movies

Martha (or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)

batman_v_superman_posterI was listening to some recent episodes of Trentus Magnus Jabs Reality where he, Jon Wilson, and Rebecca Johnson took an incredibly thorough look at Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  What is important about this three-part episode (available here, but I will say that it’s a total of six hours, so make sure you have the time) is that all three of the hosts genuinely enjoy this movie and spend their time breaking it down to not only praise it, but also give it the nerdy hyper-analysis that I have come to expect and appreciate from pop culture podcasts.

What’s also important to note is that about an hour into the first episode, I turned it off, went to Target, bought the Ultimate Edition blu-ray (as well as my son’s school supplies), and came back home and watched it.  Furthermore, I watched it and I enjoyed it.

Prior to this, I had only seen BvS once, when it was originally released in the theater in March 2016, and my experience had been less than positive.  I had gone to a matinee showing on a Monday and was only one of a handful of people in the theater.  I walked out feeling very frustrated, a much different feeling than the happy, soaring feeling I had after watching Man of Steel in 2013.  While there were moments int he film I thought were genuinely awesome–every single moment involving Wonder Woman, for instance–something felt wrong.  And that’s because the movie had been ruined for me before I even bought my ticket that day.  I’m not talking about spoilers, mind you–I’m talking about how I had gone into the theater convinced that I was supposed to hate the movie.

When Man of Steel came out in 2013, I loved it but was then dismayed to find out that my opinion was relatively unpopular, especially among critics and a number of hardcore Superman fans.  A couple of months later, at San Diego Comic-Con, the sequel was announced at a DC panel and that sequel was revealed to be a Batman/Superman movie.  This was a full two-and-a-half years before the film would actually be released, and I’m pretty sure that DC, Warner Brothers, and Zack Snyder wanted to build on momentum they had from Man of Steel–and possibly take a shot at Marvel, who seemed to be announcing an entire universe’s worth of pictures every hour on the hour.  What the announcement did, however, was create a wind tunnel of complaining on the Internet.  Every bit of news about the movie–from Ben Affleck’s being cast as Batman to the first look at Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman costume to the reveal of the full title of the movie–was met with ridicule and derision.  Every picture became an obnoxious meme.  Every trailer was picked apart as an opportunity for “everyone” to declare it a terrible movie.  As a result, by the time it came out, a million fanboys had made up their minds and went to the theater just to feel smug that they were right about spending the prior two-and-a-half-years declaring it a failure.

Okay, I’m speculating and generalizing for the sake of making my point, so I may not be 100% accurate here, but what I can say accurately is that I went into the theater with all of that pissing and moaning running through my head.  I was, in a word, prejudiced against the film, so I was never going to actually be able to enjoy it.

Now, that makes me sound easily influenced or perhaps even weak, and I’ll cop to that.  But please also consider how powerful (and powerfully toxic) Internet Groupthink can be.  I should have been pumped to see two of my all-time favorite superheroes on a movie screen for the first time.  I should have been pumped to see the DC Universe, which I had more or less been reading about for 25 years, become more fleshed out than it had been in Man of Steel.  I should have been pumped to see Wonder Woman–a character that was long overdue for a movie–on screen.  And with the exception of that last one (I got very excited when Diana joined the Doomsday fight), I wasn’t.  Instead, I started picking the movie apart from the first frame:  why are the titles simple text instead of logo-tastic?  Why do we have to see the murder of the Waynes again didn’t we already see this in 10 other movies? Why is this movie so dark doesn’t Snyder know where the contrast button is?  Why is Lex Luthor acting like a loon instead of someone a little more collected?  Why is Ben Affleck mumbling every line?

After doing that for two-and-a-half hours and only getting excited for the appearance of Wonder Woman (and to a lesser extent everything that teased the Justice League movie), it’s no wonder I left the theater both frustrated and exhausted.

