Steve v Ben: Dawn of Bickering

In which Steve and his buddy argue the merits of Dawn of Justice.

 

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WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW.

Steve Boshear: Okay I don’t even know where to start with “why did you like it,” so I’m gonna start with what you just mentioned.
I don’t know why you think the Martha thing didn’t work dramatically. I loved it on three different levels:
1. Because Batman was so far gone that the only possible way to snap him out of it was to appeal to the very core of who he is. “Here’s a guy trying to save his mother’s life and you’re the guy standing in his way.”

2. Because it’s the perfect conclusion to the “god vs man” arc. The whole movie discusses Superman as some kind of god. The starving masses think he’s a benevolent god, Luthor thinks he’s a flawed, incompetent god, Batman thinks he’s an evil god. But in that moment, they finally drive home to Bruce and the viewer that this is just a regular dude who happens to have a shitload of powers through no fault of his own.

3. Sheer geek factor because I’ve thought for years that I was the only one who noticed their mothers have the same name.
Sheer geek factor is a lot of it throughout, honestly. Wonder Woman was badass, the Flash cameo was badass, the vision of the Darkseid invasion was badass, finally seeing a comics-accurate Batman was badass.

Benjamin Isaacs: yah, I was suspecting that.
I feel like people brought a lot of the movie to the table for themselves.

Steve Boshear: I think that too, but I think it’s from both sides.
I roll my eyes at people complaining it shouldn’t be dark becuase it’s a Superman movie.
Superman is not a dark character, but he very much lives in a dark world.
And that’s another thing I loved about BvS. Not treating Superman as a cartoon that can just do whatever. If he goes and attacks a terrorist cell, even to save lives, that has real-world consequences. The constant discussion of what Superman’s place is in the real world is one of the things that has been missing from previous films.

Benjamin Isaacs: That was very awkwardly done, I thought. Definitely a discussion that should have been in there, though.

Steve Boshear: You saying that is kind of supporting my suspicions about the Zack Snyder thing.

Benjamin Isaacs: Tell me more

Steve Boshear: I think he’s delivering themes and ideas on a wavelength that some people are totally on and others are totally not on.

Benjamin Isaacs: Hahah.
I think that’s a very polite way of saying “He’s not doing a good job of translating it to the screen, but some people are bringing the comics with them in their heads.”
He’s creating a Superman reference film, not a Superman film

Steve Boshear: I at least partly disagree.
I think Snyder was right not to spend too much screen time re-establishing things that are common knowledge about Superman and Batman. Everyone knows who Superman is in popular culture, so just a few shots of people treating him like that are enough.
And in Batman’s case, we did need to see the alleyway again at the beginning so that he could flash back to it later, but everything else about who Batman is was just assumed.
Because they’re so much a part of the cultural lexicon, there’s no need to retell anything you’re not changing.

Benjamin Isaacs: Yah, that’s where I disagree.
You may not need to hit specific story flashbacks (the super slow mo run to the “bat cave” as a boy was maddening) – but you do need to see how people feel about them.
Other than Lois Lane, I struggle to think of anyone who actually liked Superman who wasn’t being directly saved by him at the moment.

Steve Boshear: Dude, the city had built a statue to him.

Benjamin Isaacs: That’s what made it so much more perplexing.

Steve Boshear: When he showed up at the capitol building there were demonstrators both for and against him.

Benjamin Isaacs: The only people who seemed to like him were voiceless plebians.
“The masses” liked him

Steve Boshear: Exactly.

Benjamin Isaacs: It seemed grotesque to me

Steve Boshear: Why make a movie about Superman vs a bunch of people who like him?

Benjamin Isaacs: That’s not what I said.
There needs to be SOMEBODY in his corner.

Steve Boshear: Lois and his mom served that purpose.
And really, even the senator wasn’t toally against him.

Benjamin Isaacs: Really?

Steve Boshear: She just wanted to put him in check, not kick him off the planet. She blocked Lex’s import license because she didn’t want Superman killed.

Benjamin Isaacs: “My girlfriend and my mom like me” are not really a cabal of support.

Steve Boshear: They’re the only two that matter, though.

Benjamin Isaacs: I don’t agree, but please continue.

Steve Boshear: See, this is what I think it is with Snyder.
He doesn’t spend time driving home ideas.
He puts them in there and lets you find them.
Emotional beats and themes, I mean.
It’s like having a conversation with someone who doesn’t necessarily have the same frame of reference as you.

Benjamin Isaacs: Do me a favor, and whenever you say “Zack Snyder,” let’s both think “the writer/director of Sucker Punch.”

Steve Boshear: Haha

Benjamin Isaacs: Because I think it’ll help remind us both who you’re talking about.
He’s not George Bernard Shaw.

Steve Boshear: You know what, Sucker Punch was terrible, but even that movie is an example of what I’m talking about.
The fans hated it too, but they liked it 20% more than the critics.

Benjamin Isaacs: A man who stages a fight scene with a twelve foot tall samurai is not an example of “subtlety.”

Steve Boshear: Okay, but he’s also the director of 300 and Watchmen.

Benjamin Isaacs: Yeah – when he’s not in control of the source material, he does better.
And I definitely think it’s been a downward spiral.
As he gets more control over the story.

Steve Boshear: I agree about the source material thing, not about the downward spiral.

