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When I Heard the Learn’d Poet (illustrated)

When I Heard the Learn’d Poet (illustrated) published on

(Click to embiggen)

Cohort Stephan Zielinski directed me to an io9 talkback that cited Scott Aaronson’s “When I Heard the Learn’d Poet”, a parody of Walt Whitman’s “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer,” which was the topic at hand.

So this happened.

ANJOI.

23 Silly Things about The Dark Knight Rises

23 Silly Things about The Dark Knight Rises published on 4 Comments on 23 Silly Things about The Dark Knight Rises


Alfred, that is a lot of silly things

(Thanks is due to many co-hecklers in the production of this heckle.)

Nolan’s Batman saga is like a coin.

The first side features breathless cause-and-effect (Batman Skyhook-extradites a businessman because that businessman eloped with crime boss money because Batman/Bruce Wayne bookends are too good at what they do because Batman.)

The second side features wild coincidence (in a besieged city of 12 million, Bruce Wayne encounters Selina Kyle on a bridge) and wild oversight (Batman never investigates how to mess up the thing that lets Bane, you know, breathe.)

The first side offers great lines (“And you want to blackmail this person?”) and moments of humanity (“Bats are nocturnal!”)

The second side offers extended lectures about what characters want (“I’m Gotham’s reckoning.”) without actually explaining what they want (Reckoning for what?).

The first side has Michael Caine.

The second side has one-armed bicep curling a Liam Neeson.


Bring him a ruby the soize… of a tangewine.

This installment leans heavily toward the second side.

I didn’t have a problem with Bane’s Sean-Connery-doing-a-Bill-Cosby-impression voice (try it!) I thought Anne Hathaway did a fine job even if her character was confusing. But I think close-up fistfights are silly and on-the-nose dialogue is silly and vague pan-Asian torture spirituality is silly so I thought a lot of this movie was silly.

Here are the top twenty-three silly things in The Dark Knight Rises (SPOILERS AHEAD).

– Batman AND Bruce Wayne go on hiatus for eight years. Does anyone make the connection? No, until…


I put the Bat-suit on ice… LI-TE-RA-LEEEEE!

– John Blake (Joseph Gordon Levitt) intuits that Bruce Wayne is Batman because they had similar orphan upbringings and John Blake relates to Batman a whole bunch. Bruce Wayne makes no effort to deny this. The ease with which Blake figures it out and Wayne concedes it makes Commissioner Gordon look really, really dumb.

– Miranda (Marion Cotillard) and Bruce show up to abandoned Wayne Manor at the same time. I missed why. Because it is raining, they make out. Maybe this is because Miranda just picked up Bruce’s framed publicity still of Rachel Dawes, which reminds him what a great idea it is to get romantic.

– Speaking of figuring out who is who, Bane drops a bombshell on Gotham by revealing Harvey Dent killed two people eight years ago. However it’s hard to understand who in Gotham gives a rat butt about this since they are UNDER THREAT OF NUCLEAR ANNIHILATION and locked in their homes like I Am Legend and probably dead because I don’t know how they’re getting food into the city with all the bridges blown up.


This is a thing you still care about, right?

– Also, Bane thinks the Harvey Dent news is big, but when he finds out he doesn’t announce WHO BATMAN IS.

– I don’t know what Bane wants or why his death-willing followers are so loyal. It is probably some vague pan-Asian torture spirituality thing, but it is unclear.

– Gotham PD responds to a bomb threat by sending three thousand cops into stadium tunnels. WORST PD EVER.

– When these cops get trapped, a radio dispatcher tells new Detective Blake “every cop in the city is trapped in there!” Then Blake says, “Not every one!” And then there is a cliche singularity and Brett Ratner becomes self-aware.


What am I doing? My job!

– There’s a nuclear bomb that, according to Designated Science Guy, will go unstable and detonate in 5 months. That five months turns out to be about 90 days (according to TV-screen countdowns).

