Thursday, July 31, 2008

Locksley - "All Over Again"

Imagine taking the guitar sounds of The Hives and dropping in an American lead singer with a Brooklyn, NY mindset and you'll have a little bit of an idea what Locksley sound like.

They've got a very retro sound going, with the pop sensibilities of old pop rock bands, and their simplistic straight-ahead rock reminds of of The Libertines, just without the burglary, fighting, drugs, or the horrendous PR disaster that is Pete Doherty.

Locksley aren't signed to any label, but they're re-releasing their 2007 debut Don't Make Me Wait on Fontana Records on September 9th with 2 bonus tracks. Check out their MySpace for more details. I've been enjoying the tracks on their player for the past 45 minutes or so, it's actually quite refreshing.

They've toured with the likes of OkGo, the Dandy Warhols, The Hives, Rooney, and even Hanson, leading to the interesting live cover video posted below of AC/DC's "It's a Long Way to the Top." Give them a listen, they're an interesting little trip.

Locksley - "All Over Again"

Pop History Repeating Its Terrible Self

Okay, so I'm a little ashamed of what I'm about to write, but considering some of the pop culture analysis on Paris Hilton in relation to Terrorism I did during one of my classes last quarter, I'll somehow make it through.

The biggest pop star in the world is not the A-Rod breaking, Guy Ritchie maybe-divorcing Madonna, she belongs in the 80s. It's not washed-up deadbeat mom Britney Spears, she left her dignity and tiny bit of singing talent in the 90s. However unfortunately, the queen of pop at the moment is mid-teen Miley Cyrus. Why are so many teen girl popstars emerging from Disney? Is nobody else trying to cash in on this market? First the Mousketeer likes of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, then Hilary Duff and Lindsay Lohan, and now Cyrus. They've even expanded into male pop stars in the model of former Mouseketeer Justin Timberlake with The Jonas Brothers.

There's a pretty big difference in the shift of the types of female pop stars. Madonna obviously didn't start with Disney, or even in bubblegum fodder (even her earliest material was sexually charged), she was edgy from the get-go. She got the way she was by defying female stereotypes of dealing with sexuality and embracing what she wanted and actually being rebellious. Female pop stars now adhere to the idea of manufactured rebellion; just look at the obvious transitions of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera into sex goddesses by the release of their 2nd albums. They just wore less clothing (look at the regression of music videos, especially in Aguilera's "Dirrty" and Spears' "I'm a Slave 4 U", there was nothing about taking pride in your sexuality and turning the idea of men being dominant on its head. Spears and Aguilera became idols for men to ogle and worship, Madonna did what she wanted when she wanted to because that's how she wanted to be.

Now, I'll admit to having listened to a few Miley Cyrus and Jonas Brothers songs, and I've seen some of the music videos on YouTube, and the stuff just bothers me in the way only heavily overproduced material does. Its catchy, there's no doubt about that, but its all flash and no substance.

There is one thing that occurred to me as I found out a little more about the situation of Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers. The two mega-stars are very religious, and Cyrus had a relationship with one of the brothers (I honestly don't care who, it'd be like Hoku dating one of the members of Hanson, you can't tell between any of them), but now they're broken up. Whatever that means, they're 15-year-old devout Christians, but then again so were both of the Spears sisters, and look how that turned out.

Here's where we start to retread our manufactured pop culture. Cyrus' lead hit off her new album is "7 Things," which details 7 things Miley hates about some mysterious ex-boyfriend, later rescinding the hatred in favor of 7 things she likes about her former flame. Now, its impossible to count the 7 things in the chorus because she never separates the ideas into 7 thoughts, and rambles on with commas for certain reasons, ultimately ending with hating/liking that he makes her love him.

Okay, stop for a second, we've got a breakup song between Miley Cyrus and one of the Jonas Brothers, both Disney stars...but that seems strangely familiar. Oh wait, this is pretty much exactly what happened between ex-Mouseketeers Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake around the release of his song "Cry Me A River." Two pop stars, one relationship, one breakup, one breakup song.

So why am I relating these two things? Well for one it allows me to bemoan the decline in music quality over the past six years. "Cry Me A River" is a Timbaland-produced piece of revenge-pop genius with great lyrics and singing from Timberlake (and god damn is that video amazing), while "7 Things" only has catchiness going for it, not danceability or improved re-listening (but honestly what song of hers would actually benefit from multiple listens?). I also see it as a shift towards trying to make meaningless childhood relationships more adult.

