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Skyblade's Pop-Culture Cult
Because Some Things are More Important (But I Don't Care)
skyblade
Well, elections will soon be held. I've been rating a lot about the old GOP on my Facebook. I don't think anybody truly cares, but I felt I should jot down exactly how my political thinking actually works.


I believe big business is indistinguishable from big government.

I believe that the right will never be pragmatic from an economic standpoint as long as right wing evangelism informs much of their policy.

I believe tight knit religious communities are barely distinguishable from communism, have you ever heard of "monastic communes."

For that matter,mi believe libertarian economic beliefs can be and have been taken to beliefs that are they are de facto religion, ergo their potency as an economic sensibility are mitigated,
Stomp My Rhino
skyblade
There was a study on political preferences and show preferences. They seem to be trying to analyze it, although in my opinion, is not a tough nut to crack. By definition, "conservatives" would prefer material that is tried and true and appeals to the most people, while "liberals" would respond to specialized, cutting edge material. "Silent majority", "plays in Peoria", or whatever Nixonisms.

What I do find interesting is the discrepancy in reality TV watching, and the theory that the reality show, when distilled to the preferences that evidently correspond with their scripted counterparts are either very inspiring, or very cynical.

But it's also made me think about the weird schism about the paradox of how television is both better and worse than it's ever been. It may apply to entertainment in general, but it's like, if I were to serve a meal that represent today's cultural mores, it would be Cornish Game Hen with a side of Cheetos.
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skyblade
It's pretty common in comedies for the female love interest to be 1) Much hotter and 2) Much younger for the lead. Usually because the male star conceived of the project, has producing clout, and sometimes even the ingenue was a fan of his. Adam Sandler isn't quite as guilty as say, Rob Schneider is, but yes, he has gone into that realm. (With, for instance, Emmanuelle Chiqri)

But whoever wrote is choosing the wrong tree to bark up. Because anyone who has seen Cactus Rose, or even movies in general, know Brooklyn Decker is not the real love interest. Jennifer Aniston is. He's not really going to end up with the former, at the end.

Sorry, spoiler alert guys.
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skyblade
Keith Olbermann has been "suspended indefinitely" from NBC for contributions to congressional cadindates. While it's hard to call it outrageous or unfair, as technically, it is MSNBC's policy, it has a lot of people suspicious nonetheless, due to it being wrong, but from, far unheard of for pundits to contribute to campaign donations. Even folks Olbermann has badmouthed have have gone to bat for him over what they perceive as a hypocrisy. It has people wondering if "something else is up", whether Olbermann has some kind of skeleton in the closet or volatile personality the bigwigs don't want to deal with (Not out of the question), or if it's the Comcast merger trying to shake off one of the Left's most well-known frontmen. (Wouldn't put it past them)

A lot of people were very eager about the Comcast takeover of NBC because it would mean Jeff Zucker's head,but at the end of the day, that was more about Darth Vader force-choking an incompetent underling than King Richard banishing an unscrupulous noble. (If Comcast had presided over the late night war, they probably would have chosen one (Leno) and plant child pornography in the desk of the other (Conan))I guess we'll find out in a couple of weeks when either Olberman returns with a half-assed mea culpa, or Rachel Maddow also finds herself disnorably discharged.

*word has it that technically it's not even MSNBC's policy
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skyblade
So, Christine O'Donnell lost, the mice will play.
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skyblade
Ah, Election Day. The Tea Party movement is expecting big wins tonight, and while I'm not particularly looking forward to their happy faces of victory, I don't fear for the country in general. Because seriously, this is the party's platform:

"Vote for us, because fuck the government!"

What is going to happen now that they're the government? Either their base is going to feel betrayed, because there is no way any of these Rand Pauls are going to accomplish shit-all during their terms. And that's if they don't become just a corrupt as they believe the incumbents are. Where is an anti-establishment movement going to go when they're the establishment?

People are talking about Republicans taking things back, or now they're the way the country is turning. But...they only started losing seats en masse six years ago. That means if you're a grad student, the country has shifted its party alignment three, four times during your studies. It means the "country is taken away/back" every second Harry Potter movie. That's not a political era. That's, at worst, a war of attrition. At best, the political equivalent to a long line outside the bathroom, "waiting for their turn." I suppose it has all the trappings, because the party on the outside is squirming and impatient, while the party on the inside pisses away and makes a mess of things.

The 21st Century has been the New Morning in America, indeed.
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skyblade
Between TV Guide's awkward presentation of movies nobody watches and panel discussions on Britney Spears breakdowns, they occasionally do lists ranking the sexiest ___ in film and TV. In time for Halloween, they had a special "Hottest Vampires, Werewolves and Mutants". One of these things is not quite like the other, huh? If you wanted to highlight how sexy X-Men alumni are, it's not like one couldn't give superheroes their own inane countdown. It's even more pointless because Hugh Jackman has played a werewolf, and Ryan Reynolds has played a vampire ("He's an ex-addict with biceps and a smart mouth. Like the Robert Downey Jr for the vampire set." Oh wow, how did I out-talking head a Maxim editor?) Surely there's plenty of sexy choices amongst the more legitimately supernatural. Ghosts? Witches? With that, you got Alyson Hannigan, Nicole Kidman, and whichever Harry Potter cast member your lawyer has okayed you on. It's just some generic "geek sex symbol" list that leans heavy on vampires.
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skyblade
Searching through television listings, seeing which channels are getting into the spirit. ABC Family has been doing a good enough job the last couple of days, although why does Charlie and the Chocolate Factory have to be shoe-horned into every holiday marathon?

