Eric Breitenbach
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Why Aesthetics Matter 

Looking Good Friends and Neighbors!

     Once again this summer we have a bounty of new movies to watch.  Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, Star Trek and a Wolverine movie are all among the geektastic films submitted for your approval.   Now I am certain that these films will all do well make quite a bit of money, however there are some discussions around the ol' camp fire that should be addressed. 

     Story is the most important part.  Of course it is.  Without a good story the rest falls apart.  When it comes to comic book movies, we have a wealth of great stories to tell.  Still one must tell the story in a unique way.  Each generation wants to put their own mark on it.  Tell theirversion.  This is good, but remember that the characters are part of the imagined community of "geekdom" and they belong to all of us.  

     In short, enough with the origin stories.   Re-imagining and re-booting is a cheap shortcut to telling a good story.   If you are to tell a Spiderman story, don't waste time re-hashing the same material.  Just re-cap the basics in the title sequence and get to your story.  The Incredible Hulkdid a fantastic job of this, not only eliminating the unneeded origin story act, but also establishing a re-boot (and eschewing that AngLee atrocity) with a subtle wave of the hand.  

     This brings me to the core subject at hand.  Aesthetics.  Why should it matter what a character looks like if the story is good?  Because that character's look ties in to the cultural consensus that ties us all together.  That imagined community I spoke of earlier - it is integral to the culture.  James Bond may have changed actors over the years, but the aesthetic of who he is remains the same.   Certainly you would never cast Danny DeVito in denim overalls as James Bond - because the community knows what James Bond looks like. 

     They say Electro wouldn't be scary in green spandex with yellow bolts on him.  I say bollox to that, he is scary because he can shoot lightning at you.  So you might say that it does not matter then, the actions make the monster not the costume.  This is true enough, but when making a film to cater to the masses, one should make the most accurate representation of the most classic and indicative version of any character.  Sure, there are hundreds of Green Lanterns, but the first film needs to be Hal Jordan because he is the quintesential GL.   

     Children who have never even seen Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street know what Jason and Freddy look like.  They know the stories because they have heard the tales passed down from others.  Sure, their ideas may vary but the core look is the same.  To change these things affects us deeply as it messes with our preconceived ideas.  Generally, we don't like that and it shows.  In Batman and Robin, Schumacher decided to pay homage to the 60's era Batman and include campy dialogue mixed with neo-campy aesthetics.  When looked upon as coming from the vein of the '66 Batman it makes some sense as to why there are such over-the-top visuals and dialogue (rubber bat lips to protect from Poison Ivy's kiss vs Bat-Shark Repellent).   However, the imagined community of Batman was used to the equally bizarre but more grounded Dark Knight featured in the Tim Burton movies. 

      So the question about the new Superman movie must be... Why does Superman need armor?  Why is electro blue?  Proponents of the new changes like to quote Cyclops from the first X-Men movie.  "What do you want, blue and gold spandex?" 

The answer is yes. 

     Why? Because that is what the X-Men wear.  Wolverine can't wear his gold and brown or blue suit because it would not make him realistic?  He is a comic book hero.  What is real is what appears in the comic.  That is the reality in which one making the movie must adhere to.  

To sum up:

The argument that these costumes are too unrealistic is invalid - reality is the world in which the comic is set. 

The argument that they are impossible to make is invalid - cosplayers all around the world with less budget than the lowliest film studios do it all the time. 

Fans and newcomers alike deserve to see the most widely accepted ... classic... look for all of the characters in any adaptation that is not specifically different.  The back story and imagery in our heads is as important as the new continutity the film will produce. 

That is our imagined community.  We all know Superman wears blue with red accents (even the 'underwear'), we know Galactus is not a space cloud... and we know what Iron Man's suit looks like... and hat's off to Marvel - they did it right. 

Others need take note. 


Be Excellent to Each Other,




This Week I've Been Mostly Watching

What Ho Friends and Neighbors!  It has been a great week for viewing around the T-Town.  Some of the what I have been watching is old, some new - All Awesome!  Let's dig in.

Oz The Great and Powerful

Let me start off by telling you how really good this film is.  It is not a remake of the MGM classic, it is a prequel tale set in the wonderful world of Oz.   The film starts out with the best title sequence I have seen in years.  A real nod to the style of cinema from days gone by. 

First and foremost, the black and white opening is not simply an homage to the original movie's format - but it even takes on the aspect ratio of 4:3 whilst the story is in Kansas.  For those of you thinking it was hack to have the Wizard come from Kansas in a twister to Oz... well that is pretty much verbatim from the 1939 movie.  Once the Wizard gets to Oz, the color comes in and the screen grows (like the eye opening experience that it is) to a full 16:9 format.  Very well done.

Now I am not going to spoil a bunch... but it involves the Wicked Witch of the West and Glenda the Good Witch and yeah the Wicked Witch of the East.  This was all tricky, as I will get into later, but well done considering the hurdles.  So we see the story of how the Western Witch became so wicked.  A damn sight better than the story given in that Broadway play too I might add...  The story makes sense with the follow-up.  You develop sympathy for the witch without having to denigrate the other characters and add metachlorions to make it all work. 