Now I really disagree with the conservative viewpoint that movies like Juno and Jaime Lynn Spears giving birth are exposing the possibility of pregnancy and the supposed "dangers" of adult life to an audience too young to view them, but that this kind of dumbed-down similarity emerging in a celebrity "relationship" at 15 instead of 20 just seems odd.

Cyrus' chief audience is even younger than her, what do they know about these kinds of relationships? With Cyrus and Jonas being even younger and more religious, the sex has essentially been driven out of the equation. With Spears and Timberlake there were lyrical allegations of cheating committed by Spears, as well as the question over how virginal she actually was. I don't think that question emerges for Cyrus, despite the photo scandals she's had, and it seems to me that in this bizarre progression of pop stars of younger ages mirroring older more complex relationships, the "adult" topic of sex is being completely left out and kids aren't understanding fully what comes along with something that complicated.

It's a stretch, I know, but when the lines started connecting between Cyrus/Jonas and Spears/Timberlake I just sort of let my mind wander on the topics, and these are my thoughts. Yeah, I've actually written a serious response to a ridiculous music trend, but this is the way the money is going, so we have to pay attention to it, at least to bemoan how terrible it is that people actually pay to listen to these CDs, get tickets to these concerts, pay for a ticket to the movie version of the concert, then buy the DVD of the filmed concert as well as the TV season DVDs. If you can name anything else in music making that kind of revenue, I'll start focusing on them.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Belated Happy Birthday, and a Happy 100th Post!

On July 27th Wildcat Wire officially turned 1 year old. I waited a little bit to post about it simply because I was pretty close to 100 posts on this blog as well, so now I'm giving myself a little pat on the back for both at the same time. I guess that means I won't post twice about them, which means I'll get in one extra useful post for anyone who reads this site.

I've got a few little birthday-related presents: the classic Beatles tune, the new birthday classic by Bright Eyes, and Patton Oswalt (the voice of Remy from Ratatouille) doing my favorite bit of his about celebrating birthdays.

The Beatles - Birthday
Bright Eyes - Happy Birthday To Me (Feb. 15th)
Patton Oswalt - You Are Allowed 20 Birthday Parties

For those of you statistically inclined, that my 100th post comes at the 1 year mark means I posted once every 3.65 days, or just under twice a week. I'm going to try and make it up to somewhere between 3 and 4 posts a week during the coming year, and hopefully during winter quarter I won't slack off like this year.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I Am a Vines Apologist

The garage rock revival between 2000 and 2002 is inevitably linked with The Invasion of The "The's" - meaning four bands that all garnered noteriety with albums released in a short span of about a year: The Hives' Veni Vidi Vicious, The Strokes' Is This It?, The White Stripes' White Blood Cells, and The Vines Highly Evolved. People that followed the bands know their respective trajectories.

The Strokes survived the media hype to their debut, even mocking it in the title, then were criticized horrifically (and a little harshly in my opinon) for their subsequent two records. Room on Fire was an absolutely fantastic album, and the line associated with it that stuck with me came from the RollingStone review of their third album First Impressions of Earth. Rob Sheffield wrote:

"Really, this could be the excessive, erratic second album Room On Fire wasn't; if you switched the order of the two albums, Room On Fire would undoubtedly get hailed as their return to form."

Despite my puzzlement at the reception to that album, The Strokes decided to experiment on their third album, and have since been on a hiatus as Albert Hammond Jr. pretends he can have a solo career.

The White Stripes pulled the masterpiece album Elephant out of a recording session that lasted something like two weeks on equipment that predated the Beatles, and then promptly abandoned garage rock in favor of Tennessee blues and other excesses. I still say Elephant is their best album by far, and I even prefer White Blood Cells to any of the stuff since 2003.

The Hives have indulged themselves in crazier production on songs like "Diabolic Scheme" off of Tyrannosaurus Hives. They moved away from straight ahead garage rock and even worked with The Neptunes and Timbaland in recording sessions for their third album.

The Vines, straight out of Australia, were different from the other three, and have had without a doubt the least successful career. However, I still really enjoy their music. Highly Evolved was a legitimately sweet album, but frontman Craig Nicholls got one too many Kurt Cobain comparisons from the British press. Sure he had the yelling and rambunctious, destructive stage presence down, and he did the soft-loud-soft song structure, but his music never really matched Nirvana. The Vines seemed much more akin to a garage rock Beach Boys, what with all the lush acoustic styling on songs like "Winning Days" and "Sun Child."