I had avoided buying the movie since it came out on home video.  It was a combination of factors, really–I had other things to spend my money on, I was buying all of the Marvel movies I still didn’t own, and I only buy movies I liked and I am not supposed to like the movie.  Then, to bring this back around to the beginning, I listened to Magnus and his panel, and in the middle of part one said to myself, “I  really should rewatch this.”  $14.99 at Target wasn’t too bad of a price and I put it in while I hung out on a day off.  Then, I finished listening to Magnus.

Listening to them, even if it was only for an hour before I watched the movie again, was a palate cleanser of sorts.  I was able to put it in and take a moment to consider what I hadn’t seen as well as re-evaluate what I had.  Plus, the Ultimate Edition’s additional 30 minutes flesh out the story in ways that serve the film way more than many “uncut” or “extended” versions of movies that are released on home video.  And while I suppose this comes off as my letting someone’s opinion influence me … again …, I feel like what happened was more like I was finally able to watch the movie on my own terms without 30 months of Internet screaming ringing in my head.

I don’t completely agree with every bit of praise they heap upon the movie and I still think that as a film, it is flawed.  For instance, I don’t see all of the subtlety and nuance that they point out in the episode; I think that Affleck’s “public Bruce Wayne” portrayal could have been a little more O’Bannion; I think that there are times where it’s too slavish to Frank Miller; I still think Snyder could use a lesson in how to use the brightness and contrast tools on his screen; and there were a number of musical cues that were TOO! ON! THE! MONEY! FOR! ME!  But I saw, in clearer view, the themes that Snyder was building both overtly and subtly (despite my previous sentence, there is subtlety in the film).  I thought Lex’s character arc was much better than I remember (even if Eisenberg did still annoy me at times).  I saw how Affleck portrayed Bruce/Batman as someone who was becoming so obsessed with holding onto what control he can that he actually was completely losing it.  I saw how on-the-nose Snyder was in criticizing our culture’s way of building up and tearing down its heroes.  I saw Wonder Woman as still being so freaking awesome.

And much more.  But really, in the very least, I can say that I spent three hours generally enjoying Batman v Superman and am now even more curious and perhaps even a little excited about what’s going to happen in Justice League.

 

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 75: Where Do You Go When the Record is Over?

Episode 75 Website CoverIn 1977, one of the biggest phenomenons of the decade was released, a movie that so encapsulated that moment in time that it’s been preserved for being culturally relevant.  That movie?  Saturday Night Fever.  I take a ride to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn 40 years ago to hang out with Tony Manero and his friends as they escape their directionless lives for the dance floor of their favorite disco.  I’ll talk about the movie, its place as one of the great post-adolescent films, and the multi-platinum-selling definitive disco soundtrack.

iTunes:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

Here’s a link to the New York Magazine article upon which Saturday Night Fever was based:  “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night”

And here are some of the clips I played in the episode (and some I didn’t) …

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In Country: Marvel Comics’ “The ‘Nam” — Episode 75

ic-75-website-coverIt’s our 75th episode and that means it’s time for another look at another movie about the Vietnam War.  This time around, I’m joined by fellow TTF podcaster Luke Jaconetti (Earth Destruction Directive) to talk about the 1982 Sylvester Stallone movie First Blood as well as its 1985 sequel, Rambo: First Blood Part II.  We talk about each movie’s plot and characters as well as the novel First Blood by David Morell, and then talk about the pop culture phenomenon that was Rambo in the mid-1980s.

CONTENT WARNING: THIS EPISODE CONTAINS EXPLICIT LANGUAGE.