Benjamin Isaacs: My point being: he’s not subtle, he’s just missing stuff.

Steve Boshear: I don’t agree.
If that were true, there wouldn’t be all these people saying this movie was so mind-blowing.

Benjamin Isaacs: People said Avatar was mind blowing.
lol

Steve Boshear: Yeah, I hated Avatar, but I’m still willing to acknowledge one thing about it.
Whenever a movie is super divisive, I think it’s almost always a sign that the filmmakers have accomplished exactly what they intended.
They’re going for something really specific and it works for some people and not others.

Benjamin Isaacs: is it divisive though?
In my head it’s just “everyone hate BvS, or they were wildly wrong.”

Steve Boshear: Yeah, we’re on opposite extremes.
In my head, everyone either loved it or they’re just way off base.

Steve Boshear: I have a number of career filmmaker friends, people who are very literate about storytelling and movies in general, who are dumbfounded by the hate for this film.
This speaks to the divisiveness.
As much as you can’t fathom people liking it, there are other people who can’t grasp why anyone hates it.

Benjamin Isaacs: But I feel like the people who really like it are bringing the rest of the material to the table.
It’s not in the film.
It’s referential.

Steve Boshear: Well, that’s not really relevant.
I would say the reverse is true of people who didn’t like it, but it still wouldn’t be relevant.
The fact is, a ton of people loved the film, and a ton of people didn’t.

Benjamin Isaacs: It’s not as though I think you can’t make a complicated, introspective superhero movie.
I respected what Ang Lee tried to do.
and The Dark Knight is flat out a brilliant series of character studies.
This is not that.
This is 15 different themes sort of introduced, then dropped, then picked up, then never really talked about again.

Steve Boshear: The movie is making enough that they’re definitely not going to kick Snyder of of the captain’s chair, but at the same time, WB is hearing the negative reviews.
So I think in the future, we’re going to get Snyder DC movies that are somewhat tonally different
They are already doing reshoots on Suicide Squad

Benjamin Isaacs: I would be super, super happy if they kick Snyder out and keep the serious approach to the series
he’s just not good at story

Steve Boshear: And also, for Snyder detractors.
I think it’s good news that the next two films in the DCEU are directed by other people.
As much as I loved these first two movies, I am very interested to see what other directors do in this world he’s built.

Benjamin Isaacs: Also – I kinda wanna take that back from Snyder.
He didn’t build this world.
He based it off what Chris Nolan did.

Steve Boshear:
No.
There is zero Nolan in this film.

Benjamin Isaacs: Nolan is one of the executive producers.
Goyer wrote the screenplay.
Add Heath Ledger and you are 75% of the way to the Dark Knight.
This is the Chris Nolan vision of the DC universe, as-helmed by Snyder.

Steve Boshear: That could not be more off base.
Chris Nolan’s vision of Batman was one which had all the fantastic elements removed.
He leaned hard into realism, to the extent that he completely overhauled the Joker.
Snyder is doing the exact opposite.
The only connection is the grim tone.
And Hans Zimmer.

Benjamin Isaacs: Snyder is doing the exact opposite?
Batman’s training montage featured him attacking a tire.
You don’t get much more boiled down or realistic than that.
Which – by the way – doing strength training to fight Superman is like cramming for Jeopardy. If you aren’t already prepared, you never will be.
I literally broke up laughing when he started hammering the tire.

Steve Boshear: Well of course Batman trains like a badass, that’s not contested in any version. He has no powers, he has to train.

Benjamin Isaacs: I know, but it was ridiculous to watch.

Steve Boshear: But Nolan would never have him using the animated series-style grappling gun, which in real life would rip your arm off. Or building a robot suit that enhances his strength. Or fighting an alien with superpowers using a glowing rock as his weapon.
Nolan wouldn’t even let the Joker have white skin and a permanent smile. He had to turn it into makeup and scars.
He took away the Joker’s gas and gave him knives instead.
Because those things were too out there.
Even the fight scenes are ridiculously fantastic as opposed to grounded and almost believable.

Benjamin Isaacs: Yes, and I would agree with Nolan.
But either way – there’s no denying Warner Bros said, “We need more dark DC material.”

Steve Boshear: Oh yeah, that for sure.

Benjamin Isaacs: Either way – the fact that Batman A) saw Superman, and thought, “Yes, my time is best spent between actually developing a kryptonite weapon and sledge hammering a tire” B) Allowed Superman to recover from the gas the first time after he shot him C) put the gas in a device that required manual reload, and could only hold one cartridge at a time.
…Batman doesn’t beat Superman because he’s stronger. It’s because he’s smarter.
Those were not smart moves.

Steve Boshear: Yes, the strength training was silly on one level, but being prepared for anything is part of the Batman motto. If you’ve gotta jump out of the way of some laser vision, you don’t want to be thinking “damn, I shouldn’t have skipped leg day.”
And as far as not killing him right away, I think it was part of that cruelness Alfred was riding him for.
He wanted him to feel it.
For the same reason he was branding people.
Batman had just been acting like a dick lately.

Benjamin Isaacs: Okay, but where was that cruelty?
We saw it once in the branding and then at the end.

Steve Boshear: “Breathe it in” “You’re not brave. Men are brave.”

Benjamin Isaacs: Yes, that’s the end.

Steve Boshear: Also in his wanton blowing up of people.