The band released their second album Winning Days to little acclaim and less popularity despite some really solid songs. The problem was that most of the tracks were rejects from the recording sessions of their debut album, because the cracks around Nicholls' psyche were already starting to show. During the tour for that album, their bassist left the band after Nicholls blew up in the middle of a concert. What followed was an extended hiatus for the band and a diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome for Nicholls. The band seemed finished with a career that showed promise and then burned up in the way most critics thought would've happened to The Strokes instead.

Nicholls was always full of energy and a simplistic rock songwriting skill. The videos the band made prove that, as he was always bouncing around to the simplest of rock chord progressions that he twisted and turned slightly to get as many songs as he could out of them. Some would call that repetitive, others would call it lazy; I saw it a genuine love for music and wanting to just keep writing songs.

Most people didn't pay attention when Nicholls recovered and reformed the band with the two remaining members, releasing Vision Valley with a simple, black and white cover and a return to simple straightforward songs, as well as some pretty nice videos.

The released their fourth album, Melodia, about two weeks ago, and I still enjoy their music. They are the only one out of the four big garage rock class of 2001 to still be doing pretty much what they were doing when they started out. I'm totally okay with that, because every now and again all I want are some simple rock riffs, and Craig Nicholls delivers those in spades. Sure he's not a complete genius, and certainly not the next Kurt Cobain, but I'm really glad he's healthy and back making music.

So, in honor of The Vines, I'm posting a Muxtape of some of my favorite Vines songs. Take a listen and see what the perennially fourth ranked band has to offer. Maybe you'll find 2:30 of enjoyment out of a single song, that'd be good enough for me.

The Essential Vines Muxtape

No Doubt: Katy Perry Makes Gay-Bashing Music


There are a lot of songs that have the possibility of being the "song of the summer" every year. All debates aside, the unfortunate song of the summer is "I Kissed a Girl" by Katy Perry. A former gospel singer-turned pop star, she's hit pop radio with Miley Cyrus type manufactured pop for the college crowd.

However, whereas most of these summer songs (barring "Crazy" - that was a piece of genius) are simply throwaway entertainment, Perry's music is actually culturally damaging. Perry has had two big hits with "I Kissed a Girl" and "UR So Gay" - both songs dealing with sexuality. The former is (obviously) about a girl that kisses another girl and "likes it," doesn't apologize for it, and wonders if her boyfriend will "mind it." The latter in an insult song, where Perry demoralizes a skinny white boyfriend who dresses effeminitely and tries really hard to be "indie."

The problems with these songs are pretty obvious. First off, they hammer home the already ingrained stereotype that girls kissing girls is compeltely okay, but guys even being slightly gay is completely shunned. Second, Perry uses the word "gay" in the exact way that makes it a complete insult, the very same usage the gay community has been fighting against for years. The line "you're so gay and you don't even like boys" makes the word an insult, and that usage in a mainstream song that has become a hit is frightening. It's the sexuality equivalent to saying "you're such a (n-word) and you aren't even black" or "you're such a (k-word) and you aren't even Jewish." They'd take offense to that, and so should the gay community. Third, the inculsion of irony in her songs is irrelevant. She doesn't sound like she's using the words or themes ironically at all, the inflection isn't there in her voice. She's a pop singer, not Radiohead.

UPDATE: I'm going to go ahead and clarify that analogy. Radiohead makes Hail To The Theif with a bunch of song titles and lyrics that seem like the dystopian future 1984, and pretty much everyone knows they're talking about how our situation now has become a lot like that. "Sit Down, Stand Up" is basically corporate subliminal messaging trying to control everyone's actions - only in song. However, we all understand that Radiohead uses these messages to show us how wrong they are and how wrong the world is. This isn't the case with Perry. There is no understanding that she is saying something deeper and make commentary, trying to say something about the usage of the word "gay." She simply uses it to mean "stupid" and tries to be funny, and the only people laughing are those who don't see the idiocy of it.

Some reviewers of her tracks have said that she's using the word allegorically, I guess somehow in the same way Stephen Colbert adopts a Republican character for his show and is really mocking Republican viewpoints and media figures, but I don't buy it.

