of such times it is good to see that others are likewise marked, to see that they have endured what seems for a moment unendurable. There is a world ahead of me without immediate career prospects, without friends I have held dear and without the clarity I once possessed. There is a world, it troubles me to say, without Ruth Shorey. The things that remain will not be those I would have chosen. But tonight I dream a highway back to East Texas, to that small, disheveled house on Oak Street. Tonight, Ruth Shorey, I dream a highway back to you.
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