Benjamin Isaacs: Okay that’s what I’m talking about.
That was absolutely something that should have been addressed.
Because Wallace and I were both sitting in the theater going, “Whoops, there’s another dead body.”
Alfred loses his shit over a branding.
But we hear nothing about the dead people in Batman’s wake?
Especially when Batman’s ONLY RULE is he doesn’t kill people?
The character is fundamentally breaking the only thing that matters to him… and it’s never addressed?

Steve Boshear: I actually agree that would have been stronger if they’d said something out loud, but everything Batman did grew out of that change in character at the beginning. It was the whole reason he went after Superman.

Benjamin Isaacs: Again tho – those are all good ideas that went unaddressed (I would argue, abandoned) in the film.

Steve Boshear: And I would say it wasn’t dropped at all. Everything Batman does grows out of that idea. It just wasn’t spoonfed to you by being spoken aloud over and over.
Although I suspect we’ll see it address more in the 3 hour cut.

Benjamin Isaacs: I wouldn’t say “critical characters addressing a fundamental break in a character” spoon feeding.
If anything, that first scene about “turning men cruel” seemed like lip service.

Steve Boshear: Chris Stout said that everything that was less than stellar about the film, by and large, is best addressed by making it longer, and I agree with him.

Benjamin Isaacs: I tentatively agree there.
Except for the inclusion of Doomsday and killing Superman.
That was straight out of the Batman and Robin playbook.
And probably cost Warner Bros and DC a literal billion dollars.

Steve Boshear: Dude, that was flawless.
I choked up several times in the third act.

Benjamin Isaacs: Dude Doomsday is not a third act complication.
He’s a movie in his own right.
As is Batman v Superman.
Jamming them together poorly serves both.

Steve Boshear: Actually, no, I don’t really agree.
The original Death of Superman story was actually very narratively thin.
It was two issues of story stretched out over eight or nine.

Benjamin Isaacs: That’s a whole other issue.

Steve Boshear: Doomsday (at least in his first appearance) doesn’t have enough to him to be more than that.

Benjamin Isaacs: Whether you feel Doomsday is thin or not, the wearing down and eventual murder of Superman deserves more than a set piece in an already thematically-overcrowded film.

Steve Boshear: But his wearing down was psychological and took the entire film.
Doomsday just pulled the trigger.

Benjamin Isaacs: How was he worn down?
Where did he slip up?

Steve Boshear:
We’re having the Man of Steel conversation all over agian.
It’s like you watched a different movie.

Benjamin Isaacs: I watched what was on screen tho – I didn’t make assumptions or supplement what wasn’t there.

Steve Boshear: The whole story of the film was about Superman questioning his core goodness.
And whether or not his actions were worth the price.
Until he got to the point where he even considered killing Batman.

Benjamin Isaacs: No, there were like 3 scenes that sort of approached that.

Steve Boshear: Dude… the entire freaking movie was about that.

Benjamin Isaacs: No, everybody ELSE questioned it.
He questioned it in the bathtub scene.
And then on the balcony.
And MAYBE in the Arctic.
And there was never any development

Steve Boshear: And in every single scene in which he appeared, save the very first one.

Benjamin Isaacs: Every single time it was “no no you’re fine.”
Hardly – there are scenes all over in which that’s not the point

Steve Boshear: HE only said he was fine in the bathtub scene.

Benjamin Isaacs: No, I meant everyone else reassured him.
The argument was never furthered.

Steve Boshear: Other people kept telling him he was fine, but he never accepted it until the moment he decided to kill Doomsday.
All those scenes end with him flying away brooding.

Benjamin Isaacs: Exactly.
Zero development.
No change.

Steve Boshear: Except the one in the capitol building, which ends with him standing in a piled of flaming bodies and brooding.

Benjamin Isaacs: “Is this ok?”
“It is!”
“I dunnoooooo”
Over and over again.

Steve Boshear: No, he gets pushed further each time.
In the bathtub scene it’s “I didn’t kill that man, Lois, no matter what they say,” and by the time Lex kidnaps Martha it’s “He has to help me or he has to die. No one stays good in this world.”
There’s a very clear wearing down of his will and self-image.

Benjamin Isaacs: No, that’s an unfair explanation.
He stays the same until the very last time.

Steve Boshear: That is just not true.
I don’t understand how you can think that.

Benjamin Isaacs: Okay let’s list the times he’s confronted with it.
The bath tub scene – which references either deaths that clearly weren’t his fault (the Lexcorp killers) or else some village massacre we never see.

Steve Boshear: He ends that scene smiling.

Benjamin Isaacs: When’s the next one?

Steve Boshear: Lemme think… only seen it twice…
Oh, when he talks to Perry about his Batman piece.
“You don’t get to decide what the right thing is.”
Ends that scene still confident that he’s right, but looking frustrated.

Benjamin Isaacs: That’s not about Superman.
That’s about Batman’s vigilantism.
What I mean to say is that scene isn’t about Superman’s right to exist in the world.

Steve Boshear: Yes, but that’s clearly what his Batman obsession parallels.
As Bruce Wayne himself points out the next time it comes up.

Benjamin Isaacs: I wouldn’t say that’s clear.

Steve Boshear: This would be where I say you’re missing the subtlety again.

Benjamin Isaacs: And I’d say this is where the themes are muddled.