There's no wink to Perry's performance, no suggestion that she may be kidding. It's very straightforward, easy-to-digest bubblegum pop, but with a terrible side effect of enforcing gay and lesbian stereotypes.

I'm honestly still surprised this music is still on the airwarves unchecked, and even more surprised someone in this day and age would conceive of a song so idiotic as "UR So Gay." I sincerely hope that the popularity of these songs don't lead her to making more music like this, because it's really just sad. It's offensive to the LGBT community, and it's really the first time I've been angry about something like this in a while. Perry's music isn't innocuous summer pop, it actually could do some harm.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Zack De La Rocha and the Unnecessary Moniker Hiding His Solo Debut

I love Rage Against the Machine. They are one of the few bands I can just put all of my hate, anger, passion, frustration, and any kind of negative energy into and feel completely better afterwards. However, while I agree with a ton of what lead singer Zack De La Rocha speaks, sings, and screams in their songs, I've always found him a little too political.

No offense, I just turn to music more for escapism, not to see more of the shitty world I'm trying to distract myself from. I know that's kind of the point, especially in "Wake Up" where De La Rocha literally screams the title at the listener over and over again, but it's just my preference in music. I pay attention to what's going on, and I do what I can; I just get turned off at very interspersed moments during their songs due to De La Rocha.

After years of delays, Zack De La Rocha has finally put out a solo effort. After the breakup of RATM, he recorded two albums worth of material with collaborators like ?uestlove, DJ Shadow, and Trent Reznor, which never saw the light of day. Now he returns with ex-Mars Volta (don't even get me started on this band, I just have never, ever liked anything they've ever done, just my personal preference) drummer Jon Theodore to become One Day As a Lion; they released a self-titled EP last week. The name is a reference to a photo of a piece of graffiti art featuring the phrase "it is better to live one day as a lion, than to live a thousand years as a lamb." Sounds like De La Rocha's back to his old tricks.

One Day As a Lion - Wild International

The EP sounds like a combination of De La Rocha's work for Rage and the organ parts of songs by Wolfmother, and I mean that in a completely complimentary way. De La Rocha plays keyboards on the EP, and it suits his delivery to just have the 'boards and Theodore's drums blasting away behind him.

De La Rocha has always been more about the message than the music. Hell, he was disappointed if his albums didn't inspire radical political change, leading to his departure from Rage. I just wonder whether he'll actually stick with this project, move onto a solo one, or fulfill the once-furiously growing rumors of a new RATM album.

I doubt Tom Morello & co. will settle down from they're touring to make another record, but for those hungry for a little new taste of what the old Rage used to do so wonderfully, One Day As a Lion is there to fill the fix for the time being.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Dark Knight: Not a Review, Just Reactions (Obvious Spoiler Alert)

The best thing that I can say about The Dark Knight is that I am still thinking about it. With most films there is a separation for me after a few hours, or possibly a night's sleep. There are some films that stay with you the next day, and those are good films. I haven't had I saw in a theatre stay with me for a week since Pan's Labyrinth, and that puts TDK in good company in my mind. I might go so far as to say that TDK is one of the three best films I've ever seen in a theatre. Most of my favorite films I've only ever gotten to see on DVD, but this was one of the most enthralling theatrical experiences I've ever had. That I am still currently thinking about the film, how it works, what I liked, why I liked the things I did, is a testament (at least in my mind) to the quality of the film. It was engaging enough to occupy my mind for this long.

In the days leading up to and since its release, what has most affected me sadly had almost nothing to do with the film at all. It was the pre-and-post release backlash against the film. I have a couple sort-of-friends that I knew would hate the film, not for distaste in the genre, characters, actors, director, or anything within the film, but because it was so widely enjoyed by so many people. They're the same sort of people who love a band when they're "indie" and starving, but turn their backs on them the minute they produce something other people want to listen to and commit the unforgivable sin of "being profitable." I've got an essay on backlash tickling the back of my brain, but I'll wait to bring out my disgust for the backlash machine at a later date.

I essentially have nothing but positive things to say about TDK. Many simple, straightforward questions have been asked about the film, either by reviewers or by the viewing public.