– Batman needs to recuperate because Bane beat him in a fistfight. Batman got into the fistfight because he was tricked, which is like Spiderman getting sneaked up on. He has the fistfight because he must have left his Bat-everything in his other Bat-pants. He uses no strategy or implements whatsoever against topless, breathing-impaired Bane, but maybe there was a reason and I missed it because I zoned out during this part so hard.

– Batman recuperates in a super death prison… somewhere… deserty. Somebody is running it for some purpose and feeding this prisoners a lot of protein. Also it gets electricity and satellite TV. Also a heueueueuuge amount of backstory gets delivered at this place, about two hours into the movie, plus a Liam Neeson cameo and Christian Bale re-enacting every platformer video game.

– Bruce Wayne climbs out of super death prison and there’s no guard or nanny-cam at the top. If there was ever a time for a nanny-cam, it is when you have Batman in super death prison.

– Bane’s regime forces the condemned to walk across a frozen bay. Nobody gets on their bellies and does the walrus. I woulda got on my belly and done the walrus.

– I’m not going to get into how crazy cold it would have to be for Gotham’s body of water to freeze and how in the non-bay scenes it looks like September, but that is a thing.

– Wayne Enterprises has a code repository for its Bat-Heli-Harrier, and Bruce Wayne commits code to that respository, and his username is “Bruce Wayne.” Also, that is not a terribly active project, because nobody noticed for six months. Also, depending on whether you believe Bane has been in charge for 5 months or 90 days, Bruce Wayne may have committed that code before he knew the Bat-Heli-Harrier existed. WHOA.

– Did the mayor die? Did Bane? I assume so.


I’m the Bat Manuel

– Miranda has the most snerkable death scene since Queen Amidala died of ennui.

– The ensuing here-I-go-to-die chit-chat with Selina Kyle and Commissioner Gordon are the most snerkable here-I-go-to-die chit-chat since ever. There is a nuke about to detonate. If ever there were a time for meaningful glances and a removed mask, THAT TIME IS NOW.

– Former-Detective John Blake throws his badge in the bay. That seems… frowned upon. Also, that bay is frozen, so that seems… ineffective.

– Three minutes later, Commissioner Gordon asks Blake, “I can’t change your mind? About leaving the force?” Which is a pretty great example of the IS THIS CLEAR ENOUGH? dialogue in this movie.

– Speaking of, someone outs John Blake’s real name as “Robin.” First, OW MY NOSE. Second, NONE OF THE ROBINS IS ACTUALLY NAMED ROBIN. Third, IF THAT WERE YOUR REAL NAME WHY WOULD YOU PICK IT AS YOUR ALTER EGO NAME?

– There is one more OW MY NOSE and it is Alfred’s cathartic cafe scene. You have been set up to know exactly what this scene means, so it would have worked better like Monsters Inc to have Alfred look up, smile, and cut to black. BUT NO.


It got all sneefy in here all of a sudden

A-a-a-and spent.

If you like thoughtful heckling, you might also enjoy:

Splitting Hairs with Brave

Splitting Hairs with Brave published on

I’d have to be a total jerk to criticize Brave.

It’s fleet, entertaining, funny and charming. It’s eye-shatteringly beautiful, exquisitely animated and perfectly performed.

Its heart is in the right place. The slapstick is good-natured. It reestablishes bosoms and buns as comedy gold.

Even the pickiest of hair-splitters would merely be praising it with faint damns.

Yup.

Well.

That hair-splitter’s going to be me.


No hair puns please

Spoilers ahead.

From the advertising for Brave, I figured the movie was about a plucky heroine who runs away from home and inadvertently tangles with dark forces. Or maybe is called upon to defend her kingdom. Definitely something where she’s swording and arrowing it up in the black forest.

So I was a skosh surprised that Brave is a buddy movie about Merida and her mom.


I’m not even in the posters!

Also, weirdly, it’s her mom that has a literally transformative experience. It’s her mom that’s forced to see things from a new perspective. It’s her mom that has a change of heart as a result. Merida has a shallower arc, where she becomes sort of willing to make a sacrifice (but doesn’t have to) and remembers she really loves her mom. This latter part works and is the reason the story succeeds overall, but I still have beefs.