You must watch this film. 

Some great stuff to look for:  Dorothy’s mother might just be in this movie, so too might the Cowardly Lion.  Fans of the book will note the map describing the landscape is featured in Glenda’s place.  A really neat method of showing how the water melts witches is incorporated.    The Winkies, the Quadlings, China Girl, Poppies, Scarecrows, Tinkerers and the Wizard's most powerful device of all are all there.

Now for some actor props.  Fans of Bad Santa will rejoice as Tony Cox plays a munchkin... were it not for the G rating... still hilarious.  Additionally Zach Braff's characters have more charm than expected.  The doorman Bruce Campbell plays has so much proper prosthetics as to look like Frank Morgan's role- it is uncanny.  James Franco really does the 'ol Kansas boy justice.  he is the right blend of goof and serious.  Mila Kunis falls more into the role than she does out of it.  Her Margaret Hamilton channeling is broken most of the time, but as she develops more and more she becomes almost the same wicked witch. 

Finally, I have to mention the downsides of the movie.  There are some people who will call foul at how easily some things seem to be solved by magic and how others seem to take much more.  To that I say... have you watched the original?  Glenda could have at any point told Dorothy how to get home.  She waits... it seems magic often involves learning a lesson first...

Speaking of those slippers... where are they?  Oh, Raimi did not forget them.  Nor did he make Glenda the Witch of the South for accuracy to the book and the trademark striped socks of the WWotE were not lost in Wardrobe.  No, this is the greatest atrocity and ball dropping incident since Chris Nolan was discussed to do Batman in the Justice League.  Warner Brothers owns the MGM movie.  They have licensing issues with the imagery and some elements of the story that are not in the public domain story written by Baum.  Those Ruby Slippers... originally silver.  That means that Disney would have to pay a king's ransom to Warner in order to use these things.  Apparently Warner was not bright enough to see how enriching this new movie would dramatically increase sales of their property.  These omissions do not break the movie, but they would have greatly made even more people happy.   That was a bad move Warner... A bad move.

The Cabin in the Woods

So it has been a long time coming.  Too long.  Man I really needed to see this earlier.  I dropped that ball.  This is not simply an overdue review but an admission of my secret shame.  However, I have fixed the deficiency. 

This is just perfect.  The proper amount of horror and comedy.  The connection to the tropes, the use of satire.  I want sequels.  Hell, I want just to see whatever else they had.  Further stories in the same woods with the different options!   From the Hellraiser homage to the merman... well everything is better with a merman I think.  This is the sort of flick that really make you think and enjoy other films more. 

 The Bible

What a good series.  Dramatized and narrated.  Differing perspectives and not entirely missing the point that it is all from the perspective of the characters.  Well done.

 That is about all the time for today,

Be Excellent to Each Other.





Desperation and The Walking Dead - signs of a bad political climate?


Hello Friends and Neighbors, today we are talking about something truly frightening.  The Walking Dead and desperation.

 Do you watch The Walking Dead?  I am going to assume you do for this discussion... if you don't - do.

 As you know, Rick Grimes is the hero of this TV drama.  His journey from waking up in the hospital bed to leader of a band of survivors against a world of the living dead and often the living itself is harrowing.  One thing that has been relatively constant throughout this struggle is the desperation of his situation. 

 Every episode is ultimately about the desperate need for survival, but the desperation does not stop there.  Desperately seeking his family.  Desperately trying to hold the group together.  Desperately trying to hold his sanity together.  Rick Grimes is the most desperate character on TV, and that includes Alan Harper and the Trix Rabbit. 

 So why is this seemingly overdone tale of desperation so popular?  Generally the most superficial fans complain about a lack of nonstop action and zombie killing.  What makes The Walking Dead have such a following?  Simply put it is the reflection of us. 

 Horror has always been and always will be a reflection of our cultural anxieties put to images we can safely scare ourselves with and not feel bad.  This scaring helps us to deal with our issues.  So desperation... we are a desperate people.

 The economy is up and down, red states are pitted against blue, job prospects are not good.  This is the "real world" that we were warned about but somehow society has once again not learned the lesson.  College graduates are continually seeking degrees in fields which do not yield the jobs they desire.  Coupling this with generations of those who have been coddled into receiving praise and getting what they want, this "real world" becomes a nightmare.  The people are desperate for good paying jobs, desperate for the lifestyle they believe they are entitled to and most of all desperate for quick results. 

 So desperate people find catharsis in desperate situations on TV.  The Television climate entire has become schadenfreude.  From Survivor to the Jersey Shore, from Two Broke Girls to Honey Boo Boo- people want to see others fail and they want to feel better about their own life. 