Is it the greatest comic book/super hero film of all time? Perhaps. Without a doubt it deserves placement in the Mt. Olympus that holds Spider-Man 2 and The Incredibles, and to me it rises to the top spot. Again, I have another post in my mind about how I would rank comic book movies, so my thoughts here are a bit reserved. I place TDK at the top because I feel that I'm watching a film that doesn't simply desire to be a great "comic book" film, but simply a great film. Spider-Man 2 gives us what we want for Peter Parker in his relationship with Mary Jane Watson, but the supreme theatricality of it all hold the film squarely within its genre. The Incredibles obliquely deals with commentary on the idea of heroes in a real world, but stays within the confines of a family film. They are both superb films, and I loved them both, but there was just something different about TDK, something real.

Until now, the first two Spider-Man films had been both the greatest in terms of box-office/pop cultural importance and comic book quality, but TDK has essentially changed that in one week of release. Back in 2002, Spider-Man changed everything. It was the first film to rake in over $100 million in one weekend, and became a cultural phenomenon. Two years later Spider-Man 2 became the yardstick with which all other super hero films were measured. Now in 2008, TDK has managed to loop another large audience together, with young and old, men and women all putting down their cash to see it in theatres. Will it make over $400 million like the original Spider-Man? Maybe not, but becoming the fastest film to reach $200 million while being the 2nd best reviewed wide release of the year (currently sitting at 95% over on RottenTomatoes) signifies its knocking off both Spidey films from the top of cultural importance and comic quality categories.

Is it deserving of its IMDB rating? The comparisons to The Godfather Part II? Lots of people have used the phase "transcend the genre" in reference to the film, and I would agree that TDK is not just a comic book film, but rather a crime drama. I think the Godfather comparisons are a little dramatic, this isn't a family drama with the historical thread with double-helix plots featuring Vito & Michael. No, the comparison I feel the most comfortable with is Heat, and to be honest I think TDK is a better, more satisfying film than Mann's crime epic. I think the Joker/Batman face-offs (especially in the interrogation room) serve as better payoffs than the one diner scene between De Niro and Pacino, but that's all conjecture. One thinks that the IMDB rating will come down eventually. Return of the King is the only other film to rocket to near the top of the IMDB top 250, and the Godfather hadn't really ever been significantly topped. I guess more people have problems with the films below the top spot that are now surpassed by TDK but with many more votes coming in (and undoubtedly a 1/10 voting campaign from the purveyors of backlash) the film will probably come to rest in the top 20 along with Return of the King and City of God as one of the most well-liked films of the decade. Comparisons aside, I really do believe that this was the first film in the super hero genre to break away from the conventions of its genre and truly embody others. TDH is a completely plausible crime drama that just happens to have its major hero in a batsuit and its major villain in clown makeup.

Which brings me to my next topic: the main hero. I've heard people say that this Batman film was missing Batman. I disagree, you see plenty of Batman, and he's the major fighter against the things that go bump in the night, that hasn't changed. What did was the inner conflict about his parents' death, that's what was missing. That was replaced by guilt Batman feels at those killed by him not succumbing to the Joker's demands of removing his mask. TDK really plays like an unevenly balanced ensemble piece. I still think that Batman is the main character, and the Joker is obviously the main villain, but what makes it so much more complicated are the ways in which the characters are all connected. Take a look:

Batman/Bruce Wayne - Joker - Harvey Dent/Two Face
Batman/Bruce Wayne - Lt./Commissioner James Gordon - Harvey Dent/Two Face
Batman/Bruce Wayne - Rachel Dawes - Harvey Dent/Two Face
Batman/Bruce Wayne - Alfred - Rachel Dawes
Batman/Bruce Wayne - Alfred - Lucius Fox

There are tons of different little triangles being mad amongst the players, but Batman, or Bruce, is always a part of it, thus I believe him to be the main, central character. However, the title is the first in the franchise without the word "Batman," and I think that highlights the ensemble feel of the film. Every character gets at least one moment, from Lucius' retort to a blackmailing employee to Bruce Wayne "trying to catch the light" in his Lamborghini.

And I haven't even mentioned the actors yet. It's taken lots of time for me to come to terms with Heath Ledger's death, and I think that finally with the release of this film it will start to fully fade from my mind. It's the kind of performance that actors dream of having, and without a doubt it will be his most remembered. At his death Ledger was that gay cowboy in Brokeback Mountain. His lasting image is forever changed, lost beneath a layer of white makeup and some red scars. I went into the theatre hoping for one last glimpse of the actor I had so admired, but Ledger was even too good for that. He fully and completely disappeared into the Joker, and anyone believing they saw any real bits of Ledger onscreen are dreaming. I don't think I've seen a villainous character so compelling since Hannibal Lecter. Nicholson's Joker was a mobster, played well in its adherence to the comics, but here Ledger delves so much deeper into the ideas of a villain.

