Friday, July 31, 2015

You Don't Have to Help Make Nicolas Cage Look Crazy

There is a new documentary about the Tim Burton Superman movie that never was. As you almost certainly know, Nicolas Cage was going to play Superman, which would have been awesome and probably Advanced, since the Advanced like to associate themselves with superheroes (and Super Bowls). But since it never happened, we've all been left to imagine what it would have been like, and of course the film we imagine is almost certainly better than the movie Burton would have made because we make all the creative choices. Cage says this:

The only thing I’ll say about that — because that is such a lighting rod hot topic and if I say anything at all it just seems to snowball — but I will say that I had great belief in that movie and in what Tim Burton’s vision was going to be for that movie. I would’ve loved to have seen it, but I feel that in many ways, it was sort of a win/win because of the power of the imagination. I think people can actually see the movie in their minds now and imagine it and in many ways that might resonate more deeply than the finished project.
Pretty reasonable, I'd say. But the writer who was reporting on this prefaced that comment with:
">[Cage] didn’t have time to be part of the film during production—but he’s now offered up some suitably nostalgic (and slightly crazy) comments on the project.
I guess it's not big deal, but Cage does actually slightly crazy stuff, so why do people feel the need to shoehorn everything he does into the Crazy Nic Cage narrative? He and Billy Corgan should hang out at Disneyland sometime to commiserate, and maybe collaborate on a song called "What the Fuck Do You Want from Me?"

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Time to Take Alice Cooper More Seriously?

Obviously Alice Cooper is amazing on a number of levels (Where Jocks and Rock Meet!), but I tend to forget how good some of his music is. This song popped up on one of my music players--machine learning is good--and it made me stop what I was doing and paying attention. Somehow I missed it in 1980, maybe because I was 9 and was more of a "Go to Hell" man, and I don't remember hearing it after I became aware of more music. Anyway, the one criticism I have is that it seems to be following in Gary Numan's footsteps a little too closely, but I don't know the history well enough to say for sure. And those are pretty weird footsteps for Alice Cooper to be following at that stage in his career. Anyway, I think it might be time to look a little more closely at Alice (and Gary Numan for that matter).

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Dystopian Futures

Last night I went to a reading at the Greenlight Bookstore, featuring three writers who have written about future dystopias with a focus on the degradation of language.(One of the authors, Jeffrey Rotter, is a friend and a brilliant writer.) It was a fascinating conversation, in part, because it was filled with contradictions. At one point one of the writers said he was troubled by the rise of smartphones, but then he struggled to remember a fact (the origin of the word dystopia) that would have helped clarify a point he was making. If he had his phone on him, he could have easily looked it up.

(Aside: I  almost looked it up myself, but didn't because I thought people wouldn't have approved. So in my Overtness, I let peer pressure stop me from learning something. Overtness is bad!)

There was talk of the permanence of books and the fragility of digitized information, but if we are limited to physical books we would never have access to older books (or at least it would be a lot more difficult). And the moderator also happened to read all three books on his smartphone. I would say it is very much to his credit to have admitted that!

The discussion also evolved from talking about the degradation of language to the evolution of it, with each author taking some pleasure making up their own words to express ideas that couldn't have been expressed without them.

What I came away thinking was that predicting the future is hard, but why is it that visions of the future are almost always negative? Is it simply an expression of the fear of the unknown? In the last century, life has actually gotten a lot better for most of the world and yet it is very easy to believe that the future will be worse than today and the seeds of that diminished world are visible today (and have arisen in the last decade). Perhaps it just because it is more fun to write about a dark future, and of course it probably leads to a more compelling narrative. What always seems to be the case is that while there is little hope for society, at the center of the story is a kind of redemption for a single person. It would be nice to read a book someday where the future is amazing, but the protagonist is his own dystopia. But, then again, that would just be the opposite of what we expect...

Monday, July 27, 2015

Is Donald Trump Advanced?

No. No he is not.

It's tempting to say that he is, but nothing he is doing right now is inconsistent with past behavior. More important, he panders based on whatever trends are happening at the time. I do admit that he does a good job of confusing or lying to reporters, and of course his hairstyle is almost a mullet, though askew I(see below). You might say he's an Advanced Irritant, but I don't think he'll sustain this level of irritation. He might have achieved troll status for the RNC and Lindsay Graham, but that's not very impressive.

So don't give in. Not Advanced.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Why Can't Anyone Review *This* Woody Allen Movie?

I saw Irrational Man last night and while it started out a bit clunky--stilted dialog, philosophy 101 stuff, a young woman mooning over an older man--it turned around nicely. It had some moments that have stuck with me, especially a scene where Joaquin Phoenix walks away from...I don't want to give it away. All in all, a pretty entertaining movie that made most people in the theater laugh and sometimes gasp. Again, I won't give it away.

As I often do after watching a movie I like, I read some reviews of Irrational Man to see what others were saying. NPR liked it, the New Yorker, too. But the majority of the critics as measured by Rotten Tomatoes thought it was a failure. When you actually go into the reviews, though, you find this:

"In his 60s stand-up act, Allen joked that he once cheated on a metaphysics exam by looking within the soul of the student sitting next to him; 50 years later he's still at it."

"It’s impossible to watch 'Irrational Man' and not be aware of Allen’s autobiography, an echo that extends beyond Jill and Abe’s May-December relationship. Allen indicts the ethical exceptionalism of Abe the Great Intellectual, but there’s little or no daylight between his protagonist and Woody the Great Artist."

"Once Abe latches onto his scheme, borrowing pieces of 'Crimes and Misdemeanors,' 'Match Point' and other, better Allen films, he regains his lust for life."

I shouldn't be surprised that critics reviewed the movie this way because that's they way they always talk about his movies. You have to mention May/December (is Phoenix really a December?), Allen's personal life (even when it has nothing to do with the movie at all), and earlier movies the reviewer liked better. They complain about Allen being obsessed with the same topics, and yet their reviews cover the same topics, even when they aren't at all relevant. There are many valid criticisms of this movie, but it's very hard to find them in negative reviews. Instead, you'll see a lot of petty, generic snark.

This movie isn't Annie Hall, we get it.