(Brother Bear (2003) is the other Disney animated feature where someone learns compassion after being turned into a bear. After a day at Disneyland, of [former] Bear Country and Country Bear Jamboree and Grizzly Peak, I am forced to conclude Walt Disney just really liked bears, and now it’s in the studio’s DNA.)

So. Beefs.

Stakes unclear. Merida’s external conflict is she doesn’t want to get married, and her mother wants her to for the good of the land. There are plenty of reasons for a fifteen-year-old not to be real jazzed about an arranged marriage, but while Merida complains it’s “not fair,” she doesn’t quite express what her problem is with it. Is it that she doesn’t want to be told what to do — especially not something as significant as marriage? Fair enough, but not quite expressed. Is it that she’s afraid of losing her small portion of freedom? It’s never stated that marriage would end this. Is it that she wants to fall in love on her own time? That’s the conclusion Merida’s mom, Queen Elinor, reaches, but since Merida never stated this as her beef, it’s not clear that they really came to understand each other — rather than Elinor just giving Merida what she wants.

And what happens if Merida refuses to marry any of her suitors? Ostensibly there will be war, but the clans as presented just sort of squabble in amusing and harmless ways. It’s difficult to imagine Merida’s actions provoking them either way: to get along or to wage bloody war. Merida’s mother tells her a story — one time, a brother went his own way out of pride, and it caused war — but it’s not clear how that relates directly to Merida’s situation.

It’s possible at least one of the clans in Brave should have been menacing instead of funny. It would have paralleled the four clans in Merida’s mum’s story and helped establish the stakes.

Too many helpers. Several times, Merida gets helped out of a dead end by Will-o’-the-wisps, a witch AND her three mischievous brothers. They’re all rad, but story-wise the wisps are plenty. The witch isn’t foreshadowed and disappears after playing her part. The brothers are highly entertaining but don’t contribute to main story (plus Merida doesn’t seem terribly alarmed that they’ve been turned into bears.) What these three do is solve Merida’s problems on the regular. Trying to escape castle with bear-form mom? Brothers. Can’t find witch’s cottage? Wisps. Can’t figure how to undo spell? Witch. Locked in a tower? Brothers. Even though Merida’s rock-climbing has been established! Oh well.


Thanks, brothers!

Another bear subplot. There’s a baddie bear named Mordu. He’s an artifact of Queen Eleanor’s story-within-a-story, but I’m not sure he’s necessary, except to motivate Merida’s dad to really, really, really hate bears. It’s not clear why this bear has been laying low for ten years, or why he decides to start roaming the countryside again just because Merida falls in his den. Mordu’s existence does culminate in a fight with bear-form Queen Elinor, which is violent and scary and should fill up /r/AskReddit “What childhood movie traumatized you the most?” threads fifteen years hence.


This one. This one did.

Red herrings. Queen Elinor gives Merida a necklace, which turns out to be valuable enough to buy the witch’s service. It never shows up again. There’s an enchanted Stonehenge-like-circle that frightens Merida’s horse, but aside from that and being a wisp hangout it demonstrates no magical properties. And! Merida’s horse Angus is established and compelling and then disappears after the first 30 minutes. Angus!

Thematic messiness. The last act oddly involves Merida wielding a sword to protect her bear-form mother from her father. Her father refuses to believe the bear is Queen Eleanor transformed, and that’s typical movie hard-headedness that I don’t really have a problem with (though I would have liked to have seen Merida try a little harder to convince him.) Having Merida physically fight her dad, however, who has always been loving and understanding before, just has an odd flavor to it. She could have just thrown herself in the path of dad’s sword, a la Pocahontas or Fox and the Hound. This would have supported the theme of personal sacrifice, not called upon Merida to suddenly be apt with a sword, and not weirded me out.