Steve Boshear: The central question of the film is whether Superman’s actions are right when he acts unilaterally. Perry White says TO SUPERMAN “you don’t get to decide what the right thing is.”
I don’t know how that could be more clear.

Benjamin Isaacs: Yes, but he’s arguing it by saying “the fact that Batman acts unilaterally is unimportant”
Muddled.

Steve Boshear: He’s also saying “you, as a reporter, are not empowered to make this decision unilaterally.”
Not muddled. Layered.

Benjamin Isaacs: That’s not layering.

Steve Boshear: It is. It’s a complex idea being addressed in a complex manner.

Benjamin Isaacs: Saying “you don’t get to decide who acts unilaterally” is, I suppose, a complex idea, but it’s impossible logic.

Steve Boshear: Saying “But they were talking about Batman, so it doesn’t apply to Superman’s arc” is ignoring what’s happening internally with the character.

Benjamin Isaacs: Never mind the fact that Batman’s vigilantism isn’t the reason Perry is shutting him down.
Perry doesn’t care, is the truth.

Steve Boshear: Sure, but we’re discussing Clark’s character arc, not Perry’s.

Benjamin Isaacs: That’s why it’s muddled though.

Steve Boshear: In the next scene, where he interviews Bruce Wayne, the man himself states that parallel out loud.

Benjamin Isaacs: Also never mind the fact that Batman has apparently been operating for 20 years and Clark is acting like he just heard about it.

Steve Boshear: I think it’s more that it’s just being brought to Clark’s attention how bad the Batman problem is.
Remember, he spent a bunch of his life on oil rigs and far-flung arctic expeditions.
And Batman probably isn’t that well-known outside the Gotham area prior to that point.

Benjamin Isaacs: But he’s been in Metropolis more than 2 years at that point.

Steve Boshear: Yeah. Working on other important stories. Then the TV news starts reporting on the Bat-brand and someone sends Clark an envelope full of polaroids of tortured criminals.
So he has a new story to work on.
It’s never stated or implied that he hadn’t heard of Batman before, but that doesn’t mean it was something he wanted to write a story about.

Benjamin Isaacs: Again, all that is unexplained and muddled.

Steve Boshear: How is it unexplained? There’s a whole scene of him going through the polaroids with “Judge, Jury, Executioner, Justice?” wiritten on them. I actually thought it was a little too on the nose.

Benjamin Isaacs: It’s unexplained as to “why now.”
Why is Batman worse now?
Our first introduction is him branding a guy.
They are assuming we already know Batman doesn’t do that.
Again, referential.

Steve Boshear: …Because he’s started torturing people ever since the Zod incident. Alfred chews him out for it twice.
And there are at least two scenes of people watching news reports about it.

Benjamin Isaacs: People talking about a thing isn’t good filmmaking.

Steve Boshear: They did everything short of writing it on the screen in crayon.

Benjamin Isaacs: They might as well have done a “well, as you know, Dr. Johnson, Batman doesn’t do that.”

Steve Boshear: Okay, so your argument has just shifted from “it wasn’t clear” to “it was too simplistic?”

Benjamin Isaacs: No.
I’m saying having scenes where people talk about it isn’t as clear as having it dramatically unfold.
Where was the scene where the police break with Batman?
Where Commissioner Gordon goes “I can’t have your back on this one.”
Where were the relationships that got damaged? Alfred clicking his tongue is hardly drama.

Steve Boshear: Alfred chewing him out is exactly that. Wanting to shoehorn in Commissioner Gordon doing the same thing is nonsense. That’s just writing a different movie.

Benjamin Isaacs: Absolutely disagree.
If you want Alfred to break with him
Or say “look I can’t do this”
See their relationship change in some way
Okay, that’s drama.
What happened on screen was clumsy exposition wrapped in high language.

Steve Boshear: Could not disagree more. It was exposition, but not clumsy. They got across a lot in a short time, both visually and in dialogue.

Benjamin Isaacs: But nothing changed.
It was just talk.
It certainly didn’t demonstrate that anything fundamental had changed.
Saying “this isn’t cool” is the weakest of weak sauce if we don’t actually see any fallout.
Then it wasn’t really that bad at all.

Steve Boshear: The change was Batman becoming more and more obsessed with killing Superman until the Martha moment, when he finally realizes he’s abandoned his highest self and does a very painful 180.

Benjamin Isaacs: That was another awkward moment.

Steve Boshear: The movie STARTED with a Batman who had already turned bad, and the arc was about turning him good again.
You’re asking for the movie to be about him turning bad in the first place.
Which is just a different movie.

Benjamin Isaacs: As I said – muddled.
No he just didn’t seem that bad to me.
No one seemed especially shocked by him.
Even Clark being obsessed just felt like plot filler.
I didn’t believe anyone was actually upset.

Steve Boshear: It wasn’t plot filler, it was B story informed by the A story.
It was Clark projecting his insecurities about being above the law onto someone else who was doing the same thing.

Benjamin Isaacs: Yah, I think that’s something you read into it.
There’s nothing in there I saw about him seeing himself in Batman.

Steve Boshear: That was the movie! That’s what it was about!

Benjamin Isaacs: Where?

Steve Boshear: Do you honestly think all these perfect parallels between the two characters are there by accident and Zack Snyder just bungled into them?
No, man. That’s what he put in the film.