Here are some extras for you (as featured in the episode):

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Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 69: Follow The Money

episode-69-website-coverIt’s Election Day and that means it’s time to talk politics … sort of! This episode, I’m joined by Rob Kelly (The Film and Water Podcast) to talk about the 1976 film All The President’s Men, which stars Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate investigation in the 1970s. We discuss the film as well as a little bit of its historical context and hold it up as one of the iconic movies of the 1970s.

iTunes:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

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Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 65: Cherry-Flavored Pez

Episode 65 Website CoverThirty years ago, Rob Reiner directed the seminal coming-of-age film Stand By Me. To celebrate its anniversary, Michael Bailey and I take a look at the film as well as the Stephen King novella “The Body,” upon which it’s based; as well as the music on its soundtrack. We also discuss why it’s an essential movie for anyone who grew up in the 1980s.

iTunes:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

Stand By Me Poster 2

After the cut are are some of the clips featured in the episode:

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Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 63: Truth Be Told

Episode 63 Website CoverIt’s time to go back to class as I sit down with Professor Alan (The Relatively Geeky Network) to discuss documentaries. We take a look at the genre as a whole, talking about what makes a good documentary and the mistakes that documentarians often make (from our opinions as viewers) as well as go in depth with a few of our own choices, including King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, Room 237, and This Film is Not Yet Rated. There are a number of films mentioned and several recommendations as well.

iTunes:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

For a solid list of documentaries that are well-known and critically acclaimed, here is the Wikipedia page for the Current TV network show …

50 Documentaries to See Before You Die

As a bonus, below are the trailers for the documentaries that Professor Alan and I discuss with a little detail as well as a list of the documentaries mentioned in the episode:

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We Are All Goose

GooseLast week, a Facebook post as going around that recognized the 30th anniversary of the death of a naval aviator named Nick Bradshaw. As with many dead soldier post, its creator told us never to forget and dared us to re-post it, saying that he was sure that nobody would have the sense of patriotism or honor to do so.

In case you aren’t aware, Nick Bradshaw’s call sign was “Goose,” and his death actually didn’t happen because he was a fictional character–the witty sidekick to Tom Cruise’s Maverick in the 1986 movie Top Gun. His death comes about three quarters of the way through the film during a training exercise–while taking evasive action, Maverick is caught in another F-14’s jet wash (the technical term for which is “wake turbulence”) and both of his engines flame out, which results in his plane spinning out to sea. He and Goose manage to eject, but Goose launches into the roof of the cockpit and dies. His death winds up being a character moment for Maverick and becomes something he has to overcome, especially during the combat at the end (and the less said about how U.S. and Soviet diplomats magically managed to not have that incident result in a full scale war, the better).

Now, I think that if you polled people who were kids in 1986, the vast majority of them will tell you that they lost their pop culture innocence that year during Transformers: The Movie when Optimus Prime perished in battle. However, I contest that while Prime’s death was devastating, Goose’s death had a more long-term effect on my generation because whereas the former told us our favorite character could die, the latter told us that the average nice guy will not only never get his moment, but he might die, too.

This does not bode very well for people who look to identify with their favorite characters, and it does put truth to the cliche that “Nice guys finish last.” Maverick, after all, represents coolness to aspire to–he’s the best, dangerously the best pilot and he gets the girl–and Goose represents … well, he represents our reality. He is either who we are or who we will become. Let’s take a look at four reasons why.

1. He’s the class clown. When we’re introduced to Goose at the beginning of the film, it’s during the scene where Cougar and Merlin and Maverick and Goose enounter a couple of enemy MiG 28s and Cougar completely freezes up (this is the incident that eventually leads to both Maverick and Goose heading to Top Gun). While Merlin (played by a then-unknown and virtually unidentifiable Tim Robbins) is quite possibly one of the most neurotic characters in the film, Goose is making wisecracks and even takes a Polaroid of the MiG pilot when Maverick is “keeping up foreign relations … you know … giving him the bird?”