One awkward conversation later, things were fine again

My West Coast Heckling Partner and I bounced story ideas back and forth with the idea of, well, what would a Pixar fairy tale be? It should take tropes and put them on their ear! Some ideas:

– Let the princess start off as a TOTAL COWARD. (It’s called Brave, after all!) As a little girl, she was foolishly fearless, until she endangered her family by breaking the rules. Now she’s overcompensating by being waaaaay too cautious, even carrying around a little abacus to calculate risk before even eating breakfast. When a Big Bad attacks her kingdom, she hides! She emerges to find her kingdom turned to stone/ice/bears/sleep. Now she’s the only one left! Can she use her math skills to undo the Big Bad’s spell before her kingdom shatters/melts/hibernates/is eaten by wolves? Will she learn to be BRAVE?

– Show a wish-granting antagonist (who in normal fairy tales is forever demonstrating to be careful what you wish for) as having good intentions — but just being overly helpful. This troll/fairy/witch might feel hurt and unloved when no one seems to want her spells. You said you wanted it never to rain again! WHY ARE YOU SO MAD AT ME?


I JUST WANT TO BE LOVED.

I had the idea to write up the story in this heckle, but then I think we got onto something and I think I’m just going to what we came up with as a standalone.

So.

You got that to look forward to.

A-a-a-a-and spent.

If you like thoughtful heckling, you might also enjoy:

John Carter of Mess

John Carter of Mess published on 2 Comments on John Carter of Mess

Disney’s John Carter brought me out of heckling retirement.


Too many Tharks on the dance floor

John Carter (not a princess, not of Mars) is a convoluted mess, but to my tastes a more palatable mess than, say, Avatar. It saves the cat and passes the Bechdel test. It has funnier bits, and its story failings are less infuriating (f’rinstance, John Carter doesn’t instantly tame a superbird and earn back everybody’s trust in the third act just ‘cos he is WAY AWESOMEST!!1one!)


Although he *can* spontaneously fly things

Also Stanton didn’t put boobs on the lady Tharks, and for that I am eternally grateful.

But it is because some morsels are so tasty that the gristle of confusion sticks my craw. It’s easy to criticize a hundred-year-old story chopped into a Disney script and puréed in the editing room. And that’s why I’m doing it.


They’re having an ab contest and everyone is winning

Spoilers abound.

PROBLEMS:

  • Too many baddies. You got superpowered, shapeshifting, laser-beam-using Therns, chief among whom is Matai Shang (Mark Strong), who is sort of aloof but sort of not, and sort of meddling but sort of not. Then you got Sab Than (Dominic West), who rules a moving city that destroys other cities. We don’t see Sab Than do anything more villainous than the usual sanitized sci-fi battling, and due to he is McNulty it was difficult for me to understand he was a baddie until he curled his lip a few times. Even so, he seemed like the kind of baddie who would see the light later, or rebel against being a pawn in Matai Shang’s plan, or have his own motivation beyond “conquer shizz.” Nope. Meathead.


    McNulty: Pants Optional

    Which brings us to…

  • Don’t know what the baddies want. There is a source of power called the “ninth ray.” Mark Strong Matai has this. The Princess of Mars, Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins), is hot on the trail of discovering it, because she is sciencey, which I enjoy. However, in order to prevent Dejah and the smarties from having this power, Matai… uh… gives it to McNulty Sab Than and the meatheads. Ostensibly this is because Matai’s people “have a plan for [Mars],” and the meatheads are easier to control.

    Also Matai wants Sab Than to marry the princess so… uh… Matai can kill the princess later… to keep the smarties from having the power Sab Than already has.


    I apologize for the live-action “Last Airbender” reminding I’m doing right now

    Did I mention Matai is a superpowered shapeshifter telepath? Who can murder and destroy with his blue laser beams? Also he is corporeal and has no qualm about acting directly (Guardian of the Universe he ain’t.)

    And what is his plan for Mars? Apparently it is to make the planet a wasteland full of meatheads. It’s hard to understand why he’s peeved with John Carter for messing up his perfect plan for… wasteland management.

    My stance is there’s no need for the Therns at all. As Matai himself puts it, he has “no dog in this fight.” In general, it is probably prudent to figure out what characters don’t care about stuff and take them out.