Special Fail awards go to;

G4: A Cheaters? Back to the Future? You're supposed to be the channel for the dork crowd. Back to the Future is awesome, but except for Marty dressing up like a spaceman, it's not particularly related the holiday, and Cheaters is targeted towards the kinds of people who are out right now, dressed as Lady gaga and stumbling under the cumbersomeness of it while their boyfriend is boning someone dressed as Katy Perry in the bathroom. The only ones home to watch it are very sad boys who will burn in resentment that they can't get girls as it is.

TNT: They're running a few James Bond movies. Because it's a marathon, they're doing it on purpose. They went out of their way to say "You know what would be good for Halloween? James Bond!" I agree that it's a big enough franchise to show marathons on special occasions and such, but except for Live and Let Die, they're as far away from scary as any major film series.

and most of all, TBS, with a double feature of Forrest Gump and Titanic. Not only are they not scary movies, but they're like...they would be outright milquetoast if not for the high body counts. Are they good counterpogramming? I'm not sure the kind of person who has an aversion to hype or commercialization would be very welcoming to these movies. Forrest Gump is probably specifically for those people who's haunted houses feature abortions and AIDs.
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skyblade
GQ has a photoshoot dedicated to Glee (And first of all, it needs pointing out that Glee is not the biggest show on television. It's extremely popular, and not in that bullshit "buzz" way the CW believes. But it's not the biggest show on TV, and even if you count recent shows, Modern Family is roughly as popular and acclaimed) which seems to be an attempt to get the boys interested in it or something and I'm...not that turned on.

these two are the only ones I really like, and I have a penis. They just really seem so desperate. Especially Lea Michele who's like "Oh my God, I've been trying so hard to be the next Babara Striesand I need to remind them I can be the next Megan Fox" She showed some skin in another magazine a week ago, and it seemed more natural. This is a very plastic, tacked-on kind of sexy. (And I have to admit, I don't much care for the lollipop thing. I find most hard candies kind of gross, and if it's trying to infantalize her a little bit, that's disturbing. It's all kind of trashy in its own right, and comes all across the more forced trying to format a show that isn't really GQ in its cadence like Mad Men is.

I'm sure there will be complaints about Cory Nesmith not showing any skin as well.
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skyblade
Yeah, politics again, but this is pretty rich.

Doctor Who will be filming in the U.S. for the first time, and part of that plot apparently includes the Doctor meeting (a) President of the United States. Assuming it's Obama, somebody remarks that "Oh great, he finally meets the president and it's the worst one since Carter.", and follows it up with comments about FDR.

This is actually a very strange comment. Not only because Doctor Who is, from what I can tell, the most politically correct franchise I can think of. Not only because the fanbase is the most pinko-commie collection of liberals you'll find on the internet. (Yes, that includes anime) But because Doctor Who is a nationalized TV show.
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skyblade
In the center of town was a group of people campaigning with signs that said "Honk if you've had enough!" Naturally, there was a great deal of honking, as "enough" is appropriately Tea Party vague in its angriness. Enough of taxes? Oil spills? Masturbation? The important thing is Raraaghhrrwawwrrgruarrar.
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skyblade
Doing my entry yesterday, I started thinking about the different fantasy archetypes. They can be divided in all sorts of ways: Magicians/Fighters, Magicians/Fighters/Rogues, Magicians/Priests/Knights/Barbarians etc. But the general point is, as time goes on, magic users become more and more common. It seems strange when you compare it to a lot earlier fantasies. In Lord of the Rings, there are only five true wizards, and I imagine combined with sorcerors, you only roughly get one non-Elvish magic user per sovereign nation. "Wizarding schools" were not particularly common, in fact, when Gandalf or Merlin took pupils, it was in lore, not wizardy, they instructed them in. (With a notable exception on Merlin's part, and I'll get to that in a bit) In fact, the earliest example I can find of such a school with a multiple student body was Scholomance, a Transylvanian institute run by the devil. So why are wizards, witches, or whatever you want to call them, so much more common?

The first and easy answer is that we're a more secular society, so we don't flinch as much to magic. It's usually the result of some neutral, all--powerful force, not bargaining with demonds. At least in cases where the magic-using populace is pretty large; Pact magic is still used in cases where magicians aren't very common and I suppose, when not part of the main course. Having magic have a "cost" makes for less escapism, and potentially a less likeable lead.

