March 24, 2016

Batman V Superman: Dawn of The Ayn Rand Bro Hero


After two years of hype, the terribly named Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice arrives finally in wide release this weekend. Warner Brothers needs this to be a monster hit badly, not just to kick off the DCU but because they need a hit movie…badly. The embargo on the critics was lifted late Tuesday and the response to the film has not been kind. Honestly, it’s no surprise to me. I’ve never been a Snyder fan. I think he’s always been style without any substance and I find his go-to themes troubling. Not only was Man of Steel depressing and dark, it fundamentally proved to me that Snyder did not understand Superman.

My prediction is that Batman V Superman will still have an okay opening weekend. Too many people have already bought tickets not to go. There’s plenty of people who just want to see $250 million dollars’ worth of explosions and mayhem. And a ton of neckbeards who, for some unknown reason, still fight the Marvel vs. DC fight. Plus, critical reviews only influence people who are on the fence. However, word of mouth will make a huge impact, the same as with Man of Steel. How large of impact will depend on whether the movie is as terrible as the critics say it is.

And I suspect it is.

Honestly, Zack Snyder’s take on the DCU makes so much more sense once I learned he wants to adapt Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. If he’s a fan of Rand’s Selfishness Objectivism, then of course he can’t understand Superman who exemplifies selflessness and compassion. Naturally, he sides with good capitalist Bruce Wayne over the Space Jesus. Think about it. Take what you know about Bruce Wayne and filter it through Ayn Rand ideas:

  • Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered by a “parasite” who wanted to take their wealth. 
  • After their death, Bruce refused the “sanction of the victim”.
  • With lots of hard work, Bruce made himself into Batman to fight the “parasites.”


March 16, 2016

Agent Carter: A Problem of Execution



Another season of Agent Carter has ended. Despite a much stronger beginning to this second television outing for Peggy Carter, my feelings aren’t really much different than they were before.

Peggy Carter is a great character. Hayley Atwell is simply extraordinary—if you haven’t watched her episode of Black Mirror, then you’re missing an incredible performance that manages to stand out as a small part of probably the smartest show I’ve seen in decades. Agent Carter should easily fill in more Marvel Cinematic Universe backstory with a fun sense of history, add further depth to Captain America, and provide the genesis for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (why we’ve had two whole season and the S.S.R. hasn’t become S.H.I.E.L.D. is beyond me) Mind you, all this while still giving the audience a strong, female character with real agency. But...the show doesn't quite manage that...so I like the idea of Agent Carter as a character—honestly, I’m stunned she’s not staring in a ton of other spinoff material with Jarvis as her sidekick—but the execution continually leaves an awfully lot to be desired.

My issue with season one come down to a couple of big things. I thought they overplayed the sexism angle to the point where the male characters became meathead caricatures. Not only does that cheapen Peggy’s strength but it ignores the background of the character as established by Captain America and the fact that this isn’t meant to take place in the our world, this takes place in a world with superheroes. A lot of the time, the sexism is doubly frustrating because it felt like it os being done to easily make Peggy appear stronger and to pad light episodes. As the audience, you repeatedly sit through 15 minutes of Peggy sneaking around playing detective, only to have to turn right around and sit through 15 more minutes of the boys’ club playing detective to find the exact same information. Literally, you, as the audience, get nothing else out of it.

Also, for a show that is supposedly feminist and presents us with a strong female character, everything about Agent Carter’s first season was about men. Peggy worked with men. Peggy reported to men. The main villain was a man. The main plot was about a man. Peggy’s sidekick was a man. Hell, even Peggy’s character focus was her grief over a man.

But mostly, the really disappointing thing about the first season?

It tends to be boring and terribly paced.

Unfortunately, that's a trend that continues through the second season. Everything, again, hangs on men (even Whitney Frost's power hangs on men—hell, she even needs a man to give her power a supercharge), but the pacing was probably the show's biggest problem, And, I think, ultimately, that was the ratings downfall. 

First, what was the main plot? The secret council that runs everything—yawn? Zero Matter—what exactly is it supposed to do again? The evil machinations of Whitney Frostwho never really manages to feel like a threat? Whic man will Peggy choose as a boyfriend? Well, that depends on the episode and, in some cases, which part of the episode. After the initial couple of episodes, I was mostly bored. Just plain bored. As a midseason replacement, Agent Carter is a show that really needs laser focus. That’s not to say that you can’t have character stuff going on, but the show needs a solid and clear plot that advances every episode. Season two felt mostly directionless to me. The addition of the two extra episodes didn’t help anything at all. The last four or so episodes were especially terrible. Things would finally seem like they were coming to a head and rolling to a big, exciting climax…only to fizzle out and lead into 20 minutes of aimless dialogue and a sudden refocus on something you didn’t remember or even really care about.

And none of it felt meaningful at all. It felt like, “Oh yeah…we have three more episodes to write…so, uh...”