Benjamin Isaacs: Seriously – where does he compare himsef to Batman? I’m not saying there aren’t parallels – I’m saying you’re reading “Clark projecting his insecurities” into it.

Steve Boshear: Is there a scene where Clark sits down and says out loud that he’s projecting his fears about himself onto Batman? No. But the parallel is drawn for him. Most clearly by Bruce himself in their scene together at the party.

Benjamin Isaacs: That’s a very interpretive viewpoint.
Nothing makes that clear.

Steve Boshear: Everything makes it clear! Clark saying it out loud would have been on the nose and terrible.

Benjamin Isaacs: My take on it at the time was Clark doesn’t see himself as Batman at all.
He thinks he’s very very different.

Steve Boshear: Clark sees Batman as what some people say Superman is.

Benjamin Isaacs: But he doesn’t see himself in Batman in some way.

Steve Boshear: He is after Batman because he thinks THAT guy is the real asshole that people are saying I am.

Benjamin Isaacs: Zero evidence for that.

Steve Boshear: And as his own self-image gets slowly chipped away, he becomes less and less sure that he’s right.

Benjamin Isaacs: It could just as easily be he doesn’t like seeing what Batman is doing.
Which is what I took it as.

Steve Boshear: And you’d be right. That’s not contradictory to what I’m saying at all.
But the character motivation is deeper than what he himself is aware of at first. That’s called not being on the nose.

Benjamin Isaacs: But there’s no evidence that Clark sees any part of himself or his insecurities in Batman.
That’s the part you’re reading into it

Steve Boshear: I disagree.
To me it’s 100% clear that was the intention.

Benjamin Isaacs: Based on… what, that Clark does?

Steve Boshear: Based on the fact that this is the story he chooses to obsess over at a time in his life when his every thought is consumed by people criticizing Superman.
And the fact that the only way out of the Martha situation that he can think of is to get Batman’s help.
Becuase deep down, he’s realized they’re after the same thing.

Benjamin Isaacs: Yahhhhh brudda I appreciate and can see your POV, but none of that is there.

Steve Boshear: If he really saw Batman as a complete other, he wouldn’t think to ask for his help.

Benjamin Isaacs: I feel like you’re bridging the gaps in weak story.

Steve Boshear: This is what I was saying at the beginning. These things are in the story, they’re just not hitting you in a way where you’re seeing them.

Benjamin Isaacs: Or, alternatively, you can be automatically filling in gaps for yourself, and I’m watching the movie that’s there.
Anything in a movie is TECHNICALLY explainable.

Steve Boshear: But you can do with with any movie if you ignore the subtext.
George killed Lenny for no reason!
Is basically the kind of thign I’m hearing from you.

Benjamin Isaacs: But if the movie isn’t laying down the basic threads, it’s not doing its job.

Steve Boshear: It did lay them down, and I am baffled that you aren’t connecting them.
Also, you and I were on opposite sides of this exact argument when we discussed The Dark Crystal.
There was a bunch of stuff that I said was unclear and assumed and you thought it was obvious.

Benjamin Isaacs: The difference being Dark Crystal is a classic film created by a team of legitimate geniuses and BvS was brought to you by the mind behind “Sucker Punch.”
“When left to his own story devices, Zack Snyder brings you Sucker Punch.”
I hammer on that because every one of his films has been criticized for having huge amounts of style and zest and very little substance.
Dawn of the Dead was a classic examination of consumer culture – he turned it into a popcorn film.
300 – a visual feast, but not much else.
Watchmen – faithful in visuals to the comic, but hardly i spirit (Night Owl has super Kung fu powers now?)

Steve Boshear: The final pass on the script was done by one Mister Ben Affleck.
Writer of Good Will Hunting, Gone Baby Gone and The Town.

Benjamin Isaacs: I mean – that’s great, but the director is the one executing.
I’ve said there were several good ideas in the movie.
Just crammed in or not given enough room to breathe.

Steve Boshear: Your claim that Dark Crystal is a classic is not supported by me anyway.

Benjamin Isaacs: The fact that we’re debating it 30 years later doesn’t hurt its case.
Whereas I haven’t thought about Man of Steel until I saw BvS, and I won’t think about either after this month.

Steve Boshear: Same for me with Dark Crystal
In 34 years, BvS will be roughly as “classic” as Dark Crystal is.
They currently have almost the same IMDB rating.

Benjamin Isaacs: That’s okay, you can do that.
Doesn’t mean BvS isn’t muddled tho haha.

Steve Boshear: To me, Dark Crystal is the Sucker Punch of Jim Henson.

Benjamin Isaacs: Hahah I feel like history doesn’t agree with you, though.

Steve Boshear: Kinda, but history’s not going to agree with you about BvS.
People will remember it more and more fondly as the grow up.
Which is exactly what happened to Dark Crystal.

Benjamin Isaacs: I mean there’s no question kids will like it.
But I don’t see BvS lasting long term.
Dark Knight will last, Avengers will last.
This whole Snyder reboot will be DC stumbling over its own feet again.

Steve Boshear: The Dark Crystal never had a sequel, and no further “dark muppet” movies were ever made. So… did that film really “last?”
Superman Returns is a movie that hasn’t lasted.
People generally forget it even exists and it’s only ten years old.
Dark Crystal lasted more than that did.

Benjamin Isaacs: The Dark Crystal was part of a whole series of TV and movie projects using muppet technology in more serious roles.
Storyteller?