Secondly, it's a reflection of our society on a technological level, and the values that ensue. When we have inventions that can allow us to see in the dark, travel great distances, and communicate with the other side of the globe, it takes a lot more to wow us. Granted, a lot of period pieces are still popular, but this is the thing; Most period fiction has emphasized more and more, how different and maybe difficult it was in olden times. In our relatively comfy, anti-septic lives, it's exotic. But there's a risk to throwing too moderate an amount of magic to the mix, because then you sanitize that setting, and a sanitized, non-modern setting is neither familiar, nor compelling. If it's not going to be heart-breakingly gritty, it should be wondrous, and that takes a lot in the age of cell-phones that can do anything. I wouldn't be surprised to find, in the real world, magic feats in folklore escalated as technology improved. (Grimm's fairy tales were collected not too long before the Industrial Revolution)

Similarly, in such a high-tech heavy era, we have relocated what we value as assets in human beings. The Knight in shining armor types are not trendy right now. What we have are dirty, gritty antiheroes, or brainy, introspective sorts, which, in fantasy settings, are wizards. I mentioned yesterday how people kind of switch technology/science as the setting goes, and the more intellectual and less brawny folks that make up our engineers and scientists are seen as more important on the world stage. (Or at least, the bookish, possibly outcast people more likely to read and write these books in the first place) Also, it may be our aspirations towards egalitarianism at work. If Middle Earth only has as many wizards as it does monarchs, what happens when we have a house of representatives. While hardly "populist", there is a sentiment that maybe power should be shared a little bit.

And finally, I think it's the equality of women, to a certain extent. If there's one area that women weren't given a lack of spotlight in folklore, it was the realm of magic. Unfortunately, that was not meant to be flattering. But as women and witchcraft are both less marginalized, what was once meant to be a mutual slander is now a beneficial partnership. Because a good sized chunk of half the population was good at it, why not play it up? Maybe the stud muffin of the party is good with the sword, but the woman is handy with the universe.
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skyblade
This is pretty damn cool: A print that depicts the Marvel universe as a high-fantasy version of itself. I think only hardcore, really hardcore geeks will be able to spot every one.

Of course, this is far from the first time people have played with this gimmick. There was an issue of The Avengers where they were all transported to medieval times (In fact, it was part of their 1998 relaunch), there was some kind of miniseries about it in 2003 or something, and of course, we had Neil Gaiman's 1602, though that was actually really trippy sci-fi as opposed to sword and sorcery. Whenever people play with that concept, some heroes are easier to reimagine than others. Iron Man is made into a knight in a few short steps, Wolverine is easily reinterpreted as a barbarian (or, when he was less of a leading character, a demi-human creature), and Professor X is often made a wizard of some kind. Some characters don't always take to it like a duck to water.

Mr Fantastic: Whenever I see his stretchy powers put into a fantasy setting, something just feels "off". I think there a few reasons for this: One is that Reed Richards is Mister SCIENCE!, and while "wizard" is often code for "scientist" when switching genres, I don't think I've ever been comfortable with that translation. The second is that Reed Richards just looks weird with long hair. He is too much of a square in any setting. One might as well give him a pageboy bowl cut. The third is the etymology of his powers. The first stretchy superhero was Plastic Man, who was not only named after a modern substance, but kind of ran on the novelty of taking golden age studio cartoons and translating them to superheroic action. So what you have is an archetype based on a lot of things that simply don't exist in fairy tale settings. It's not like being a shape shifter is unheard of in myth and legend--in fact, it's quite common. But the "controlled chaos" of rubber powers are a bit unprecedented. (Although I may just not have looked heard enough. There has to be some kind of story in China or India about a guy who can stretch his limbs)

Cyclops: Sometimes people take the weird choice of turning him into a literal cyclops, as the print above did. That doesn't quite work, because Cyclops is supposed to be generally a pretty boy. In fact, he's supposed to be the archetype of the clean-cut action hero, which would be common in yarns from any era. But then he has the eye thing. It's actually pretty easy to reinterpret it in a fantasy setting, since his powers are a curse. I think the major issue is his niche. Cyclops is ultimately too boring to support his own adventures, but he has thrived in his own way because of what he brings to the X-Men franchise. But if you dial back the era and say, turn the X-Mansion into more of a Hogwarts setting*, he becomes a little out of place. He's not well suited to be a magician, because his power only does one thing. You can't turn him into a fighter, because his power is not that physical. You can't integrate him into the greater Marvel universe, because as a regular superhero, he's a background figure. I'm not saying one can't put him in a fantasy setting and make him interesting, (Quite the contrary) simply that he's not as simple as putting on chainmail or robes or turning him into a creature. Plus, his powers are very atomic age.

