Saturday, March 08, 2008

Camera Obscura: War as Comedy in "Thunder Tropic'; Buffy Crosses Over

A new comedy from Ben Stiller aims satire at actors and warfare in "Tropic Thunder", out in late summer, but the photo out this week got all the buzz as it showed Robert Downey Jr playing a 'committed actor' who decides to dye his skin to play a black character.

The photo is here at and the movie set-up sounds very funny:

Downey plays one of a team of self-indulgent stars cast in the modern equivalent of Apocalypse Now. Stiller plays an action hero who has just adopted a baby from Asia but worries that ''all the good ones are gone.'' Black portrays a comedian known for performing multiple roles in a single film — his latest is called The Fatties: Fart 2. But when the film's director (Steve Coogan) and writer (Nick Nolte) get fed up with their prima donna cast, they drop them into the jungle to fend for themselves. The actors think they're doing some sort of full-immersion filmmaking, but the danger they're in is very real."

Also leaked from early screenings - Tom Cruise dons a fat suit to play a studio boss in the movie. And has it really taken some 29 years to lampoon "Apocalypse Now"??


In the ongoing 8th Season (in comic book form) of the TV show "Buffy The Vampire Slayer", the plucky vamp killer wakes up naked in bed next to a new girlfriend. Dating a Slayer has always been problematic and so when this issue of the comic "Wolves At The Gate" hit stores this week, even the NYTimes covered the story. Writer Drew Goddard says:

I guess the stakes are different in that we have more freedom in comics," said "Wolves" scribe Drew Goddard, who was a writer for "Buffy" on TV and more recently penned the movie "Cloverfield." "Even though we’ve still got a ways to go, we’ve made tremendous progress with regard to portrayals of human sexuality in pop culture over the last 10 years or so. So the stage just feels different now. I’m sure people can argue that Willow/Tara broke a lot of ground in that regard, but it’s not like we go into these things saying, ’How can we make a grand political statement here?’ We just try to do what feels right for the characters. The rest takes care of itself."

A new comic is also set to take up the TV series Angel where it left off, too, but I doubt we'll see him in a same sex romp. All the Whedon-Buffy-Angel news you can handle is here.


From iconic images to words now. The University Press of Kentucky has just released a new book of film history and the historical films of the 1930s called "Reconstructing American Historical Cinema" by J.E. Smyth. In the past, Hollywood's writers were seldom recognized as prime movers in cinema, that esteem being given to directors or producers instead. And over-arching film theory classes often invoke odd correlations between politics and filmmakers.

Smyth's book instead makes compelling arguments that it was the writers who retold American stories to American audiences in ways that forever shaped how we see ourselves and our myths. An excerpt from the book is here.


  1. Anonymous4:20 PM

    Hi, Leslie LaChance (once-Knox Slam) sent me your way because you might give me a shout out for my new book, Let Them Eat MoonPie, a history of Slam in the Southeast. It's available from, and I wanted to email you directly, but I couldn't find an email link. So I decided to comment, and when I found the Buffy comic (which I collect) story, I knew where I had to post. You can reach me (the author) at slamguy at woh dot rr dot com.


  2. Actually, the new Joss approved Angel comic book has already's up to issue four now I think.

    Art isn't nearly as good as the Buffy book (you could barely recognize the identity of the character who shows up at the end of issue one).

  3. D'oh!! Thanks for the correction, Michael.

  4. To Anon -

    my email address is on my profile page. i'll send you an email as well!