Steve Boshear: There were no more theatrical attempts though.
Storyteller is badass, by the way, but it was five years later and I would argue not related.
It only had one muppet in it and was not very dark.
Or very serious.
I don’t think serious Muppets would be done again until Farscape, well after Henson died.

Benjamin Isaacs: I can go back and look, they did a lot of things, but that puts us far afield from where we started.
Which is: Muddled! Haha.

Steve Boshear: Right.
Layered! Complex! Subtle!
Impasse.
Figured we’d get here eventually.
Do you at least admit that Wonder Woman was amazing?

Benjamin Isaacs: I thought Gal Gadot was impressive as fuck.
I thought her part was grossly underwritten and kind of a ripoff of Captain America’s situation.

Steve Boshear: Well… certain parallels are unavoidable. They did bump her from WWII to WWI, probably just for that reason.

Benjamin Isaacs: She’s the “pre world war 2” character.
They didn’t have to take that tack.
That said, I liked it.

Steve Boshear: I liked her performance, LOVED her score and loved her in the action scenes.
I don’t think they could have done her character more justice in the amount of screentime they had for it.

Benjamin Isaacs: Yah I agree re: her char vs screen time.
Oh god – the Batman fight scene in the desert camp.
Can we at least agree that was awful?

Steve Boshear: No

Benjamin Isaacs: It was soooooo slow, and awkward.

Steve Boshear: You mean the action was literally too slow?

Benjamin Isaacs: Yes, literally Batman was moving too slowly.
And everyone was just waiting on him while he fought.
I had never realized how good any other fight scene was until I saw that.

Steve Boshear: I’d give that a maybe. I liked it overall, but it wasn’t the best action sequence in the film.
It definitely wasn’t terrible. I felt that they took it kind of slowly on purpose to show that the future Batman had gone from “oops, I threw a guy into a grenade” to straight up shooting people.
And also to give us a good look around at the world.
Fire pits on the horizon, parademons flying around. I feel like I might not have had time to look at that if the action had been more eye-catching.

Benjamin Isaacs: Also – no reaction from Batman for straight shooting people? Or the fact that he hit literally zero people?

Steve Boshear: He was going one shot, one kill for most of that scene.

Benjamin Isaacs: He hits nobody.
I watched super carefully.

Steve Boshear: He blows away the guy in the truck when he first draws, then lays down two more when he first steps out of the truck.

Benjamin Isaacs: Yes that’s true.
I meant in the broader fight scene when he is shooting everywhere.
I should have been more clear, I apologize.

Steve Boshear: I’d have to watch it again but I’m fairly sure you’re mistaken about that.
Rumor is we’re going to see Batman removing the guns from the Batmobile in one of his Suicide Squad scenes.

Benjamin Isaacs: Interesting.

Steve Boshear: The idea being that seeing Superman’s actions in the Doomsday fight brings him back to himself and causes him to recommit to fighting the good fight the right way.
Snyder was asked about all the Bat-murder in an interview and his response was that it was all indirect. He deliberately created a Batman who stretched that “I won’t kill you but I don’t have to save you” idea to its breaking point.
He shoots cars and if guys happen to be in them, oh well.

Benjamin Isaacs: Yah, I can be down with that, but that feels lke a big thing not to at least address, it speaks a lot to the character’s mindset, and if you leave it open to interpretation, it can become – muddled.

Steve Boshear: I think that might be one of the things we see in the extended cut.
Jenna Malone had an entire character that was cut.
I’m actually more on your side with that one. In the interview, Snyder seemed like he thought it didn’t require explanation because really, Batman kills people all the time in the movies.
“I don’t want to execute this criminal, so I’ll just burn down this temple full of people instead.”
And of course the Burton ones, where he just kills pretty much everyone he fights.

Benjamin Isaacs: Nod.
That’s how I feel a lot of it was handled.

Steve Boshear: Yeah, I agree. I just think in most other cases, he was right.

Benjamin Isaacs: I think if it was clear to you, then that would make sense.
I felt like they didn’t give enough of the important dramatic moments their due, and in doing so, things got lost, or were open to improper interpretations.

Steve Boshear: Phrased that way, I think it’s a fair criticism of Zack Snyder in general.
I mean, I’ve been pointing to all the people that “got” the movie, but the fact that so many didn’t obviously means things could be improved.
Especially since these are the same things Snyder gets criticized for a lot.

Benjamin Isaacs: I found it frustrating, because there were some pretty cool ideas in it.

Central Casting Celebrates 90 Years!

There are a few experiences that any aspiring actor in Los Angeles must have.  Getting your first set of head shots (and nearly fainting when you find out how much it costs), booking a part in your first terrible play (Who told this writer/director/lead actor that this was a good play?), then your first even more terrible short/student film  (Wait, I actually gave up a lucrative dinner shift at my restaurant to work for FREE in this?), and, of course, signing up with Central Casting to work as a background actor.

building

This year, Central Casting, a verifiable cornerstone of the entertainment industry, is celebrating 90 years of being in show business.  I was told on a studio tour once that back in the Dark Ages of filmmaking, if a person wanted to work as a “day player” on a film production, they literally had to wait outside the studio gates every morning until the director or one of his assistants would come down to the gate, look the crowd over and point out the people he wanted to work on his production for the day.  Does that sound demeaning to anyone else?  It really did to me.  Fortunately, Central Casting was a joint venture brought to life by multiple film studios that got rid of that old (lack of) system and made it easier for directors to find the people they wanted to fill out the backgrounds in their scenes.  With offices in Los Angeles, New York, and Louisiana, as well as one scheduled to open in Atlanta in 2016, Central Casting is still by far the largest supplier of background actors in the entertainment industry.