Spider-Man: In my comics as mythology entry, I talked about how Spider-Man seemed like the kind of character that could only arise in a setting with very tall buildings. He is fundamentally adapted to sprawling, urban environments. However, he could still make his home in a city of 60,000 or so, and try swinging from tall trees. However, Spidey seems to be the most all over the place whenever people put him in these settings. I've seen him made into a knight, into monster, into some weird bandit-thing. I think writers and artists need to sort of step back and see what kind of place he occupies in today's culture. Does Spider-Man resemble any of today's given heroes (Like soliders or firemen)? Can you picture him in body armor, or a leather jacket? Does he even resemble, say, an athlete? (Who wear colorful tights, but it's still not the same) Spider-Man often doesn't resemble his own superheroic compatriots, except for the embracing of primary colors. He's just weird. Keep in mind his own origin involves him trying to be an entertainer first. I think if you were to put him in the fantasy/medieivalish arena, he should have a get-up that's unusual, even for the time. Play him up as a Scaramouch figure, sort of a heroic version of the Joker. Who of course, is easy to imagine in this setting.
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skyblade
Last night was the debut of No Ordinary Family. I've seen a few people bitching and moaning that it's a rip-off of The Incredibles and Heroes. For the first point; The Incredibles (Which I did love) was already a riff on Fantastic Four. On the second point, that is the dumbest thing a single person can say about television ever. Like, if someone were to say "Arrested Development is no Two and a Half Men", they would deserve a "you're stupid" punch less. In fact, I would let that person do the punching, and get him a drink for his exertion. I would give Jay Leno eggs to throw at Conan O'Brien before I acknowledged ripping off Heroes was possible, let alone unfair on the show's behalf.

I really had no interest in the show, but if it's going to butthurt so many second-hand fans of the genre, I am now hoping it's around for a while.
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skyblade
Okay, why am I getting random comments about Harry Potter, which actually look like orphaned replies to erstwhile discussions, to my most recent posts?
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skyblade
I always get bummed/fearful over early foliage seasons, and word is that the dry, hot summer will certainly hurt it this year. (Pretty ironic as RI had flooding issues back in April) this map however doesn't look so different from this map, and 2007 was one of the warmer years, too. Of course, they don't even have reports from Rhode Island anymore, so who knows? But yeah, at this point I'm not expecting way too much.
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skyblade
The guy who wrote the episode of Happy Days where Fonzie jumped the proverbial-to-be shark has written a piece for the LA Times, and well, this person has not taken his place in cultural history very well it seems. In fact, he gets outright defensive at times. (Often pulling ratings defense)

But he does ask a valid question; Why that phrase? I think just about every TV show that didn't fit under the umbrella of "struggling" had some point where it just outstayed its welcome and we all knew it. So why is the shark episode singled out? I don't think it was the absurdity or contrivance of that plot even. I think it's down to two things:

The first is, it's just plain catchy. Some animals are inherently comic, like cows. And in this pop-culture era, where we embrace high concept exaggerations of certain characteristics, in this case "badassery" or "danger", sharks and bears have become comic elements, like Chuck Norrises of the animal kingdom.

Secondly, I think it works pretty well outside the context of the show. Actually, when I first heard the phrase, I didn't really remember the Happy Days episode very much. In fact, I was disappointed when I saw it, because it was completely without incident. "Jumping the shark" just sounds like an incredibly stupid thing to do, especially in real life. If someone never heard of Happy Days, they would say "Yeah, trying to jump a shark sounds like the beginning of the end for someone) (I wager their imaginations would even take them to a place where the jump was not successful)

On TV tropes, one of the character names to stick around was "The Libby". Is Sabrina the Teenage Witch that much of a touchstone in and of itself. No, but "Libby" just sounds like the name of a conceited and well-to-do young lady who steps hard on every rung on the social ladder. Any wordsmith will tell you the key to sneaking in phrases and expressions into our actual language is to make it sound like it's been there the whole time.
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skyblade
Wow, this article on Saturday Night Live's one season wonders is terribly, terribly researched. Just some errors off the bat;

1) Casey Wilson was on for two seasons. I'm sure she would feel great about seeing her name on the list.

2) Michael McKean was also on for two seasons, halfway through the 93-94 one. He was also not the first former host to join the cast; That was Bily Crystal.

3) Morwenna Banks was not a featured player, although she had less screen time than actual featured player, Laura Kightlinger.

The list also is also very in its criteria, as you know, a pet peeve of mine, because it means these guys can make their list look like whatever they want. Brief but memorable stint? (Martin Short) Talented comedien who was a bad fit and left on shaky terms? (Janeane Garafolo?) Novel idea gone horribly wrong? (Anthony Michael Hall) An inauspicious performer who went on to a pretty good career? So I don't know what to disagree with per se, but some pretty big omissions could include Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr, Damon Wayans, David Kocechner, Danitra Vance (If one wants to criticize SNL's impenetrable club-ness, and she tried much harder than Janeane Garafolo) Christopher Guest and of course, the aforementioned Billy Crystal. Also, Chevy Chase technically did two seasons, but his stint was shorter than Michael McKean's. So all in all, I'm not sure what the writer was trying to go for here.
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skyblade
How sad is it I haven't changed my default icon in so long it's about to be appropriate again?