  • Don’t know what would happen if the baddies won. My John Carter heckling partner pointed this out. We never see, f’rinstance, the smoldering ruins of a city previously visited by Sab Than. This would be mighty handy for convincing the not-taking-sides John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) to take sides. Especially if he encountered a tableau of death that echoed the one he found in his own home on earth.

    Did I mention John Carter has a dead wife and kid? No? Funny that hasn’t come up yet. Brings us to…

  • Flashback backstory. This movie is about a meathead cavalryman who blunders onto and through Mars. He has zero diplomacy, zero reaction to baby Tharks, and he solves all his problems with jumping and stabbing. Which is fine. It is a perfectly valid arc for a hero to realize there is more to life than jumping and stabbing. (In the case of Conan the Barbarian, not even this is required.) His lone fatherly intuition — recognizing that one character must be another’s daughter — is 1) blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, and 2) not clearly derived from the fact he was once a father, more than, say, he is just a person who ever interacted with other people ever.


    But the compositing was Thark

    Sidebar: to be believable, a fantasy world needs kids, trash and laundry.

    Yet his previous life’s fridged wife and kid are literally shoehorned in, and I say “literally” because the only way this cut could exist was if a producer beat an editor over the head with a shoehorn. Surely somewhere in development a version of this movie existed where the wife and kid were introduced, enjoyed, and then fridged. Then John Carter would be a grieving family man (and this would not be a Disney movie). But all his choices are informed by “meathead” and not by “grieving family man,” so why bother?

    Now, ostensibly his wife and child were killed by… something… because he chose sides… or something… so that’s why he refuses to choose sides on Mars. This isn’t really explored (no “with great power comes great responsibility”) and doesn’t pay off (he doesn’t change his mind because he sees the consequences of indifference; he changes his mind because he has a supercrush on Princess Dejah. Which is fine.)

    It’s like if you took Gladiator, removed the family prologue but left in all the flashbacks. And then the people who killed Russell Crowe’s family had nothing to do with the rest of the movie. And then you took out the stuff with Richard Harris because it was too slow. And then Joaquin Phoenix was two characters. BLARG.


    Sh. I’m having a flashback.

  • Why was a Thern on earth? John Carter gets zapped to Mars because a Thern shows up (randomly) in a cave on earth (and John Carter kills him). For the superpowered, laser-beam-wielding, long-term-plotting Thern, isn’t earth a way tastier victual than wasteland Mars? Why was that one Thern there? Is he missed? Is there a consequence for his death? The Thern raises many boring, irrelevant questions like this. I would have preferred:
    • McNulty Sab Than has traveled to earth to kill John Carter — in an effort to thwart a prophecy. However he succeeds only in killing John Carter’s family (if one insists on leaving this bit in) and inadvertently opening the door for John Carter to get to Mars. All in one go, you get evil Sab Than, heroic John Carter and accessible Mars. Yeah, self-fulfilling-prophecy is a trope, but it works.
    • (Suggested by my heckling partner:) With her science dabbling, Princess Dejah opens the portal between earth and Mars. Perhaps she sussed that someone on earth might be able to help her fight Sab Than. Perhaps she gathered together the energy to transport just one person, and this is her only shot. Maybe she even aimed for a scholar and ended up with a meathead. In any event, it leaves out the Therns and secures her relationship to John Carter.

      Speaking of…

  • Not enough time with the romance. That is because there’s so much Thern and mythos and Mars religion to chug through, not much is left for actual plot-significant affection between John Carter and Princess Dejah. Even Neytiri got to teach Jake Sully how to shoot and ride and shizz. Here, Dejah reads him a wall, and then later she reads him a floor.


    “By gelfling hand or else by none…”

    Wasted opportunity! John Carter must be introduced to Martian food! Martian sanitation! Surely he will have wounds that must be lovingly tended, like Britta did Jeff’s on that Community episode I can’t Google ‘cos all I get is fanfic. Maybe Dejah might try to fight John Carter, to win him over by force. Even a little discussion about the aforementioned “with great power comes great responsibility” with a dash of “all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Any deep thought at all for John Carter to chew on.

    Sidebar: a fantasy script should not demand more than two made-up words per sentence.

