April 28, 2004

Oh, wait... ("Memoria" pt. II)

Oh, wait, they took crappy option #2. Blah.

Weepy, wailing, *weak* Lillian and the plot out of the *worst* of the badfics, implausible and overwrought, and not in the good-crack way. (Basically, there's a point where "Luthorian grand opera" turns into "Have you ever actually, you know, known other human beings?", and "I murdered my baby because my husband 'chips away at our other child's spirit'" is it.) Blah!

Everything else in this episode was sooooooo good, so why this? Why this way?

*plugs ears* It was post-partum depression. Post-partum depression. Not her normal reasoning. Not some kind of "sound decision" based on Lionel's parenting for which Lionel can be blamed.

You know, Millar and Gough, much as I love you, and much as this episode was extremely good in other ways, I'm never going to forgive you for the way you've handled the theme of mothers. More than an episode about Clark and Lex, this was an episode about Lara and Lillian (and Martha), and what do we learn? Mothers may mean well, but they're mostly good for whimpering on the sidelines while the manly men lay down the destinies. At best, they're only capable of murderously misguided destruction in the name of love. They have no other options.

Blah!

Posted by Sarah T. at 08:55 PM | Comments (0)

"Memoria"

*sobs*

Man, I was actually hoping for the less-aesthetically-successful option. I didn't want it to beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

*WAILS*

Posted by Sarah T. at 08:29 PM | Comments (0)

I'm really worried about "Memoria" tomorrow for two reasons:

(1) Little Lex with his big shocky eyes, getting cast as Cain--and obviously internalizing it, whether he deserves it or not--may be more than I can bear;

(2) Although I am completely unspoiled, I believe the writers could only be playing the woobie card with him so forcefully if they're planning to have him do something pretty damn horrific shortly.

One dissatisfaction: because Lionel has slowly lost most of his S1 nuance and become much closer to the unreasoning monster of badfic, his plots have lost their ability to cause shock or awe. I didn't feel a scrap of sympathy for Lionel in "Shattered" (not that one should have felt much--but since I had no sense he was genuinely conflicted about doing what he did to Lex, I felt none); I was more amused than anything else by his nearly-staged suicide in "Crisis"; and if it turns out that *he's* responsible for Julian's death and pinned it on Lex, well, it will be both unsurprising and not particularly revelatory of anything. I appreciate the verve Glover brings to the character, but somewhere the writers lost the message with Lionel and committed the fundamental error of making him no longer *interesting*, and I honestly don't see how that can be fixed.

Posted by Sarah T. at 04:04 AM | Comments (0)

April 25, 2004

Bruce Wayne: Murderer. This is a 250-page-plus trade paperback chronicling the events that cascade from the discovery of one of Bruce Wayne's ex-girlfriends murdered in Wayne Manor, threatening not only Wayne's destruction, but the overthrow of his entire crime-fighting organization. Now, while I'm fond of the animated Justice League Batman in my own way, I'm not exactly one of the Bat-obsessed folk. Vigilantes, the self-conscious "dark knights," tend to bore me; I'm more drawn to those struggling to stay on the side of right and respect for law, precisely because there's more struggle, more dynamism. (The self-righteousness of a Punisher makes Superman look like Peter Parker.) However, I picked up this volume for some research and for a little escapism in a rough week, and I wasn't disappointed.

This TPB is an easy entry point for the intelligent adult who hasn't read much DC. Except for dealing with a few of the secondary characters on the margins of the story, it's surprisingly easy to follow for someone, like me, who's never had a relationship with the comics canon. The art also manages to avoid the painful comics cliches which adult comics readers always have to strain to read past, and in some places is strikingly beautiful or evocative.