Today was my last swim of the year, and it was an angry swim. A lot of people were annoyed by the 90 degree week, but I kind of welcomed it, as the last couple of summers in Rhode Island did not feel like summer, and I was quite ready for a change of pace. Also, because the end of summer often depresses me. It's probably not uncommon, but I find it odd since I love Autumn so much. Maybe because August has historically been the month shit goes down, that things are less carefree, or maybe a biological reaction to shortening days. But I was glad to get a good, quintessential summer week before moving on.
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skyblade
I've seen Scott Pilgrim vs. the World controversy, which is pretty astounding, because the movie is a visual treat, but not really worth the crusade on either side. Fans take dislike too personally, and haters are vexed the film even exists. Of course, this isn't anything new, but I do see back and forth arguments about the traits of the main character who, to put it gently, is a consummate ne'er do well. Less gently, he habitually treats his closest like crap, without even meaning to. But once again, I always find it strange when people point at a comedy and wonder aloud where all the heroes have gone.

I was actually thinking of comedy protagonists who are not dicks, and I have been scratching my head over it. From all gender demographics and time periods, it seems everything from Sabrina to Ferris Bueller's Day Off is driven by some kind of sociopathy from the main characters. (In fact, looking at some films in the 70's, playing the field was treated as a right for male characters, never mind being called on it) I think the reason so many times a comedic character is an as is because of the nature of comedy...a lot of comedy is about failure. And failure is less funny to someone who doesn't deserve it as much, and we're bound to have less pratfalls from somebody with less shit between their ears. When Al Franken took his Saturday Night Live character to theaters with Staurt Saves His Family, we got a heartrending and affirming movie...that was not very funny for most of it. A lot of it was discomfort as the main character timidly tried to do the right thing and was unable to control his family falling apart. If the character is not flawed enough, it cuts down storytelling possibilities. I mean, one of the longest-lived and most beloved sitcoms had, as its main character, a complete bigot.

There is one major exception...if you can't make your main character a bit of an ass, you have to dull their senses. Maybe they're dumb as a brick. Maybe they been so entrenched in their subculture and life of leisure they've never applied their hidden genius. (Cluelesse, Bill& Ted's Excellent Adventure.) Maybe they're simply so divorced from civilization, they're given some kind of good-natured naivete. (George of the Jungle, Lil' Abner.) You get leads with more moral character, but if not done right can smack of anti-intellectualism, and can attract people who take it at face value, both pro and con side. (If you think hipster-hate is powerful, surfers was totally seen as cultural Armageddon. As it was, we just moved onto something else.) Of course, sometimes you have something like Biodome where they're both airheaded and jerks, but you need a bit more skill and a lot of audacity to pull that off.
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skyblade
"Iconic" is word I've come to discover gets thrown around very liberally. People will seriously confuse it with "trendy", or worse, "What I really like in particular." For instance, this list here. Lafayette is certainly an interesting character, but he has no value to anyone who has not seen an episode of True Blood. Iconic is something that has value independent of its being consumed. It's one of those things were a diletentte is equally suited to compiling a list as a maven. (Though perhaps not always. My dad could name more characters from McHale's Navy than Star Wars)

Coming up with iconic characters is often difficult for television, especially lately. This is largely because someone has to have some kind of idiosyncratic, or at least singular look. (Like the Bride from Kill Bill's yellow outfit.) With TV, there's a sense that doing that can lead towards kitsch. If I were to list the most iconic TV characters this latter half of the decade, they would probably have strange (Or at least alliterative) names, or maybe some kind uniform. Your Sue Sylvesters,your Don Drapers, your Claire Bennetts, your Sylars. I'm pretty sure no gym teacher will ever be able to don a track suit without realizing the implications. But in a lot of ways, pop culture has not only become less idiosyncratic, but less formal. (I wonder if it's one of the contributing factors to backlash over Twilight or Judd Apatow movies. It's the same resentment one gets when you see one of the younger guests to the wedding wearing what found in his hamper) I think it's also one of the reasons TV has become so insular, show-to-show. All those icons and gifs for TV shows feel more like in-jokes than cultural shorthand. In fact, I think Lost is practically anti-iconic; In the future it will be renown as uniquely unsuited to distillation. (Although, if you do simplify your concept and give it a distinctive look, for your troubles Seltzer and Friedberg will dress an actor up like them and do a moronic pratfall.)

I've also been thinking about properties that are iconic but can lack a singular representative--when the concept as a whole has caught on, but not on singular figure. Like, let me put it this way. Some characters manage to be iconic, even when everything else about their mythology is not well know with the public. (The Hulk, Buffy). Some are very rich, with maybe a famous singular character, but antagonists and supporting characters have taken an even bigger life of their own. (Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz) But sometimes, the general idea of something with be well known to everyone, as opposed to a figure. For instance, Planet of the Apes, Ninja Turtles, or Little Women. Sure, the fans will know that the turtles are name after Renaissance artists, and that one of the sisters is not, in fact, named "Laurie". It's what I've call "generic iconic". Where some kind of number (usually four), and some kind of look (girls in bonnets, turtles in bandannas) have some kind of cachet, even in the name value is not there.
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skyblade
The trailer for Burlesque has premiered to quite a few snickers, with the presence of Cher causing people to take it even less seriously. This is actually pretty funny, since, back in the old days, Cher was something of a true, bona-fide Hollywood fixture. To give you the sense of how much, I was not the target audience for her movies by an stretch, but I recognized her from various comics and cartoons which were. It just goes to show you how being truly A-List can come and go with the tides.