So, yeah, reconstituting Edgar Rice Burroughs “A Princess of Mars” into a fully successful single sitting of movie would require ripping out major threads that would be missed, with hurt and confusion, by fans of the book. It would probably obviate the cool and fun and Thern-requiring narrative wrapper. It might require less Bryan Cranston, which is shocking to say aloud. And to me the movie that got made was not so bad as to warrant these desperate measures. But maybe future epic movies can take a leaf from this convoluted book and leave out the extra baddie who doesn’t care about things.

A-a-a-and spent.

The Last Airbender

The Last Airbender published on

How can a movie be both repetitive AND confusing?

Like Jeff Goldblum had a baby with DESPAIR
Kissing fun goodbye since 1999

One might suggest that M. Night Shyamalan is not experienced with action or heavy green-screen. I think Shyamalan had a BLOOD GRUDGE against his editor, and felt so much seething hideous death-hate that he was willing to scuttle a hundred-million-dollar movie based on a beloved property THAT ALREADY EXISTS IN CINEMATIC FORM. Why else would the following occur?

No establishing shots (BAM! You’re in tent in a village you’ve never seen before!)

No transition shots (BAM! Prince Zuko’s unconscious in the woods! BAM! He’s standing next to his uncle on a ship! Then to fill in the gap that A SINGLE SHOT OF PRINCE ZUKO WALKING would have helped, his uncle has to ask something like, “Where have you been the last four days? Are you the weird dude in a blue suit who showed up over the last four days? No? Okay, I’ll take your word for it. I wasn’t really interested anyway, because I’m getting a foot massage.”)

We don't need no water let the next script pages burn
And it burns, burns, burns…

Almost all action scenes handled in a fluid master. You know what fluid masters are great for? NOT ACTION SCENES.

An entire two-minute dialogue scene (between Sokka and the northern water tribe princess) handled in a way-too-close two-shot. No cutting. Then go to another scene. Then come back to Sokka and the princess and they’re still in the same two-shot. HELP WE ARE STUCK IN THE TWO-SHOT!

Another two-minute scene handled with TWO shots (Whoa! Hold your horses, Kubrick!) — a way-too-close two-shot of Katara and Sokka and a REALLY WAY TOO FRICKIN CLOSE-UP of Aang. Like, from his eyebrows to his lips. I have never seen a shot like that in a Hollywood movie before. Maybe Shyamalan was trying to convey the nuanced emotion of Aang explaining “we should save more villages and stuff, and I bring this up because the audience will never see us actually doing the thing I am describing.” The editor seems to know how unbearable the freaky-close-up is to watch because he cuts to Katara and Sokka listening silently and just stays. And stays. The editor should not have murdered M. Night’s entire family or whatever he did to make M. Night SO FRICKIN MAD at him, that’s all I know.

And there’s more.

– The voice-over. Oh, God, the voice-over. The movie starts with a text crawl that then IS READ ALOUD to you. EVERY EPISODE of the show starts with the same short montage getting you up to speed. You don’t even have to storyboard it! IT’S ALREADY DONE.

*loud sigh*
But if I didn’t have voice-over I’d hardly be in the movie at all

– There’s a scene where Aang and Katara are practicing their water-bending tai chi moves by a creek. You’re supposed to get that Aang is not as good as Katara. However, THERE IS NO WATER BENT. It’s like this shot just never made it to the effects artists! I didn’t have a problem with the 3/4 of the movie that weren’t in 3D, but COME ON SHYAMALAN YOU DIDN’T EVEN WATCH THE FINAL CUT.

– Much has been rightly made of white actors being cast to depict characters of color. But when the white Sokka and Katara return to their tribe — where EVERYONE LOOKS INUIT except for them, you realize that only Sokka, Katara and their grandma are white, and these are also the only speaking parts in the tribe, and your chin falls on your chest. Whitewashing is one thing. Making WHITENESS A REQUIREMENT FOR BEING ALLOWED TO SPEAK is another. And that thing is SUPER RACIST.

