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Friday, January 02, 2009

Happy New Year!

A friend living in Qatar sent me the most beautiful New Year greeting I've received.
He wished me good health, happiness, prosperity--and safety in the new Year. I would like to forward these good thoughts to anyone reading this blog (I think there are at least two of you.)

I spent New Year's Eve at the local club which had excellent food, some nice Danish people who knew my Sheridan colleague Kaj Pindal, and a band that was both good and loud. When the loud upstaged the good (I think it was when they started playing disco) I went home, and spent the midnight hour celebrating with little Gizmo, who is in good health and happy in her new home.

On New Year's Day I had a friend over to visit (not the tall dark man of Scottish 'first foot' superstition, but a tall blond Canadian woman--oh well, nobody's perfect. And anyway, we are not in Scotland.)
I asked her which of the Academy screeners she wanted to see and she chose THE DARK KNIGHT, which I had not seen. (I talked her out of viewing the Bond picture, since I thought that the Batman film was supposed to be better.)

I was appalled by this movie. It is an overly loud, overly long, paranoid fantasy. Maybe it's just me, but I found it nearly unwatchable and if my friend had not been there, I would have turned it off after the requisite half-hour.
Is it just me? How did this film get such stellar reviews? There is a lot of noise, very little plot...It just goes on and on...and the claustrophobic feel it generates is not negated by the widescreen effects. Cameras go round and round until you are dizzy.
I felt that I was being forced to listen to someone raving endlessly about tinfoil hats.

The movie has one thing to recommend it--Heath Ledger's Joker is an outstanding portrayal of madness --but there is no motivation for any of the characters--they just are. Please don't tell me I had to read the comics or see the other movies. I read Batman comics as a kid and don't recognize much here. But let that pass.
I was puzzled to see Robin missing, but liked Michael Caine's Alfred. Maggie Gyllenhall and Aaron Eckhardt were simply colorless; I couldn't believe that this woman would make that man do those things.

And although I like Gary Oldman very much, I thought he was miscast and his hairdo , glasses, and moustache made me think of Ned Flanders from THE SIMPSONS. I kept expecting him to say "Hi-diddly-ho, neighbour!"

THE DARK KNIGHT and THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (a much better movie, though also too long) have subtexts that seem to represent two versions of the American Zeitgeist. (Spirit of the times, for those of you who don't want to follow the link.)
THE DARK KNIGHT, in my opinion, reflects the paranoia in the American political system that dates not from 9/11 as some think, but from the Red scares in the 1950s. It has not been as bad as in the Fifties (there is no blacklist--yet) but it's definitely not a country that I recognize--fear is the watchword! Franklin Roosevelt was wrong--we have to fear everything, not fear itself! The Enemy Is Out There! Which one? Take your pick. End of political rant.
BENJAMIN BUTTON has nothing in common with the original F. Scott Fitzgerald story than the title and the concept. Fitzgerald's story is: A man is born old in 1860 and lives backward in time and becomes a real nuisance to his descendants. The subtext: their parents' generation has nothing to say to the Lost Generation of the 1920s. (The story was written in 1922.)
BENJAMIN BUTTON the movie begins in 1918 and ends in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina for a reason. The movie version's subtext appears to be the decline and fall of the United States. Death and loss feature in every scene. The entire city is dying at the end of the movie. Things fall apart. The future cannot hold.
I liked the movie, but wonder at the self-pity that is also manifest in its subtext.

I wanted to be a film critic when I was younger, and I could never have held the job. But anyway, there's my two cents for two films. Don't get me started on THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX. I turned that one off after one hour's viewing, when the film still hadn't developed a plot....
May your New Year bring you good films as well as good news!

I'm having a small party on Saturday for those folks who are back in town or recovering from the holidays. No movies will be shown, unless I absolutely have to...

May 2009 be a good year for you all. Yes, both of you.



Brett W. McCoy said...

I have yet to see The Dark Knight also... I have the DVD but just haven't gotten around to seeing it. I am sure Heath Ledger is great as Joker, but Cesar Romero is who I always picture as the Joker.

-- Brett

deniseletter said...

Wow!You say Both of you.One of them is me? Sorry this is off topic but I want to tell a big news that my husband's Miami resident cousin buys the book (a rarity) and I receive it via other relative who has to took a flight to Caracas.Is the impossible to buy book you know what it is (see why you can't buy its almost impossible the blame is The frightening bureaucratic CADIVI ) But I had hope.Here its me smiling in plaza El Hatillo with the appreciated gift:

See my Gift!

Happy New Year 2009 Nancy!

Bill Perkins said...