Chances are most of you are familiar with Television Without Pity. A good percentage of you are, in turn, familiar with Fametracker. It gets a lot of insults for various things (The draconian boards, and the weird "Celebrity vs Thing" series. But I always found it fascinating because of its taking people who are huge names and wondering, what in fact, they have done of substance. Also, analyzing what the Hollywood pecking order exactly was. This is an article about Mel Gibson. In the article, it talks about the Mount Rushmore of Fame--Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Gibson, and Bruce Willis. In what's perhaps an error of judgment, Tom Hanks is ruled out, but he's never quite been a "matinee idol", and his status even now is more of a godfather of Hollywood as opposed to an Alpha Male. It's interesting to see where the four studs have gone. Gibson of course, has become cultural plutonium. Sure he made everyone wealthy for a while, but not they all want to stay away. Cruise has likewise faced an implosion, which just now looks quaint in light of Gibson's. Ford has quasi-retired from acting (What he does onscreen barely qualifies, anyway). And Willis has never really had a career dead per se--he just tends to have major misfires between the movies that do hit. So who makes the new Mount Rushmore?

The Aussie invasion, of course, fizzled out. Russell Crowe was too pretentious, Hugh Jackman can't find a good vehicle to save his life, and Ledger became a legend just in time to not be there for it. Eric Bana kind of became a "never was". Dwayne Johnson is doing low-rent kid movies, and Vin Diesel is going back to the well. Topher Grace proved "he who hesitates, is lost". Orlando Bloom proved his adeptness is strictly in the realm of "sidekick". Viggo Mortensen thanks you for his support, but he'd like to go and make Daniel Day Lewis look "mainstream". And then there was Jude Law.

One of the examples shot down was Brad Pitt, and at the time, rightly so. For all his stature as a real-life Adonis, he could never quite get audiences to pay to see him. I now wonder if the problem is that starpower is something that appeals to older audiences, so therefore you need years on you to be bankable. He kind of gradually started to appear in hit movies with Ocean's Eleven, but of course, that was ensemble piece. Troy did decent, but disappointing money. Mr and Mrs. Smith, buoyed by talks about his onscreen-and-off chemistry with Angelina Jolie, gave him his first real overperformer since Seven. (It also resuscitated Jolie's struggling bankability) At this point, people were quick to declare him the new Tom Cruise, and at the time, I felt that to still be an overestimation. However, with the somewhat hard-to-sell Inglourious Basterds and the "high concept only works if he's in it" Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Pitt has assured his status as a big four.

Next is Leonardo Dicaprio. Already a teen idol, he exploded with Titanic. However, one highest grossing movie of all time does not an A-Lister necessarily make. (Ask Sam Worthington) And with The Beach, it did look like the rose was off the bloom. However, DiCaprio struck up a partnership with legendary director Martin Scorcese, and the two would keep going at it until they had a legitimate box office home run (And Oscar winner) with The Departed.) He has two other big hits with Catch Me if You Can, and the recent Inception. While I don't think he's guaranteed money just yet, he probably has the most high-quality (and often memorable) set of movies for this first tier club.

Of course, there's Will Smith, He actually first got into the game in the late 90's with his string of four 100 million movies in a row, officially ending when he went the route of Oscar bait. At the time, it probably looked like he was a fad which officially came to an end, especially as accompanying pop songs to summer blockbusters were no longer in vogue. But right now he's called "The biggest movie star in the world", right now. He's largely earned this moniker for his hot streak of four years. In fact, from 2004-2008, he seemed to be on a mission to prove he could very well open any kind of movie, almost as an experiment. Unfortunately, Smith has probably the weakest CV in terms of quality. Independence Day and Men In Black were largely viewed as transitory, successes, and even his Oscar-nominated movies aren't totally classics. However, I think one thing should be kept in mind for Smith, who is a little different from DiCaprio and Pitt in a very obvious way. In fact, Pitt's career has largely come from people trying to recapture Robert Redford in a bottle. Smith has very few predecessors, and has had to redefine leading men on his own terms. If we ever have an African-Amercan equivalent to Indiana Jones or Braveheart, he will no doubt look up to Smith.