– The “Last Airbender” cartoon is funny. Funny a lot. Like, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, season two. There are three attempts at funny in this movie. One is botched because the coverage is wrong (Katara screws up a water-bend and accidentally entraps Sokka in ice, and instead of cutting to reveal this we just paaaaaaan on over. Furthermore Sokka’s actor has apparently been informed not to squirm or try to escape [as his character would naturally do] because, I dunno, the digital ice around him would be harder to animate?). Another is Aang showing personality, which might be a useful thing to put in the first act instead of IN A FLASHBACK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CLIMAX. The third I don’t remember, but I’m pretty sure there was one. I guess. Somewhere.

Wheeeee!
Check out my capacity for joy!

Some nice things to say:

– The kids were good at the physical stuff. They were able to sell the bending movements, even if no one could sell lines like “we need to show them we believe our beliefs as strongly as they believe theirs!”

– Aasif Mandvi was pretty good, even when asked to stand on a ship, stare into space, and read lines like, “Say, Prince Zuko’s uncle Iroh, I sure am sorry various members of your family died hideously at intervals I will now describe to you.” He made it work, chewed a little scenery, had a little fun. I envision M. Night pulling him aside over the whole shoot being like, “Aasif, take this seriously. Less fun. I need less fun from you.” And him being like, “Sure, Night, whatever you say,” and then having fun anyway.

There’s more but I think I’m done for now.

Aaaaaaand spent enough.

Pineapple Express

Pineapple Express published on 1 Comment on Pineapple Express

Is the best non-Pixar comedy I’ve seen since Shawn of the Dead Shaun of the Dead.

There. I said it.

Go see it.

(Not just cos it’s got a bunch of NCSA alum on it.)

Dark Knight, now with criticizing!

Dark Knight, now with criticizing! published on 3 Comments on Dark Knight, now with criticizing!

I have seen it twice. I am full of knowledge. Also full of spoilers, so beware.

Batman 1
Black is the new black

We all know it is a great, great movie. We know it will beat Titanic. We know it is a crime drama on par with Heat. We know that the writing alone is so good that the movie could just have been shots of the pages and it still woulda broke $100 mill.

Still, I must heckle. For this movie has ONE FATAL FLAW. Perhaps it is a flaw that serves to exaggerate the greatness of the rest of the film, such as the preposterousness of Red Eye, or the creamy pink thing that tastes of fluoride that I just found floating in my coffee. Ewwww.

Perhaps. But this fatal flaw is, again, Rachel Dawes. The character is flouncy where she should be imposing, lisping like Drew Barrymore when she should be simmering like Kathleen Turner. Her connection to Harvey Dent is eventually what drives the entire third act, and yet that connection is utterly unexplored.

I don’t fault Maggie Gyllenhaal for this. I feel the wrongness of her moments in context of the rightness of everything else in this movie points to flawed directing. Plus there’s SherryBaby.

I propose the following small changes to the universe to make Dark Knight perfectly perfect:

  • Cast Rachel McAdams. No disparaging Maggie Gyllenhaal, but Rachel McAdams is a better fit, for a couple of reasons. She has the kind of extravagant beauty that would inspire the Joker to want to destroy it — just like Jared Leto’s in Fight Club. Thus the leering malice the Joker exhibits while handling Rachel Dawes’ face would make more sense.

    More importantly, Rachel McAdams exudes warmth. You could toast a bagel on her close-ups. If Harvey Dent asked her Rachel Dawes about marriage, you would feel her fear of hurting his feelings instead of Gyllenhaal’s mild annoyance. “Ugh! I don’t have an answer! Gawd!”

    Rachel McAdams
    If you need me I’ll be over here exuding warmth.

    Of course, my cure for world hunger is also to cast Rachel McAdams.

  • Some alone time for Rachel. Even just one shot, to illustrate the conflict she feels between her (ostensibly doomed) love for Bruce and her (actually doomed) love for Harvey. Looking at a picture of Harvey while at Bruce’s penthouse would be nice. Hell, Googling his daggum name would be a step in the right direction.
  • When Harvey gets in the armored car, direct Rachel to be upset for personal reasons. Rachel Dawes has been cool to a fault at this point — fearless before the Joker and already indifferent to one attempt on Harvey’s life! When Harvey chooses to become bait, NOW would be a good time to show a human emotion. Some waterworks. Some bargaining. “Please don’t go, Harvey, and I’ll marry you.” That kind of thing.

