Saturday, November 29, 2008

Camera Obscura: Batman Dead?; Swedish Vampire Children; 4th Futurama Movie News

I do take much pleasure in writing about movies -- as this holiday-shortened week offers numerous Camera Obscura posts on this humble and lovable blog. Let's get rolling.

Batman is dead. Well, really Bruce Wayne is dead.

Or is he? Killed off in the comic book format this month by writer Grant Morrison, the fanboys all wonder if Bruce is indeed gone or just hiding out after he has learned his father is not dead after all.

Speaking of comic books, the upcoming movie version of the 80's cult hit "The Watchmen" truly looks promising. Also just released, heaps of action figures based on the characters from the comic (which are really characters based on old comic book characters) are ready for you. Dr. Manhattan is impressive, but discriminating fans all want the one for Rorschach.

Best Action Figure of 2008, however, goes to the brand new Barbie version of Tippi Hedren in "The Birds". Yes, all children love their Hitchcock action figures ... and if no one is making an all-Hitchcock-action-figure collection then they really should - Norman Bates is sort of obvious here, but me, I'd like the two action sets for "North By Northwest", which should be the Crop Duster and Field Playset and the Mount Rushmore Action Scene. (HT to Cinebeats for the news.)

A close second place Best Action Figure of '08 must go to the one of li'l backwards-spider-walking-down-the-stairs Regan from "The Exorcist".


Last weekend movie audiences were all in a frenzy for "Twilight", but a new vampire movie which has been raking in awards at festivals around the world is the upcoming Swedish-made vampire film called "Let The Right One In". The movie is getting amazingly strong reviews.

Like "Twilight", this tale is based on a best-selling novel and is a sort of love story, but mostly a rather poetic look at kids who are trapped in a world where safety seems to be a luxury. The lead character is 12-year-old Oskar, a frequent victim of bullies young and old. But one day a little girl named Eli moves into his neighborhood, and they become fast friends. She too is a 12-year-old ... except she has been 12 for some 200 years and she is a vampire. And she really, really gets angry if you try to hurt Oskar.


And since it is the gift-giving time of year and I've mentioned the dolls -- whoops!! action figures -- above, here is one more for the movie fan in your life -- a cookie jar design from the "Alien" movie series. Details here.

And finally, the 4th and final "Futurama" movie gets a release date and a title.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Camera Obscura: Beyonce as Etta James In 'Cadillac Records'

Just a quick mention here on the movie-filled Friday post (more movie news throughout the day because like you I am sorta busy today).

Recently hailed as one of the richest entertainers working today, singer Beyonce Knowles takes a big leap to play the legendary Etta James in the upcoming December release "Cadillac Records", which charts the real story of Chess Records in Chicago in the late 1950s and through the 1960s. The movie also has Mos Def as Chuck Berry, Jeffrey Wright as Muddy Waters and Adrien Brody as Leonard Chess.

Here's the trailer for the movie:

An extended clip from the movie with Etta/Beyonce in the recording studio. Chess had many of the great musicians of the day - from Benny Goodman to Chuck Berry. The movie is sure to be a somewhat formula Hollywood take on music and fame and corrupt business and morally dubious artists. Longtime TV director Darnell Martin wrote and directed this feature.

And let's be honest -- the blues-rich voice of Etta is not the silky style of Beyonce, but who else would bring in the crowds to the movie theaters?

Come back thru the day, I've got some more movie news you do not want to miss.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving In Space and On Earth

Times are a bit lean here at the Compound this fall, but not so lean to not be thankful as required by the upcoming National Holiday. I do my best to comply with such National policy.

If you live in the United States, you have much to be thankful for which the rest of the human folk on this planet still yearn to grasp for even a moment. Not to say that folks inside this nation live on unicorns and rainbows on the Eternal Happy Good Time Happy Show. Real suffering, real pain, is never as distant as we might imagine. But for the most part, just being an American puts us in a luxuriant lifestyle.

I do try and remind myself daily of how well off I am -- a tasty, hot cup of coffee in the morning, or at any time I wish to have it, is a fine and wonderful thing. An oddity of life is that sometimes not having that good cup of coffee can make me thankful for the times when I do have it. And really, I'm hardly into the massive list of good things in my life - I'm talking a beverage here. Still, for centuries past, humans had to travel half the world and back just to get one. So I try and remember that. Makes that coffee taste mighty fine.

It is easy indeed to consider our lives to be mired in hellish discontent. The trappings of our world bellow at each of us to Be or Do or Change or Act or Buy or Sell or Own or Dispose of thousands upon thousands of Somethings. And all those urges to fiddle around with our Life's Personal Settings are actually a good sign, something which shows us that we can perceive we are Here and we might do better if we were There.

Here is a small but significant item for which I am thankful on this pre-holiday day: I am glad I am not waiting for the Urine Recycler Machine to start working properly. It's the folks floating above the planet on the International Space Station waiting for that.

While I marvel still at the ISS and the efforts of human space travel, I would hate to have to be told things like:

An attempt by astronauts to repair a new water recycler designed to convert urine into drinkable water met with mixed results Sunday aboard the International Space Station.

"A separate sweat and wastewater processor has been working more or less as expected."

When it comes to my urine and waste processing turning into drinking water, "working more or less as expected" is really not so good. Even if I heard "Hey! It works great!" I would still eye that serving of drinking water with some concern.

They also have to maintain and ensure the operations of a $250 million dollar life support system. I have to maintain my own (as do you) but it does not cost that much. (Costs may rise quickly as the current recession continues into 2009.)

Here is my hope and plan for this Thanksgiving Day 2008 - to travel safely so I can share a good meal with some of my family and friends. I truly wish each of you could experience some of that shared goodness too.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Scandal as Media Growth Industry

"Scandal is our growth industry. ... scandals metastasize, ramify, self-replicate, clogging the cable news shows and the blogosphere and the bookstores. The titillating story that never ends, the pundit gabfest that never ceases, the gift that never stops giving ..."

That's from Mark Danner's Sunday essay in the NY Review of Books. He rips the tattered mythology of the Relentless, Idealistic Journalist and the Political Idealist as he tries to instead stitch together the various parts and players which make up (in his mind) The Monster among us.

However tenaciously the mythmakers of our society—and especially journalists, who are after all the stars of this idealized drama—cling to this happy scenario, recent history has not been kind to it. For it rests on an image of journalists and journalism that has become, to put it charitably, outdated. Journalists as the self-abnegating seekers after truth, defenders of society's conscience: had this happy description ever been true, even during Watergate, it now bears little resemblance to the scandal-mongering world of cable news shows and gabfests, for which scandal, the gaudier the better, provides the vast and complicated narratives that are the lifeblood of the twenty-four-hour news cycles. As the first Persian Gulf War begot CNN so did Monica Lewinsky's pouty lips beget Fox News."

Full essay here

I don't think I can buy into the idea that Scandal has devolved into Commercial Product due to failures in reporting or news, or their need to earn money, or loss of some guiding abilities. The public domain has always held Scandal in high regard - as both diverting entertainment and morality play. Bread and circuses have often kept Power safe. So said the 2nd century writer Juvenal in his "Satire X":

Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; or the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions -- everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses."

Perhaps the 'growth industry' arises most from the Jabbering Fear Fest on talk radio, from ex-felon G. Gordon Liddy to Rush Limbaugh to Michell Malkin. Manufacturing "outrage" is far more valuable than scandal, since outrage can exist with no evidence or cause other than a simple visceral dislike.