Finally, I would say the fourth "big one" is Johnny Depp, the only actor thus far to headline two movies to cross a billion dollars. In fact, of these four, I would say Depp most embodies the decade. Probably because of all the guys on this list, in fact, of any actor this decade, he's the one that best balanced being a huge star in his own right, and having a movie that's iconic in its own right. If one wanted to have a tapestry of the 2000s, similar to this, Jack Sparrow would clearly be there, and perhaps the most recognizable. It's very interesting he has a reputation for just putting on weird makeup, but maybe, in a way, that shows why he's the star of the decade. Today's actors have to be chameleons, but that often invites performers who can withstand a level of anonymity. With Depp, he's certain handsome and debonair on magazine covers and red carpet premieres, but is willing to get all zany in some geek properties. A lot of being a big name is having the right qualities at the right time, and I think, while the previous three have personae they're often attached to, Depp is able to ahve it both ways.
9 Rhinos Stomped go ahead Stomp My Rhino
skyblade
One thing about The Expendebles that really hooked me in, when it seemed like it had little reason to exist but to pool 80's has-beens, (And me, with my lack of regard for the eighties in particular) is the pairing of Jason Statham as Stallone's right-hand man.

People kind of have this image of "80's action stars", which in some ways, is innacurate. It comes across as a the grand trinity of Schwarzeneggar, Stallone and Willis, with your Van Dammes and your Lundgrens as your cottage industry counterparts. However, Schwarzeneggar's 100 million grossers did not come until the 90's, and Willis did not even star in any action films until 1989 (And who's biggest successes actually span a few genres. His non-Die Hard action movies tend to flop) Stallone was the first out of the gate, which is extra-strange, since he's kind of a deconstruction of the he-man hero.

Stallone is like King Kong, or Frankenstein's monster. "Gentle" might be stretching it too far, but they all have what I would like to characterize as "aspirations of docility". That is to say, a brute by circumstance. Stallone is at his best when he plays characters who are too talented at, with a scale that runs the gammut from "maiming" to "massacring". His best roles and performances come from characters who are underestimated or exploited by those around him. Copland, typical of James Mangols movies, is an adequate actor's showcase that is simply the sum of its parts, showcases what Sly does perfectly. He's pretty much a flunky, who fancies himself a protector. If he was in a fairy tale, he would be some ogre or giant the villain routinely abuse, and often longingly stares at the princess, wishing he could be the night in shining armor. This is llargely where Stallone's talents lie, and where his career slid off the tracks. (Judge Dredd, for instance, really fails with him as the lead. Stallone is not the worst actor, but clearly has his limits. The character was supposed to be some kind of fascist killing machine)

On some level, Statham has a "grunt" type personality as well. He's certainly not a criminal mastermind. But there's always that sense that...I could buy Jason Statham as someone who was hired to do some henching, and when the hero comes in, he pretty much surrenders, or better yet takes a bribe. I'm not saying Statham comes across as cowardly. In fact, that mean scowl never leaves his face. But he comes across as someone with a very acute sense of what is and what is not worth it. He's someone who's on the wrong side of the tracks by circumstance as well, but he doesn't really have aspirations to be a knight in shining armor. The conventional moral paradigm has failed him, and while he's not out to get the world, his priority is little but rent and beer money.

So what The Expendables has as its two leads are kind of the black ops Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. They're two characters you can easily see as the thugs the hero would mow down except for their redeeming, or at least mitigating qualities; Stallone's lamenting that he has to hurt anyone to begin with, and Statham's . It's kind of a good partnership for B Movie stars anyways, as I think Stallone contrasts more thoroughly with Statham than any of his Planet Hollywood compatriots. Schwarzenegger would not work as a foil because they're both too similar--Beefy, shorter-in-person macho-men who are not one for words. Willis would not be an adequate foil because they're both Atlantic Seaboard blue-collar, and Stallone isn't good enough at playing characters just smart enough to put Willis on the defensive. With Statham, you have similar "down to earth" personalities, but from opposite sides of the pond. I'm not sure of Stallone's political background, but he probably has a more charitable view of Reagan-America than Statham of Thacther-Britain. Plus, Statham's a lot snappier. Even more talkative than Willis, who actually isn't that verbose in his roles, but his pithy profanities certainly makes him come across as wordier than his more laconic 80's counterparts.

Statham also being, on the whole, angrier makes him a good partner for Stallone who tends to get verbally abused in his best roles. It would be like the couples where the more aggressive half makes up for the more passive partner. If you should choose to see The Expendables in a homoerotic light, and frankly, there's little reason not to. But we shall see if these possibilities are explored in the upcoming bloody nostalgia piece.
2 Rhinos Stomped go ahead Stomp My Rhino
skyblade
So Edward Norton is officially not going to be playing Banner in the new Avengers movie. (I'll tell you what though. It was a huge, huge PR blunder, all due considering. Because no matter what people say about fans being irate, it's not like Norton's Incredible Hulk really made that much of a splash. It should have been much easier to let Norton go back into the indie world where he stomped and gnashed and tried to take people's tiny movies away from them. It could ave blown over--it will blow over, rather easily.) Pictures of Thor are also making rounds on the net, some displeased with how artificial it looks. I don't know how it will turn out, but then again, I've kind of had misgivings about an Avengers movie from day one for several reasons.

