Wherein unreasonably free time is dedicated to proving Jonah Hill is funnier than you.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Death of Superman

Why I Wanted to Read It: After feeling disrespected by last year's Braniac Attacks, Superman: Doomsday--an animated take on the "Death of Superman" comics from 1993 -- was refreshing. I started to believe the '93 story could also be similarly thrilling.

Why I'm Glad I Did: Having Infinite Crisis and World War III [1] less than a year apart soured me on the whole One-Threat-vs-the-world comic. The fights you want to see get restricted to only a couple panels, and often The Threat is made so powerful that you're just hoping whatever ploy the writers devise to wrap things isn't too cheap.[2]

"Death of Superman" has none of this, because it isn't a vs The World deal. The Threat (aka Doomsday) only fights the Justice League, an at the time inconsequential collection of superheroes and since J.M. DeMatteis wasn't writing this, we shouldn't care.

The rest of the story occurs over maybe a half-an-hour period. We can assume any other superhero who heard there was some monster tearing through the Justice League decided everything was okay once Superman was on the case. Except it wasn't, mostly because Superman is an unimaginative boor.

Why I Wish I Hadn't: Guess how many times Superman used his freezing breath against Doomsday in the comics. ZERO. It was the first thing cartoon-Superman tried in the DVD. Sure it failed, but it provided variety. All comic-Superman did was try heat vision and punching. The point was made that Doomsday was too "agile" to be flown away, but how is failing to do that a couple times a worse idea than hitting Doomsday with trees? Do you have any idea how boring that is to read?[3]

Finally, why-oh-why did Bloodwynd/Martian Manhunter "teleport" away? If I know my friend is just as good a fighter as I[4] and when we team up against a bully that bully dusts us, how is retreat a good strategy?[5]

Why I'm Ambivalent: Killing Superman was a risky move, even considering that superhero comics had been killing and resurrecting characters for some time now ::cough::Jean Grey::cough::. At the same time, its success inspired a host of other "risky moves," like turning Green Lantern into a homicidal maniac, breaking Batman's back, and having Spider-Man turn out to be a clone. Some of those were great reads -- I actually enjoyed the Clone Saga -- but most were inconsequential. Does it matter for current continuity that any of them happened? Not really. You can't say that about 80s-era gimmicks like the death of Jason Todd, Barry Allen's sacrifice in Crisis, or Spider-Man gaining cosmic powers.


Okay, maybe you can about that last one.

[1]& Zero Hour & Amazons Attack & Day of Vengance & Our Worlds at War & Graduation Day &...
[2]Justice League's 4th Season Finale is one of the best examples of a cheap but thrilling trick. World War Hulk may just redeem itself yet, but I doubt it.
[3][Joke about how boring this entry is to read]
[4]I can go on and on about this, but it's done much better here, there, and in this.
[5]Phil Morris-Manhunter better make up for this in the 'Smallville' premiere...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Non-Revolution Sparked by St Elmo's Fire[1]

Box Office Mojo's list of the top "Twentysomething" movies displays something curious: the top two movies -- St Elmo's Fire and About Last Night...-- are from the mid-80s. Mind you, these are unadjusted grosses; those two sold twice as many tickets as the nearest competitor: 1994's Reality Bytes. According to this list, there wasn't anything approaching a hit between 1994 and 2004's Garden State. What happened?

Caveat#1: Some of the movies on the list did well outside of theaters, and/or built up cult followings. The fact that Clerks and Before Sunrise both received sequels is testament to this.

Caveat#2: The list is incomplete. A distinction should be made between movies about people who happen-to-be-in-their-twenties and movies about coming to terms with adulthood, but even that narrower definition certainly applies to more than 29 films over the past 27 years. Knocked Up immediately comes to mind, and it's sold more tickets than St Elmo's Fire and About Last Night combined.

The notion that Demi Moore and Rob Lowe could carry two Twentysomething movies in consecutive years and not be followed by copycats seems inexplicable. Even Clerks begat Telling You (not to mention Waiting).[2]

At the same time, I don't know if I can think about many Twentysomething movies that did well, Knocked Up and The Graduate aside. It's entirely possible that some St Elmo's-lite[3] happened and bombed, escaping the BoM editors' notice. The reason for all this still eludes me, though. What is it about post-college coming of age stories that are unappealing to Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials alike? Or is it the producers who shy away, aiming broader with high school comedies and midlife weepers? Could the fact that we still need to grow up even after we "graduate" be too depressing a concept to dramatize?

[1] Watching I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With put me in the mood to listen to "Rod Stewart Sings the American Songbook," of all things, but the first song that popped up was "Some Guys Have All the Luck," and I got in an eighties mood instead. Hence my viewing of St Elmo's Fire, which started out as a standard Ti'No article, but became this (in no small part because St Elmo's Fire must already have been covered by nostalgic bloggers ad wackseum). My notes on that never-to-be entry can be viewed [warning: cussin!] here.
[2]Why isn't there are quarter-life crisis keyword on IMDb? I tried combining keywords to get there, but no dice. I
did discover that slackers and yuppies can coexist.
[3]Acknowledging that St Elmo's Fire:The Big Chill::Summer:Ethan Frome

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Maybe there's Something to Swizz Flying Away on a Unicorn

Despite having engaged in multiple debates about The Verve Pipe's "The Freshmen" meaning, its Wikipedia entry still leaves me unsure. I also thought Kanye West's "Heard 'Em Say" was brilliant until I realized the lyrics:
Can I at least get a raise on a minimum wage?
And I know the government administered AIDS
were a conspiracy theory, rather than a commentary on the welfare system. My point is that I have a track record of egregiously misinterpreting lyrics. Cases in point:

Lil Wayne's verse to "Viva La White Girl" has been out around two months, and the original's been out for over a year, but I've only been listening to both for about a day and six months, respectively. Excuses, excuses, right? When WayneWeezy comes in with:
As the white stallion bucks
And kicks me in my nose
Until my face busts

I thought, "Oh, cute, he turned a song about Travis McCoy's white girl-fetish into a song about cocaine." Then McCoy's lyrics came in and I guess I really heard them for the first time:
We all lust/to the glamorous
White girl/so fine.
Going up /on the downtown line.
Take your razor/ break down my line.
Put your nose to the speaker/Now breathe in
Since I've been dismissive of both Kanye's "Crack Music" and USDA's "White Girl"[1] in the past, I'm ashamed this snuck past me when it's just the two concepts stuck together.

As much as I can blame the referentiality of rap for that misunderstanding, when it comes to Kanye's "Homecoming," I've got nobody to blame but myself. It's essentially a remix of a song he did with John Legend called "Home," and I've been listening to that one for over 3 years now.[2] The thing is, I had always heard the line:
My name is Windy [aka the Windy City] and I like to blow trees
My name is WENDY and I like to blow trees

so I thought it was about how Kanye misses some woman he knew before he hit it big.

What makes this all really sad is that Kanye spells it out:
If you don't know by now
I'm talking 'bout Chi-Town

but I just took to that to mean that Wendy lived in Chicago. The good part about knowing it's all about a city is that I'm a lot less disturbed by the knowledge he was taught to go downtown by some woman he met at 3.[3]

[1]Its Rick Ross/Fab/Weezy remix, however, is endlessly endearing, both because of and in spite of the triplicate Lindsay Lohan references.
[2]You'll note the song supposedly came out in '02. Look, I'm slow on the uptake. I'm probably missing Kanye tracks left and right because I pretty much rely on someone updating his discography Wikipedia entry to find new ones. Where's "Good Night"? "Young Folks"?
[3]How is Memoirs of a Geisha not universally accepted as creepy?