The wisecracks continue through most of the film and Goose is pretty much the guy who provides some levity through most of it and moreover has the confidence to do it. Take, for instance, the first day of instruction at Top Gun. Viper gives his introduction speech–and Tom Skerritt is incredibly intimidating in this movie–and Iceman says, “The plaque for the alternates is down in the ladies room.” Goose responds with an exaggerated laugh, one that says, “Yeah, you’re not very cool. Leave the jokes to me” but in a more subtle way than calling Iceman a loser (another great example of this in cinematic history is Charles DeMar’s reaction to Roy Stalin’s “You’d better shave her a little closer if you’re going to kiss her goodnight” at the New Year’s Eve dance in Better Off Dead). And that’s Goose’s role–to provide the humor and to be the nice guy that everyone likes (something Iceman awkwardly says in the locker room to Maverick following Goose’s death), whereas the rest of the co-pilots in the film seem to be variations on their pilots’ personalities (Slider’s just as arrogant as Iceman and Wolfman and Hollywood seem to have a thing going). He is, essentially, Robin to Maverick’s Batman and it shows.

2. He’s got his friend’s back. And in the same way that Batman needs Robin because he needs someone to help him out of a jam, Goose is always there to help his friend. Granted, Maverick doesn’t get into jams the way that Batman does, but when he needs help hitting on a woman in a bar because she’s lost that lovin’ feeling.

In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s this scene and this movie that gave rise to the term “Wingman” in dating parlance–the guy you’ve got with you to help you out.

And while I’m sure that there are a few people out there who are reading this post and thinking that they can fly solo and never need a wingman for “scoring with the ladies,” I say that … a) what are you, 17?; b) you’re also a complete liar; and c) the rest of us have all been the guy behind the guy.

[And a quick side note: this is the second movie in as many years where Anthony Edwards plays a guy who is trying to help get the main character laid and fails–the other is The Sure Thing starring John Cusack]

3. He’s a family man. Maverick is the ladies’ man. Goose, however, is married (to Meg Ryan) and has a kid, which is something that makes his death even more devastating, because this isn’t like Porkins dying during the Death Star attack because his Mountain Dew rolled under his seat and he had to reach down to get it. Here’s a guy who is trying to do right by his family and dies in a random accident, much like so many people. And I know that’s a completely macabre thought, but if you look at Top Gun as the story of Goose, it’s a sad and sometimes dark story that hopefully makes its audience really look at their own lives and feel grateful for what they have.

4. He plays volleyball with his shirt on. There are a lot of famous scenes in Top Gun, but I’m pretty sure that no other has been more inspiring or had a longer-lasting impact than the beach volleyball montage. It inspired an entire movie (Side Out, with C. Thomas Howell, Peter Horton, and Courtney Thorne-Smith) and probably had at least some influence on the montage-tastic syndicated television series Baywatch.

As you watch, you’ll probably notice three things: Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, and Rick Rossovich are chisled; Cruise is playing beach volleyball in jeans; and Anthony Edwards is wearing a shirt.

This, in a sense, is my closing argument, because while I’m sure there are plenty of us out there who are in good shape as we approach 40 (I have to endure their goddamn Facebook posts about running on a constant basis, so there definitely are), there are many of us who are not and have come to accept our dad bod. Goose, therefore, is there for all of us. In fact, the way he gets upset when Maverick leaves to go on his date with Charlie (and we hear one of my faovrite lines in the movie: “MOTHER GOOSE YOU PUSSY!”) suggests that he’s that guy who really wants to win games like that and it means more to him than anyone else playing because it gives him more credibility among the cool kids.

I mean, I was totally like that in gym class in high school. I got competitive at times not because I was an insane jock, but because I had a long-standing reputation for being mediocre at most sports and I thought that gym class would be one of those places where I could prove that wrong, so when I lost or when other people weren’t taking it as seriously, I got more annoyed than I probably should have. While Goose gives as well as he takes, you can tell that he has to put up with a lot of bullshit “prove you’re a man” type of stuff from guys like Iceman and Slider, so any small victory is a victory.

There’s a goofy likeability to Goose that makes his character feel real and enduring and it’s why his death had such an impact. May we all fare better and get the chance to fly that cargo plane full of rubber dog shit out of Hong Kong.