Because the plotline was spread over multiple titles, the story ends up being satisfyingly balanced, as the various members of the Batfamily pursue their own distinctive ways of investigating the story--as well as their own distinctive doubts--while Bruce is slowly ground down under the brutalities of prison and the media circus. Each character's flaws figure prominently into events, especially those of Batman himself. The featured original character could be a Mary Sue, but is redeemed by her own reactions to what happens, as well as her awkward placement with respect to the rest of Batman's people; her extraordinary admission into the inner sanctum is not a function of her superhuman wonderfulness, but rather a sign of the stresses on the organization that nearly tear it apart once Bruce is arrested. The mystery is genuinely difficult, despite its being exceptionally unlikely, from a meta-perspective, that Bruce could actually be guilty. The story works to a disturbing conclusion that seems foreordained once it comes, even if you know that the nature of the comics means matters can't rest there.

In short, taken as a sort of standalone Batman graphic novel, Bruce Wayne: Murderer?, draws you effectively into its world and keeps you engaged while you're there. It's definitely worth picking up by the adult who's no longer a comics geek per se, but knows that the medium can still support a good story.

Posted by Sarah T. at 07:04 PM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2004

"Crisis"/"Truth"

"Crisis" was a very frustrating episode for me--a textbook case of a set-up episode that lacked a clear self-contained plot of his own, so felt more like a succession of unrelated plot points than an actual episode. I also wish to God they'd give Martha her agency back. However, I cannot be too critical of an episode in which Clark rips Lex's shirt off.

"Truth," on the other hand, contained mere self-shirt-ripping by Lex, but I enjoyed it a good deal more. As I've been on board with Allison Mack since about the third episode, I don't feel the need to go on at great length about her performance, which was only what I expected, but she does deserve recognition for her ability to infuse vulnerability and charm into a character who could easily become shrill and unlikeable even without the writers' sabotaging her as they did last year. I do think the episode would have benefited if there had been one confession that was a revelation to the audience, not just the characters, but since the confessions did serve as lovely character work in many cases, I can live with that. Naturally, I was most pleased by the responses of senior and junior Luthor to Chloe's interrogation: Lex's agonized confession of something I think he had been at least denying to himself for some time was pitch-perfect, and Lionel's cheerful discussion of his sociopathy was both perfect counterpoint and funny as hell. I was also touched, however, by Pete's willingness to throw himself on the grenade by confessing his secret rather than Clark's--it was a Buffy moment from an ex-Buffy writer, I feel, and we got more a likeable and understandable Pete than we have in months from it. I was further pleased to see Clark's ability to forgive Chloe (while still making a reasoned assessment of her behavior) at the end of the episode. I was really hoping that his own fall from grace this summer would teach him more compassion for human frailty, and it seems to be working. While I find the new plan for Lana's summer as badly grounded as everyone else does, I take some small hope from the fact that it indicates that the writers realize that they still haven't sold her to the audience and need to retool her yet again. Perhaps she will come back from Paris having grown a soul, though, honestly, listening to her unblinkingly narcissistic assessment of the family who took her into their home as well as the people who rearrange their lives for her on a regular basis, I think the City of Lights will be sowing its seeds on stony ground.

"Memoria": I may have to build a pillow fort to hide in before watching this one. Just the trailer jabs at some personal vulnerabilities in a way that SV rarely has before. I hope to survive the trauma--it will help if Lana doesn't turn out the heroine of the piece.

Posted by Sarah T. at 03:01 AM | Comments (0)

More Rex Stout

Rex Stout, Too Many Clients: After a murder, Archie discovers the victim's love nook, and Wolfe is determined to parlay into a fee from *someone*. This one suffers from some dated social attitudes (including one incident of domestic violence that is startlingly ugly for Stout), but is still fairly funny. The solution doesn't quite come out of the hat it initially seems to.

Stout, Plot It Yourself: An association of writers and publishers hires Wolfe to catch someone masterminding a scheme of false plagiarism charges and sets off a string of murders. Like Prisoner's Base, this is the rare suspenseful Stout, where the body count can be anticipated but not prevented. A relatively large cast of secondary characters is well-drawn. Although the culprit is reasonably connected to the crime in the end, the motives for the underlying scheme are never really made clear.

Posted by Sarah T. at 02:48 AM | Comments (0)

April 12, 2004

"I don't want another murder in the case, and you were born to be murdered."