Unfortunately, fighting through my boredom didn’t really get me anywhere. Nor did putting off watching the last episode for two weeks. The finale was spectacularly dreadful and not just because of the stupid cliffhanger. Again, for a show that’s supposedly about a strong woman doing strong woman things, the day cannot be saved until womanizer Howard Stark arrives to super science the show to an unsatisfying ending that leaves Whitney Frost in an asylum--because, hey, we all known how crazy these women can be. Am I right, fellas? Am I right?

Ugh.

March 4, 2016

Bodyslide


There was a badly photoshopped photo of Kiera Knightley as X-men's Cable going around a bit ago. And I think I had read that Stephen Lang really wants to play him on the big screen. I absolutely understand the appeal of changing a character’s sex and I’ve liked Stephen Lang since I first saw him in Michael Mann’s Crime Story years ago, but if it were me?

I'd cast Ron Perlman.

Go look at a picture of him scowl. Then imagine him in his gruffest voice saying, "Bodyslide."

March 3, 2016

My Suggestion For A Federal Jobs Program



Besides putting people to work repairing our woefully neglected infrastructure, here’s my suggestion for a federal jobs program:

In 1936, FDR signed into law the Rural Electrification Act. Prior to that act, if you didn’t live in the city, you couldn’t get electricity. Electrical companies didn’t want to foot the bill for the expense of wiring the rest of the county outside the cities. So the REA channeled funding through newly created electrical co-ops that still exists today. The REA put tons of people to work travelling in crews across the country running electrical wire and wiring homes, barns, and businesses.

The REA was later amended to include telephone service.

Today, the US trails the world in internet speed but leads the world in cost. Let’s modernize the REA to include internet service. Let’s funnel the federal money again through local co-ops and put tons of people to work running fiber optic cable and join the future. For a real world example of what that can mean, just in terms of service, look Chattanooga, Tennessee's publically-owned internet service. $58 dollars for a speed of 100 Mbps.

March 2, 2016

Let's Talk About Trump



Let’s talk about Donald Trump for a bit, okay? I keep reading articles about the GOP being paralyzed by his ever-growing lead in the primaries. Even as the DNC continues their own shell game to foist their corporate-sponsored candidate on us, they are also busy wringing their hands and hoping someone on the other side derails Trump.

So why is he winning?

Besides the fact that America actually really loves a bully, first thing is first. If anyone is responsible for Donald Trump’s commanding lead, it is the Republican Party. However you may feel about them, I think everyone sane would agree that they’ve willingly allowed themselves to be hijacked by a gang of crazy con artists who pander to extremists and nut-jobbers—as clearly evidenced by the other candidates in the field. But moreso even than that, Trump is the monster conjured after decades of the Republicans repeating their two favorite mantras: rich people are great and anything to do with government is bad.

Donald Trump fits those perfectly. He’s rich and never held government office before. He’s the candidate the GOP unknowingly spent decades convincing people they wanted.

Which brings us to the feather in Trump's cap…the media loves him. Absolutely fucking loves him. I’ve seen more articles about Trump than I have for any other candidate. Hell, I’ve probably seen more articles about Trump than I’ve seen articles written about anything else. And  can't even count how many people decry his candidacy yet spend most of their time online sharing articles about him. Trump is simply an endless source of clickbait for normally “legitimate” news sites. What this has done, however, is provide the richest candidate in the race with a ton of free media, saving him from having to pony up any of his own cash.

Here’s the other thing. And before I say it, I want to make something clear. I’m not a Trump supporter. I do not want to see him as president; the very last thing I think this country needs is a businessman in the White House who runs the country in a manner that benefits the already wealthy—that’s been our problem for waaaaay too long and that's why we're in the position we're in with most of us living paycheck-to-paycheck and afraid to ever get sick because we know we'd go broke. So…

Trump is smarter than you give him credit for.

Seriously.

Pretending he’s not smart and doesn’t know what he’s doing really doesn’t help anything. Honestly, he hasn't said much that is more egregious than anything any other Republican candidate has said. The only difference is what he says getting reported more and repeated endlessly. So trying to present him as merely some buffoon who lucked into wealth and rattles off a bunch of gobbledygook nonsense that only appeals to a bunch of ignorant racists accomplishes nothing other than adding fueled to his ever growing fire: it keeps the click-bait machine rolling, which gives him more free media without costing him a dime; it adds to the discontent he’s managed to use in his favor, “See they think you’re dumb and ignorant. I’ve got your back and together we’re gonna make America great again.” Because really that’s what this primary is about across the board.

Discontent.

The fact is that Donald Trump has had more business successes than failures. If you really look at his bankruptcy filings those were more about him knowing how to game the laws in his favor than anything being a “failure” or him being “incompetent.” It’s exactly the same as the wealthy people who makes 20 times what you do but avoid paying any taxes. The Trump we’re seeing in the news and on the campaign trail is the brand he crafted when he decided to become a TV personality. And it’s strategic. Very strategic. The man wrote a best-selling book on negotiating, for Christ’s sakes. Look, Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, has covered the “real” Trump in his blog in great detail. If you’ve not read it, go read it and you’ll understand why Trump does what he does.

And to me, it’s the real Trump who’s scary. The crafty businessman who knows what he’s doing. Not the ridiculous caricature with the dumb hair and the orange skin.
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