Monday, January 31, 2005

Quote of the day 

"The only distinction in biology more profound than 'male' vs. 'female' is 'alive' vs. 'dead'."
(from anthropologist Lionel Tiger, via John Derbyshire)

Sunday, January 30, 2005

God Bless 

Those brave purple Iraqis, risking their lives to vote. Give 'em the finger.

Headline of the day 

"Pope battles dove of peace" via Amy Welborn

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Quote of the Day 

"Heart attack victim goes unnoticed at Pentecostal revival" (headline from Lark News)

Let's Eat! 

TechCentralStation has a rather critical review of the new dietary guidelines. via Instapundit

Fair Game 

In what sense is it fair to criticize movies and TV shows? There seems to be a backlash against the tendency to second-guess every creative decision made by a producer or director. "Hey, if you don't like it, don't watch it. But don't sit there and whine about it." At first glance this seems reasonable. But the more I think about it the less I agree.

The critical distinction seems to be this: An inordinate number of the offerings we have to choose from are trading on equity that they have in some previous venture. Just off the top of my head James Bond, Star Trek and Star Wars, all by themselves are responsible for something like 40 movies. TheMovieBox.net lists about 255 movies for 2004, over 20% of which were readily identifiable as being a sequel, or based on a well known work of fiction, or a comic book character, or a TV show. 2005 will see the release of The Mask 2, King Kong, Elektra, Assault on Precinct 13, The Longest Yard, Sin City, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Wallace and Grommit, F4, The Honeymooners, Batman Begins, Star Wars ep.3, Bewitched, Harry Potter, and Pink Panther. All of these will assume that the viewers will be coming in with some sort of preconceived notion about what to expect. Indeed, they are banking on those preconceived notions being one of the most important factors in getting the viewers there in the first place.

It's one thing to say "Boy, Jude Law sure was miscast in 'Alfie'". It's another thing entirely to say "Boy, Jude Law sure was miscast in 'Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow'". 'Sky Captain' harkens back to the old movie serials, sure, but in a generic sort of way. Who am I to say that Jude Law was self-evidently the right or wrong choice for that role? Yes, Dennis Franz would've been self-evidently wrong for that role. And yes, you could argue that, say, Bruce Campbell might've been better. But beyond a certain point you're pickin' at the nits. Alfie, on the other hand, is a remake of a specific work, and the viewer has a not-unreasonable desire to see his/her expectations validated, or surpassed, or at least taken seriously. I'm willing to give a lot of slack to a work that tries to walk that thin line of making something new that is truly respectful of the source material even when they deviate from it ("Starbuck's a...a girl!").

So I apologize to no one for my opinions on, say, Star Trek. Roddenberry's dead and gone and Paramount's gotten hundreds of dollars from me over the years. As far as I'm concerned I'm as qualified as Berman or Pillar or Coto to talk about the way things should be.

Star Wars, on the other hand, is a trickier case. Lucas is alive and well (well he's alive) and all that stuff about equity and expectations is true but what's also true is that this is his baby. We're talking about a guy who micromanages every pixel of every movie. If Padme has purple buttons on her gown in scene 23 it's because he approved it. If JarJar steps in a pile of crap or C-3PO says "What a drag" it's because Lucas wanted it that way. That's why for every fan talking about their childhood being ruined, there are twenty more who just kind of shrug their shoulders and shuffle away. "He wants to do THAT? Well, okay. See ya."

So if Warner Brothers makes a Wonder Woman movie I'll go see it. But if they cast Sarah Michelle Gellar I get to complain. Loudly.

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