As a long-time devotee of the Brattle in Cambridge, I was embarrassed to find that I'd failed to discover an art/rep theater right in my neighborhood, the Film Forum, after a good three-quarters of a year living there. Chalk it up to my general dislike of Houston St., which feels to me like the least pedestrian-friendly street in Manhattan, or at least my neighborhood. Anyway, tonight I went to see The Third Man, because I always go to see that movie when it's on the big screen.

First, I must say that the Forum doesn't hold a candle to the Brattle in terms of price, amenities, or facilities, especially after the latter's renovation. I don't really expect to pay the same price for rep films that I do for first-run movies (one of the reason I've seen so many more rep films than first-run over the past several years has been economics!) and I certainly don't expect to pay $3.40 for a 22-oz. cup of Coke, which is steep even by first-run movie house standards, but if I do, then I expect facilities commensurate with the price. I've made many a joke about the Brattle being the middle-school auditorium of our youths preserved in amber, and some of the marginal seating there is pretty marginal, but that's better than being jammed into a narrow rectangle (I think it was eight seats across) between two big red pillars in front of a postage-stamp screen, with worn, old seats featuring not so much as a cupholder. When you consider that you can see a double-feature in the comfy new seats of the Brattle for about $8 (with the discount cards, another feature lacking at the Forum, more like $6.50), and actually get real butter on your popcorn--the Forum doesn't even offer the artificial kind, no lie, and I don't eat that stuff, but come on!--there's a clear winner here. The Forum strikes me as typical of the nasty New York institution that assumes you'll pay a good bit more for a good deal less and like it, just because it's in Manhattan. Well...no. (None of this means, however, that I'll never go back. The sad fact is, I'm a sucker for old movies, it's close, and The Battle of Algiers is playing til Thursday. I'll just kvetch when I do.)

Second, The Third Man. What can I say about this movie, except that it deserves to be at least as well-known as Casablanca, and you should all run out and rent the Criterion DVD release right now? It's gorgeous to look at, blackly witty in a way few films ever can be, and heart-breaking, and it has a cracking great chase sequence at its climax. Although it is not explicitly a political film, its topicality is as great as it's ever been, as a clueless American careens about a foreign city he doesn't understand and leaves nothing but wreckage in his wake. Rarely has a film had such a tremendous realization of place; the "bombed-about-a-bit" post-WWII Vienna is a character in its own right.

Most people who know of the film do because of Orson Welles's small role. Although his performance is memorable, the greatness of this film really rests on director Carol Reed's brilliant assimilation of German Expressionism into a style at turns lyrical and grotesque which is in the service of the story rather than the point in itself, and Joseph Cotten's full commitment to an increasingly unysmpathetic character. (I consider Cotten to be one of the most underrated actors of the last century.) The closing shot is one of the most memorable in film history, and it's only possible due to their conviction. This film ends in a way you can't possibly imagine a Hollywood film ending today, and that's a great pity.

Rent it. Rent it (or, if you must, go to the Forum), and you'll thank me. But do avoid the introduction by Peter Bogdanovich--not merely because he's the most annoying little butt-monkey in the world of film, but because he gives away the twist without so much as a warning.

Posted by Sarah T. at 06:34 AM | Comments (1)

April 03, 2004

"If I had legs, I'd kick your ass!"

Hellboy is the sort of movie where, if you find the lead character appealing, you'll put up with the thin, jerky plot and rushed character development, and if you don't, then you'll find the whole exercise pointless. However, you'd have to have a hard heart indeed not to grow fond of Ron Perlman's lovable mensch of a demon, with his grumbling dedication to the crummiest job in the world and his hopeless crush on a pretty girl. (Confidential to the Spike: he is a giant woobie and you will nub him. You must go!)

Is it just me, or was there some subplot about Myers's mysterious origins, powers, and/or plain old mental capabilities that was excised? I don't know the canon (from the trailer, I was calling him "boy-faced boy"), but there did seem to be quite a few hints dropped that were never picked up.

Posted by Sarah T. at 03:59 AM | Comments (1)