The entire film really just go deeper. It isn't so much a true Batman film, and that will upset some people who really just want to see Batman straight out of his comic origins. But haven't we had enough different versions of the origins and emergences of Batmand and his rogue gallery that this fits in just as perfectly as another trade paperback?

I haven't even gotten into talking about Nolan, Bale, Eckhart, Oldman, the cinematography, IMAX scenes, or a number of other things, but I don't think I really have to. TDK is such an all-encompassing film that it lends itself to thought and discussion for hours, and to pick it apart down to the tiniest detail is like trying to analyze a square inch of a giant work of art like the Sistene Chapel (pardon the comparison, I don't think it's as culturally necessary as the Michelangelo classic fresco, but the size comparison works for me). Like I said, I'm still thinking about the film after a week, and I've got loads more that I could talk about, but I don't think its necessary to write it all here. I like that film necessitates discussion, and I've had multiple conversations over the course of the week with a huge range of people about different parts of it, and I always come away with a good feeling about the film. I'm not sure that I'd put it up with my favorite films of all time, and with only a week's distance I know its premature to talk about its quality, but I know I'd put it atop a list of comic movies and a list of super hero movies. I loved the film, and still haven't found anything to dissuade me from believing it to be great. It's not perfect; no film is, not even the classics, but in the end we cherish the blemishes that humanize the best and our favorite films; it gives them character.

I'll be continuing to talk about the film for the rest of the summer, probably the year. I loved the film, and that I keep talking about it and thinking about it only continues to reassure me that it really was as good as I thought it was when I saw it flicker past me for the first time onscreen.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I Am a Batman & Robin Apologist

Continuing with my little soundtrack nugget from the Watchmen trailer, I thought I'd kick off a new column with an apologist theme. My friend Krolik, who used to write Truth in a Bullet Fedora and has since moved on to bigger and better things, frequently uses the word to refer to a person, album, film, television show, or other piece of pop culture that one recognizes is not valuable but still cherishes anyways.

I feel that way about Joel Schumacher's gigantic flop Batman & Robin. Now, Batman is by far my favorite superhero, and even my favorite comic character ever (surpassing Calvin, Hobbes, and Jeremy from Zits). I've seen all the movies, I've read The Dark Knight Returns, The Long Halloween, and The Killing Joke, and I love all the Batman I can get. On a list of the movies from best to worst, this 1997 disaster is a distant last to any other Batman film. That being said, I'm still fascinated by it for a number of reasons, and will watch it whenever it is on television for as long as I can:

1. George Clooney is without a doubt in my mind the best Bruce Wayne the series has ever had. Why? Because he fucking is Bruce Wayne the playboy in real life. He may not have all the inner conflict that Wayne holds inside behind closed doors, but to watch Christian Bale pretend he was trying to catch a red light or pretend to drunkenly harass a party full of his parents old friends is to see how Clooney can just be natural and pull it off while looking as though he's not even trying.

Yes, Clooney was an awful Dark Knight, and those nipples are infamously terrible and are the focal point for the demise of the series in the late 90s, but don't ever try telling me there was no reason to cast George Clooney in that role.

2. Alicia Silverstone is the biggest celebrity to have grown up in my hometown in California, and there is a certain mythos associated with her to all of us. She babysat two of my classmates from middle school when they were infants, and I had teachers that had her in their classes. It's very comforting to me as a film lover to be able to pinpoint the beginning and end of an actress' career, especially one you have a phantom association with, and Alicia Silverstone is just such a star. Her career truly began with Clueless (I'm not counting The Crush or the Aerosmith videos), and it crashed and burned with her turn as Batgirl in this film. She wasn't just bad as Alfred's niece, she was colossally terrible, and her presence shifted the romantic focus away from Bruce Wayne's playboy status to seeing him try and set Robin up with Batgirl, which made absolutely no sense. Even still, I get a kick out of watching that motorcycle race scene through all the day-glo paint, which again makes absolutely no sense. No self respecting graffiti artist would ever do that, nor would any city planner design streets or buildings the way Schumacher's Gotham City is set up, but that's the beauty of this awful movie. It's a fantastic unintentional comedy.