The first is simply the execution in general. What we have is the release of several different movies. with an end-game in mind. To be honest, it strikes me as one of those "Charge you to see more than one movie" deal. There were several criticsms of Iron Man 2 when it came out, and a lot of the defenders used the reasoning that they had to "set things up." I don't think that really flies as an excuse, however. One should now have to spend ten dollar and wait two years for something to pay off. Hundreds of millions of dollars for a set-up? Besides, if you're not enjoying the ride, I have serious doubts about the destination. Let me put it this way; Just because the story wasn't resolved in the first Lord of the Rings doesn't mean people didn't enjoy the other two. It brings to mind Pirates of the Caribbean and The Matrix, where the third movie in each respective franchise didn't change any minds regarding the second ones.

Secondly, I have doubts about the suits even having a grasp on the concept. The Avengers, as Marvel's resident superhero Pot-Luck book, has gone through many permutations. Right now, the book that's currently topping the charts features of a few classic characters, obscure favorites of the writer, and Spider-Man and Wolverine. The movie will obviously not feature the latter two, and I'm pretty sure will not feature pet characters like Luke Cage. This basically means that whatever movie this turns out to be, it will not be the one topping the charts. But hey, that's okay, Spider-Man and Wolverine can be overexposed, and we'll get to the meaty core of the concept that the true Avengers fans and Marvel afficinados have come to enjoy, right?

Except...the long-running Avengers concept fans love so much actually involved a lot of B-listers. I think a lot of comic fans really forget how the prestige the Avengers possess is actually in-universe. That is to say, the premise is that Spider-Man or the X-Men are Wally Pipp and the Avengers are Lou Gehrig. But the lineup was not traditionally the Dream Team from a marketing standpoint.

People will always talk about Thor, Iron Man and Captain America being the Avengers, the book is incomplete without them. But the problem is, very few Avengers stories actually revolve around them as a trinity. Usually, one of them will play the leader, or they'll be part of some "Here comes the cavalry!" moment, but most of the narrative is driven by the lower-tier members. Usually the Vision, Hawkeye or Scarlet Witch. In short, a movie that focuses primarily on Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and Nick Fury is...what they're possibly going to give us is Lord of the Rings without Frodo. A lot of people will say "Well, what about the Pyms?" and "It's in the model of The Ultimates. For the non-comics fans, Henry Pym and the Wasp are two other founding members that have long been on the team. But to that I say, the only moments people remember about them are the very disconcerting "spousal abuse" angle (Which I doubt will be in the movie) or other creepy plotlines. When they're not being boring, that is.

Basically, all this amounts to one simple fact: The Avengers movie is, for all intents and purposes, from scratch. Whatever story they give us, it will probably not be based on anything particularly memorable. This doesn't preclude the movie being good, simply that there is a lot less from people to draw from than people think, and which relies largely on the popularity of two unreleased movies. It's like greenligthing Ocean's Eleven before The Perfect Storm where, for all you know, it could be The Peacemaker. And not being sure if it's an actual remake.
4 Rhinos Stomped go ahead Stomp My Rhino
skyblade
The opening for Inception was healthy indeed. This has a lot of people pumping it up, for two reasons. Number one, because as a non-franchise film with potential for legs, it is an excellent opening. Number two, because it isn't a franchise film. There's definitely this sense that the film now represents something, and its success is a model that should be followed. However, I think this kind of ignores the bigger picture. To put it this way, you too can have an Inception-sized hit with the following steps;

Have the director of the second highest grossing movie of all time. (as of shooting)

Cast the star of the highest grossing movie of all time.

Not have any other films the entire summer, so this is where your marketing budget goes.

In marketing, push your highest grossing movie (See point one), and hope fans treat it like a de facto installment of the franchise.

The third is, admittedly maybe the easiest to pull off. Maybe if studios want original hits, hey, market it better. I think though, that the production even has a counterpart. Believe it or not, eight years ago there was another sci-fi thriller with a rising "star director", a bona fide movie star, and a late summer release. It opened with 60 million, and landed in the mid-200 millions. (I think that everyone's career just ended up imploding has probably caused us to forget how big it was. But anyways, that brings me to my next point. The kind of creators who are good at spinning original yarns and that sort of thing are also good at eventually going out in flames. So what studio execs are generally afraid of is holding the bag when a master of cinema goes white dwarf. (See: Peter Jackson) It's why they're rebooting Spider-Man. They knew Raimi's fourth movie would kill the franchise once and for all, and they tried to skip that step. In a lot of ways, it's like trying to down baby Oedipus in the tub. You know it's not going to work, but do we expect the high and mighty kings to just sit back and let Fate happen?

I've gone on a tangent, of course. But generally, my point is that a lot of the conventional wisdom Inception is supposedly antithetical to still paved the way for it. I wouldn't blame execs for thinking this round "doesn't count". Although will the beating several sequels have taken this summer, perhaps and open mind is warranted...
Stomp My Rhino