Tuesday, March 31, 2009

MOVIE GEEK VS COMIC BOOK GEEK THROWDOWN

It's been almost 20 years, but I can't open an issue of The New Yorker without a tinge of sadness that Pauline Kael isn't in it. Not only was her every sentence a joy, but she believed in doing her research whether in high or low culture--reading The Killing Joke before seeing Batman and First Blood before seeing Rambo, relating The Phantom of the Paradise to the state of rock music in the early 70s, etc. (although I can't agree that Alice Cooper is more of a threat to good music than Paul Williams). Nowadays, if a movie critic can name half the influences in Pulp Fiction, they consider themselves highly educated.

Though New Yorker movie reviewers have disappointed me greatly since, Anthony Lane's review of Watchmen* has to be the worst since Daphne Merkin compared Ben Affleck to a young Paul Newman (doesn't the prescience of that statement just send a thrill down your spine?). Lane is what Kael called a "gentlemen critic": sometimes handy with the witty remarks, but mainly eager to show you how superior he is to his subject. He makes it perfectly clear that he would never read any comic books, unless they were New-York-Times-approved and tackling Big, Important Topics like Persepolis and Maus. Lane certainly hasn't read Watchmen, as he doesn't seem to get that it's a critique of superheroes. To him, Rorschach is the author's mouthpiece and Nite Owl's similarity to Batman is a valid criticism. Oh, really? A satire of superheroes has a character somewhat like Batman? Who knew. Then there's this little trip down Comic Book Geek Stereotype Lane:

it should meet the needs of any leering nineteen-year-old who believes that America is ruled by the military-industrial complex, and whose deepest fear - deeper even than that of meeting a woman who requests intelligent conversation - is that the Warren Commission may have been right all along.

Here I thought I was a middle-aged lady with a master's degree, but apparently I must be a teenage male misogynist. No wonder I hate talking to myself.

Lane then attempts to end with a devastating coup de grace in the style of Pauline Kael's review of Return of the Jedi ("Why can't good and evil stop fighting and be friends?"), but comes up with this head-scratcher:

"Watchmen" marks the final demolition of the comic strip, and it leaves you wondering: where did the comedy go?

Uh, it does? That's like going to Gilbert & Sullivan and being mad that no one dies or wears a funny hat with horns on it. OK, I guess a combination of words and pictures can only be funny like Roz Chast and not serious like Alan Moore. That might seem extreme even to the people who censored comics back in the 50s. Why can't we have both?

Finally, Lane turns with obvious relief to a re-release of Leave Her To Heaven, which is just as overwrought and ridiculous as he considers Watchmen, but in a 40s Hollywood way. Mr. Lane, please accept that some aspects of humanity have to be over-stated to be truly depicted, and it's easy to get this wrong, but what art form it's done in shouldn't matter. The comic geek and the movie geek should agree on that (unless you're boring like A.O. Scott).

PS. I'm not saying that Pauline Kael would have necessarily loved Watchmen, she might've hated it, but it would've been a passionate hatred that also commented on where we are as a society. Oh, well.

*DARK VISIONS.
Lane, Anthony
New Yorker; 3/9/2009,
Vol. 85 Issue 4, p82-83, 2p
For more information, check with your friendly local librarian.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

TAX REFUND UPDATE

My friend hellbound asked me for an update on what goodies I decided to get with my tax refund.

1. EyeTV. I am enjoying watching my shows when I want and skipping over the commercials (you can edit commercials out, too, but I haven't tried that yet). It's easy to search for shows and schedule weekly recording and exporting to Apple TV. Now I can get all those good movies on TCM & Fox at 6:30 AM! My goal is to never waste time watching mediocre programming. The only drawbacks are keeping my hard drive from filling up (although the device has a buffer, so it will hold a certain amount of TV until you have room) and that I have to drag the cable all the way over from the living room (I'm sure the nice people at the cable company wouldn't charge me for another outlet that I'd be using for a device that will make them zero dollars instead of buying a DVR from them, right?).

2. Logitech Harmony Remote 676. A similar remote was on my Amazon wishlist, but I didn't expect to get it since it's a bit pricy. But then I saw a story on Lifehacker about a reconditioned one available at Tigerdirect for $46, and I had to jump on it. Since I got that new A/V receiver, I was juggling way too many remotes.
This is the most awesome remote ever. I had given up on my cheapie Philips universal remote because it didn't have specialized buttons that I needed and it wouldn't work on my Apple TV. The Harmony can be programmed so you use one button to perform all the actions needed: Press button for movies=Turn on Tv-->Turn on receiver-->Turn on DVD player. Same for turning off--I used to need 1 minute of time set aside to turn off my TV, my Apple TV, and my reciever before going to work, but now I have 1 more minute to play Bejeweled or go on Flickr. The buttons have a good solid feel and you just program it by opening software on your computer and typing the model number of the device you want to control. No more pointing a remote at it over and over until you get it right! The only drawback is that the software crashes on my computer sometimes.

3. Cheapass Memorex DVD player. Just when I was getting my entertainment system all perfect, my DVD player had to poop out on me. I figured that DVD players are at the level right now where any player will do a decent job, so I just got a cheap one for $40. I'll probably replace it with a Blu-Ray in a year or two when the price goes down.

I'm taking my record player in for repairs this week, so I don't know yet if I'll have to get a new one or a USB turntable. As far as the iPod Touch, I'll probably get one this summer when Apple's supposed to release the 3.0 version. I found this neat site that predicts when you should buy a certain Apple product based on previous release cycles.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

ANOTHER DAMN TECHNOLOGY I HAVE TO KEEP UP WITH

A friend on Facebook responded to my request for help in spending my tax refund by saying I should buy an HD radio receiver. I had no idea what he was talking about, but I thought, "Is it some sort of superpowered radio wave that will finally let me listen to something besides "Classic Rock KQRS" over the airwaves? According to these articles, no and not really--the signal's actually weaker. Also, the list of stations available* in my area is not blowing my mind. Right now I have an an all-stoner rock station, all Goa Trance, all Jpop on my computer and AppleTV, but with HD Radio I could have--KQRS Deep Cuts! Woo, all the Lynyrd Skynyrd songs that aren't "Free Bird"!

So, in conclusion, this technology bears keeping an eye out, as it could be good in theory, but it's not for me at this time.

*And that is a horrible, horrible web site. Apparently, hd radio is for smug jerks with boats who love to hear annoying one-celled organisms sing. Way to sell a new technology, dudes!