 Economically we see a rise in desperation businesses.  People, often women, are targeted with get rich with little effort schemes such as selling Avon or other multilevel marketing scams.  The idea of making money and rising up seems like the American Dream, but these people are sold on scams that rarely if ever pan out - and the reason is desperation.  They are so tired of looking for their destined pot of gold that they are willing to try anything and often betray anybody to get it. 

 Sound familiar?

 Rick and the gang symbolize this entire situation as they grow more and more inhuman in their attempt to attain normalcy and some sense of stability in a desperately bleak world. 

 What is the solution?  I have my theories Friends and Neighbors, but I would rather open this up to you.  Think about it and get back to me.

 As always,

Be Excellent to Each Other!




We climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies. or The War of the Kraken.

Set and open course Friends and Neighbors.  This weekend was quite the astonishing event.  

Kelly's heroes all gathered together to celebrate another year older and deeper in debt... well maybe not.  Nevertheless we did celebrate the birthday of our hero Kelly with the three B's  Bullets, Bowling and Beers!

It was early in the morning, Captain Kelly came by with his python in one hand and a set of zombie critters in the other.  We were off.  Mrs. Bat and Tiberus J. Frogg joined us as we hit the breakfast stop.  Good hearty amounts of bacon and coffee were consumed at Tally's.  Then, as luck would have it, our hero's lady friend Dame Lynda arrived to give the birthday boy a right proper kiss of good luck.  We were off to shoot some squirrel and bunny!

The range was full of marksmen, but we did not let that discourage us as we proceeded to unload copious amounts of lead into the vile vermin who threatened us.  Kelly took out the squirrel with extreme prejudice and the Frogg destroyed his gopher.  I even dropped a squirrel myself.  However, the war with the bunny was not as kind to Kelly... they got away again. 

After defeating most of the varmits, we boarded the Batavan and headed down to the Dust Bowl, wherein we met up with some buddys from back in the day.  As we drank some pints of ale and dropped strikes on those pins, we dreamt of childhood friends and the dreams we had.  Mrs. Bat had cooked up some Car Bomb Cupcakes which were indeed fantastic.  We enjoyed that.

The pins did die a glorious death and it was off to Fassler Hall for another round.  A nice batch of pretzels before trotting down to Joe Momma's for some pizza goodness.  Lo and Behold Dame Lynda returned and shortly thereafter good Dr. O and Nurse Liz!  Even Tommy Mac graced us with his presence at this celebrated occasion.  We spent the dinner next to a site of terror for many of us, the bus from Phantasmagoria! 

After dinner we took a short respite before heading over to Winterfell.  There we watched gladiator fighting and listened to tales of glory days once more.  Kelly, sensing an opportunity to become even more powerful, released the Kraken on everyone.   This was dubbed the War of the Kraken and cheers were had as the Kraken was defeated.  Soon after the pit fights were through, we headed back to celebrate a the Valkyrie.  Good drinks were had and better tales were told.  Of course this meant that with all of the good drinks, Kelly was losing touch with his judgements...

Against my wisdom, we rallied at Caz's for a final round, wherein Kelly was handed what we can only presume was a roofie whiskey.  For after Kelly shot that one... things got weird. 

Kelly and the Frogg drank and sang to the ol Irish Rover... and then on the way to McDonalds it was BTO, Bad Company, Johnny Horton and Styx.  Oh my the guy at the drive thru was mystified at the serenade.  Then, Kelly announced... he thought that they were angels, much to his surprise.  The rest... a blur of yelling at the TV and something about a flogger...




The Strange Tale of TOTEN ZEIT

Hi there Friends and Neighbors.  Today's tale is a strange look at the enigmatic group known as TOTEN ZEIT

I am sure you have seen their videos on the web.  This group of intrepid explorers claim to be ready to combat the zombie menace that has been plaguing our world.  Well, I certainly wonder if they are sane or not... I mean really now, have you seen any zombies?  Then again that might mean that they are doing their job after all...

So I did some research, lo and behold these people are located in our own T-town.  What does TOTEN ZEIT mean?  In German it roughly translates into dead time, which is what most of their videos look like to me.  I digress.

Having watched several of these videos, I surmised that apparently this team of zombie hunters spends quite a bit of time driving around filming zombies.  However, even as the footage is creepy - no zombie ever appears on film.  I wonder if these people are simply trolling the community or if they are perhaps just simply delusional. 

Then I watched a bit closer.  Something really strange hit me.  In the background as I watched I began to see other things happening.  A group of individuals that were not quite right - yet always in the background.   The footage is a bit distorted but I could make out that these things in the background were not zombies but some sort of group that was watching the TOTEN ZEIT group.  Who could they be? 

I asked around on some forums, checked social media, only to find nothing.  Then I got a Facebook message from somebody named JG Melton.  He told me that I was asking dangerous questions and to stay away from this.  His boiler plate mentioned "Project Nightfall," whatever that is. 

I could find nothing about "Project Nightfall" nor JG Melton.   I am now quite interested.  Have I stumbled upon something bigger or is it all just a bunch of people driving around town, bored on a Saturday night?

Be Excellent to Each Other,