3. Arnold Schwarzenegger was not meant to play serious dramatic roles. Hell, he wasn't meant to have roles with speaking parts. It's a little weird that he was cast considering the other actors in the running in Schumacher's mind: Anthony Hopkins, Patrick Stewart, and the not so odd Hulk Hogan and Sylvester Stallone. What failed in this movie wasn't really Schwarzenegger's acting so much as the writing of Mr. Freeze. He has so many terrible ice puns ("Chill out!" and "Ice to meet you!" are horrific examples) in this film I sometimes wonder whether or not he simply got turned into a punning version of the Riddler, which leads me to...

4. Batman & Robin is one of the worst scripts I've ever seen. It's chock-full of awful jokes, some even in rapid succession one after the other. It doesn't try to hide that Bruce Wayne is Batman, tells everything and forgets to actually show anything, has no compelling villains despite devoting tons of screen time to Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze. It kills Bane as a character by making him a meathead instead of the intelligent character he actually is, and just about all around ruins the entire Batman universe in the span of about 100 pages. How then, can I apologize for this abomination? Because of screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, that's how.

Goldsman is one of those screenwriters that you think you remember, but you really don't. You think you remember what he's done, but it takes a check on IMDB to really be sure. The single reason I remember Goldsman is because in my mind he is perhaps the best example of a Dr. Jeckyll/Mr. Hyde existing in screenwriting. Obviously Batman & Robin is his Mr. Hyde, but what of his Dr. Jekyll? Is it Batman Forever? The Da Vinci Code?I Am Legend?

No, Goldsman is in fact an Oscar winner for his screenplay A Beautiful Mind. That's right, the man who wrote the worst pun-laden comic book movie of all time also wrote John Nash's bioptic for Ron Howard.

Those four reasons are enough pop idiocy to fascinate me while watching this film, and that is why I am a Batman & Robin apologist. Thank you.

That Amazing Watchmen Trailer

Everyone who saw The Dark Knight over the weekend, and most of the losers that didn't, have seen the new trailer for Zak Snyder's film adaptation of Alan Moore's classic graphic novel Watchmen.

The trailer is edited fantastically, and in comparison to how crappy the trailer for Frank Miller's The Spirit looked, I'd say I dug this trailer just about as much as I did for the first Dark Knight trailer.

However, there's one part about it that doesn't sit quite right with me. The song that provides the trailer with that just-right tone of foreboding and awe is eerily familiar. It's a track by Smashing Pumpkins called "The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning", and in the days since the trailer's release it has jumped up to be SP's top selling song on iTunes, as well as entering the Top 20 downloads in all of iTunes. But why is it so familiar, you ask?

Smashing Pumpkins - "The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning"

I know exactly where this song is from, and I knew it from the second the track began to play around the trailer in the theatre while I was waiting for The Dark Knight. Even though I'm ashamed to know this, the song was originally on the soundtrack to undoubtedly the worst film in the Batman series, Batman and Robin.

I find it ironic that this particular song was chosen for the big trailer attached to the new Batman film, and some part of me thinks it's a bit of an in-joke. Even still, the song is awesome, it just conjures up bad memories of a complete failure of a movie.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

An Apology for Absence

Hey there. Over the past two months I've taken somewhat of a summer vacation from writing. I think the end of my freshman year at Northwestern combined with starting an internship at the local CBS news affiliate in San Francisco had made my life busy enough, so I just didn't have any time to put in writing here.

Now though, it's almost the 1 year anniversary of me starting this site, so I want to get back in the swing of things. I work every day, but I'll do my best to have posts up 3 times a week starting today. I've been thinking a lot about the recent music/movies, as well as following the lead up to the Olympics and the summer transfer season in European soccer.

Hopefully I'll get around to writing:
-my reactions to both WALL-E and The Dark Knight
-my ongoing thoughts about Watchmen and Alan Moore
-A new specialty column entitled "I Am A(n) ______ Apologist" in which I examine the merits of detestable items of media
-recaps of the new music to come out, especially Pitchfork's idiotic review of the debut album from Black Kids
-my thoughts on basketball, the men's 100m dash, swimming, gymnastics, and soccer at the Olympics, as well as my reaction to China as a host
-Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Ronaldhino, and more transfer rumors than you can shake a stick at in European club soccer

I'll get around to putting up a post sometime tomorrow. For now, it feels good just to be thinking about this stuff again.