Years ago, I signed up with Central Casting in order to gain SAG eligibility back before SAG merged with AFTRA.  Yes, I know:  I am old.  My own experiences working background (don’t ever call them “Extras,” because apparently that is an offensive term to modern Background Actors) have careened wildly from 16-hour days spent in the blazing San Fernando Valley sun, to 10-hour days where I actually sat on an uncomfortable metal folding chair in a holding area for 8 hours before being called to set, to working an outdoor, night time carnival scene until after four o’clock in the morning), to the jackpot jobs where you only work about three hours before being released (but still paid for an 8-hour day!).

people-in-lineAt a recent background actor appreciation event, I had the privilege of sitting down with Jennifer Bender, the Executive Vice President of Central Casting, who gave me some fascinating insight into the behind the scenes work that goes on there.  Ms. Bender has been with Central Casting for 20 years and has worked with titans of the industry such as directors Rob Marshall  cast background for hugely successful and acclaimed films like “Memoirs of a Geisha.”  The 30 casting directors on staff at Central work with closely with directors and their assistants to craft the look of their projects.  For longer film or television work, casting directors often meet with production representatives on a weekly basis to look over photos and decide what look they’re going for and what types of face/hair/make up/wardrobe/style best suits the scenes they are planning to work on.

In some cases, even the vast stockpiles of people on Central’s rolodex are not enough to fully flesh out a scene.  As Bender noted, when “Memoirs of a Geisha” was filming, they even had to put out a casting call in local Asian communities to get the right amount of even vaguely Japanese-looking people to make the set look like a fully-functioning Japanese town pre-World War II.

Hey, at least none of those people had to stand outside the studio gate to work that day.  So, thank you Central Casting, for all your 90 years of hard work.  How many other entertainment-related companies can say they have been in business that long?  Yeah, I’m looking at you, RKO.

R.I.P. Bob Hoskins

So this post is noticeably late – fare more so than the others that have posted this week.  This is primarily because other great actors have left us since we recorded this.  Nonetheless, we here at DBM Original loved Bob Hoskins, so we want to devote a marathon to him

The interesting thing about this marathon is that Hoskins was primarily a supporting actor, so our top five “Bob Hoskins” movies contain only two where is he actually the lead.   For the other three, we tried to pick the movies we loved in him the most.  Here’s what we picked:

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Brazil (1985)
Okay, it’s true.  Bob Hoskins’  role in Brazil is pretty small.  Still, this is one of the best movies he appeared in, and his role as Spoor, one of the two slimy workers from Central Services, was pretty memorable.  Joe had actually never seen Brazil before, and for all intents and purposes, he still hasn’t.  I mean, it’s Terry Gilliam and we tried to watch it with two toddlers in the room.  May as well have just shouted calculus equations at each other while falling out of an airplane.

The Long Good Friday (1980)
I wasn’t quite around yet in 1980, but apparently, this was Hoskins’ breakout role.  In The Long Good Friday, he plays Harold, a London underworld kingpin trying to use his dirty money to go legit. His image of himself as the undisputed criminal king of London is shatter when a mysterious part starts killing his friends and bombing his businesses.  As Harold investigates the source of the growing body, evidence begins to point to the IRA, potentially jeopardizing the deal he was hoping to make with the American mafia.

This was the only film we watched in the marathon, and perhaps the only one I’ve ever seen, where the impetus of greatness rested squarely on Bob Hoskins’ shoulders.  He’s technically the lead in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but he was really only there to play the straight man to a world full of cartoons.  So I have to say I was thoroughly impressed with him in The Long Good Friday.  He was not just good to watch, he was almost impossible to look away from.  I know most filmmakers like their leading men to be taller and have more hair, but this made me wish we’d gotten more films that really let Hoskins shine.

Unleashed (2005)
Luc Besson has his detractors, but I’m a fan and, for my money, Unleashed was the most enjoyable film we’d watched up to this point in the marathon.  Correcting the claim I made in the video, I can’t honestly say it’s the best, film we had watched, because Brazil had come first, but fully appreciating Brazil requires me to use a highly intellectual part of my brain that wasn’t available to me under marathon conditions.

Hoskins is Bart, the lead villain in Unleashed, playing a small-time loan shark who has raised Jet Li’s character Danny like a dog, housing him in a cage, feeding him cold canned foods, and denying his humanity. Danny also wears a metal collar around his neck, which never comes off until Bart takes it off, at which point Danny has been psychologically conditioned to beat everyone around him who isn’t with Bart to death with his incredible martial arts skills. (How Bart trained a Jet Li-caliber fighter while also conditioning him to have no self-worth is not really explained).

The plot of the film has to do with Danny getting separated from Bart and the gang for the first time in his life and beginning to discover his humanity with the help of an old blind man (Morgan Freeman) and his stepdaughter (Kerry Condon). When Bart comes looking for him, he finds a man instead of a dog… and much kicking ensues.