Hi Nancy.
Happy New years ! I saw "Milk" new years eve, don't know if up for anything but I do hope Sean Penn receives a nomination for best actor, very good film.

Pete Emslie said...

Hi Nancy,

I'm glad to here that you've settled in to Oakville quite nicely over these last several months. I have to agree with you fully in regard to your take on "The Dark Knight". I hadn't seen "Batman Begins" and knew I was taking a bit of a chance seeing the second film first, however I don't think I would have gotten anything more out of it even if I had seen the first one.

Frankly, I hated "The Dark Knight" and found it went on interminably long. I'll admit I hadn't read any Batman comics since the 60's/early 70's, and even then it was mostly due to my fondness for the campy old TV show, corny as it may have been. But I do recall having a book compilation back then of the origin of Batman along with the other Bob Kane stories that introduced Robin and the various villains. I remember that overall there was a sense of fun about the stories, with villains so eccentric and bizarre it was hard not to smile while seeing how Batman and Robin somehow disrupted their evil plans.

I loved the old TV show, but I can understand why comic book fans might want an adaptation less silly. Personally I still feel that Tim Burton hit the right note in his first big screen "Batman" film, though the followups didn't satisfy nearly as much, I'm afraid, especially once Joel Schumacher had at it. But this latest incarnation, "The Dark Knight", while I suppose being true to the current approach to the character in today's mean-spirited comics, is completely missing that sense of FUN that the old comics had. Instead, this film was so dark and nasty that I just felt like getting up and leaving and asking for my money back. (In retrospect, I wish I had!)

Though I'll grant you that Heath Ledger gave a bravura performance, I fail to see the appeal of this Joker, as he's just a modern-day terrorist in smeared goth make-up. Personally, I miss Cesar Romero! Anyway, for what it's worth, apparently Leonard Maltin shares our opinion on "The Dark Knight", as you can read in his review.

Nancy said...

Hi Denise, I hope that you enjoy the book. Please write me if you have any questions and let me know if you liked it. Happy New Year!

Nancy said...

Hi Peter,
I loved the old TV show; the entire family used to watch it every week. My sister and I took it oh so seriously, while my parents snickered at the campy jokes and the celebrity cameos. It was fun. The Tim Burton BATMAN had me yawning so hard I actually dislocated my jaw. I didn't bother to see the others. I like your description of 'today's mean spirited comics'. Movies, too.

Nancy said...

Hi Bill,
I like Sean Penn very much as an actor, and I am sure he and Ledger will both be nominated.

Nancy said...

Hi Idragosani,
I liked Cesar Romero, but also liked Ledger's approach to this character. Nicholson's left me cold--it was just Nicholson playing Nicholson, in clown makeup. Have you seen the website that compares Laura Bush with Cesar Romero as the Joker? The resemblance is uncanny. Happy New Year to you!

Nancy said...

Hi Peter,
That link was great...though I preferred Leonard's writeup of the San Francisco Silent Film festival. I wish I could be there. I'd rather watch Laurel and Hardy or Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin or Harold Lloyd than any of these big budget blockbusters!

JPilot said...

I know you read my blog last summer when I came up with that Ned Flanders analogy.
Heath Ledger makes this movie watchable, I actually enjoyed his performance. Christian Bale's Cookie Monster growl as Batman was spoof worthy.
As for the darkness of comic book characters and stories, I tuned out of those both in illustrated novels from France, Belgium and the USA after the mid 80s because, frankly, none of them seemed to be created by artists who experienced anymore out of life than what was in their parent's basement.
I read those and I felt that they were created by people who had no idea what the outside world looked like beyond the stacks of comics they were reading and that's the only experience they ended up regurgitating as basis for their own creations. None of them had a sense of humor or the sense of knowing what contact with another human being was.
Can't wait for Betty and Veronica to get the Dark treatment. :)

David said...


I expect you would have been a very interesting film critic, but I'm glad you ended up as an animator.

Of course, now with a blog you can do both !

Happy New Year!


Nancy said...

Jean, that's an hilarious post. And you would have made a much better film critic than I, since you did come up with the Ned Flanders remark first...funny how no one else seems to have noticed it though...
Let's see, what other characters can be 'dark'? I nominate Casper the Friendly Ghost. After all, he's actually a little dead boy already, isn't he?

nickwatson said...

great blog! I really enjoy your write ups!

Floyd Norman said...

I'm with Pete. I hated "The Dark Knight" as well.

Great performance by Heath Ledger -- but that's about it.

Nancy said...

Thanks for the comments, y'all. As expected, Mr. Ledger was nominated for his Joker performance. Though it was a one-note character, he gave a very convincing portrayal of total insanity.