    At the very least Rachel would seem to take this caper as seriously as everyone else. By flouncing around and telling him it’s bad for the case, she at best seems a bit… medicated.

  • Dress her like a real attorney. “The Wire” would be a good point of reference here. The flouncy blouse and freaky high heels she wears to question Mr. Lau are unforgivable. You don’t even see the heels — but you see how they make her walk, like she’s wearing tiny trampolines. It’s so silly and undermines the gravity of the scene.

    batman-3.jpg
    This is more like it.

  • Stay on Harvey when Rachel dies. For the events that are about to follow, it makes MUCH more sense to show Harvey’s reaction rather than Rachel’s death. Harvey refers twice to having to lie to his loved one and listen to her die — that should be a moment we can refer to, too. Yeah, he’s lying on the floor in a pool of oil. Show it anyway.

    batman-4.jpg
    Dent’s sizzled good looks… Chiseled! I meant chiseled.

Oh, man, talking about this just reminds me of how good this movie is. How the Joker actually accomplishes more to take down the mob (taking half their funds) than Harvey Dent does. How absolutely every little plan backfires (even Rachel strategically picking Harvey over Bruce). How the more strategic a person is, the less able he is to meet his goals:

Batman/Bruce Wayne Chaotic Good, highly strategic Girlfriend dies, hope for Gotham (his #1 objective) dies
Joker Neutral Evil, little strategic Achieves all objectives (ferries don’t blow up, but that was a red herring)
Harvey Dent/Two Face Lawful Neutral, highly strategic, arcs to Chaotic Neutral, moderately strategic At first, achieves no objectives (no criminals face justice); then achieves all objectives (confronts enemies, leaves outcome to coin-flip, executes outcome)
Jim Gordon Lawful Good Totally, totally impotent, except when he does something illegal (fake his own death)

batman-5.jpg
Why so Sirius? OMG, I’m sorry I had to…

(Apparently the Complete Scoundrel says Batman is “Lawful Good.” NO. Superman is lawful good. Batman is, definitively, Neutral Good.)

The dog metaphor is completely out of control. Apt that Batman annihilates in hand-to-hand combat, subduing a whole armed SWAT team, but he has no defense against Rottweilers, because there is no strategy to a dog attack. Joker compares himself to a dog to hangs his head out a car window. You could even look at Joker’s gasoline-flinging as a kind of territorial marking.

Oh — and is Harvey Dent dead? I submit that his surviving a fall from that height is double-foreshadowed — Maroni comments that a similar height isn’t enough to kill someone, and Batman himself survives the same fall!

One question — what happens after Rachel and Batman go out the window at the party? Does Joker’s posse just leave, figuring they’ve caused enough havoc? Did they keep looking for Harvey?

Why are Rachel and Harvey both immediately convinced their “friends” are coming for Rachel? Wouldn’t saving Harvey be a better strategic move for Gotham?

HEY! Didja notice that the weapon Joker uses to escape his prison cell (“I just want my phone call”) is a piece of broken glass, generated by his ass-beating from Batman? AH HA HA I LOVE THIS MOVIE. I wondered why Joker goes from so vague to so helpful — he starts volunteering information as soon as he’s got that piece of glass! MWA HA HA!

So Joker does have plans sometimes — they’re just short term. Like a dog rolling over for bacon. Mmm. Bacon.

joker3.jpg
BACON!

I definitely didn’t have these kind of ponderings after Titanic.

Dark Knight

Dark Knight published on

Very good. Very very good.

In fact, I don’t think I have anything to heckle, and you wouldn’t want spoiling anyway, and I just want to make fun of Batman Begins again.

(In other news, I just realized where I recognized Heroes’ Charlie Andrews from.)

Good ti-i-i-imes.

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