Watching this film immediately after The Long Good Friday madr it hard not to see it as a sequel, with Bart actually being a much older and pettier Harold. The attitudes are so similar: both characters are London scumbags who like to pretend they’re a big deal when they’re not. After all, Harold’s empire was collapsing at the end of the previous film and, if he survived the IRA, it could only be because changed his name and hid. But Harold’s got too big an ego not to get back in the game, so he sets himself up as a loan shark, steals a little Asian boy, and the rest is history. Yeah? I think so. Watch both films and I think you’ll agree.

Hook (1991)
Wow. Okay. When we watched this marathon, Robin Williams was alive and well and Bob Hoskins was our most recent tragic loss. At the time of this writing, however, they are both gone, and I can’t go without mentioning that. Hook is a very special film in this marathon, in that it is, for me and my childhood, the iconic performance of both Hoskins and Williams (and one of two for Dustin Hoffman, but he’s still alive and long may he remain so.) You will not find a person in my generation who won’t say “Robin Williams” when asked who was the best Peter Pan, who won’t get a “Bangarang” reference, or who won’t know who won’t yell “Ooooooh!” after you shout “RU! FI! -”

Likewise, you won’t find anyone my age who, when shown a picture of Bob Hoskins, doesn’t say “Smee.” I haven’t watched his entire filmography, but I nonetheless feel safe in saying that Smee was easily Hoskins’ funniest and most lovable character (despite being technically a villain). I could watch this film over and over, and Bob Hoskins is one of many great reasons why.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Well, of course we watched Roger Rabbit. We’re not complete savages. This is the only film of the day wherein Hoskins achieves every British actor’s career high point: playing an American.

Burn.

This is a fun movie. Not fantastic, storywise, but a fantastic technical achievement for the time, a fantastic legal achievement when you consider the implications of Bugs and Daffu appearing alongside Mickey and Donald, and a fantastic acting achievement when you think of Hoskins on set, performing opposite nothing and nobody, in an age when all the other actors had actual actors to perform with. Not to mention succesfully portraying a brooding noir-style P.I. in a world of talking rabbits.

So that brought us to the end of the day and the end of the marathon. Fortunately for us and the world, it is not the end of Bob Hoskins. He appeared in 114 films in his life, and that means he will be with us forever. We should all spend some time with him soon.

Come back tomorrow for the fifth and final marathon in our week of new videos.

The Marathon That Kicked Our Butts

Okay, okay. This is hard to admit, but it’s true. We started a marathon and gave up before the end.

In my defense, I’d already done the Biblical Epics marathon the same month and, since our usual schedule is once a month, I saw this as just an extra one I used as an excuse to hang out with friends who weren’t Joe for a change.  So when it got to be 2:00am and all three of us were falling asleep, we called it.  I could have stayed up finished the final movie on my own but… sigh.

I’m so ashamed.

Hey wait a minute.  Ashamed of what?  I run this place.  I don’t answer to you.  Step off.

Anyway, this was a marathon of martial arts films in which I and my chop-socky pals Reggie and Bertran each picked two of our favorites and made the others watch them.  These are the five we actually watched:

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The movie we ended up tapping out of was Bertran’s second pick The Man From Nowhere.  He admitted it’s not totally a martial arts film anyway, so there’s that excuse too.

True Legend (2010)
True Legend was one of Reggie’s picks, which I had never seen before. It was unsuccessful in China, but I honestly don’t know why. It’s a martial arts fantasy film with beautiful cinematography, incredible wire-fighting, and an insane villain with armor plates permanently sewn into his skin.

Undisputed III: Redemption (2010)

Here was my first pick. Undisputed III has, of course, made an appearance on this site before.  I discovered this little diamond in the rough after getting interested in Scott Adkins the year The Expendables 2 was released. This film contains some of the best fights and the most memorable character in recent action movie history: Yuri Boyka, the most complete fighter in the world. The character was introduced as a villain in the second film and, even though he doesn’t really undergo any kind of moral redemption in this film, he does recover from the possibly career-ending injury he suffered in the last one and return to kicking the crap out of less complete fighters.

Dragon (2011)
This was Bertran’s pick and, overall, probably the best movie we watched during this marathon. Plotwise, it was very similar to the 2005 Viggo Mortensen vehicle A History of Violence, only with kung fu in place of mafia violence. A local everyman suddenly displays an incredible talent for violence when his town is threatened by criminals. When word of his actions spreads, an evil criminal syndicate comes looking for him, revealing that he is actually one of their number who ran away and hid in this small village years ago to escape his life of crime. Watching him defend his new family from his old one is an exercise in awesome.

Black Dynamite (2009)
If you haven’t seen Black Dynamite, you are a stone cold sucka. Do it. Creator and star Michael Jai White manages to blend a simultaneous parody of Bruce Lee and 70’s Blaxploitation films with his legitimately badass kung fu skills to create a hilarious action parody that can’t really be compared to much else. This was my second pick, because Bertran had somehow never seen it.

Drive (1997)
This was Reggie’s second pick. It stars the host of Iron Chef America and Dwayne Wayne from A Different World. One of those two guys turns out to actually be a blazing-fast, high-flying martial artist. I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t Dwayne.

By the time Drive was over, we were all fighting sleep, it was 2:00am and watching The Man From Nowhere just wasn’t going to happen. So the rest is history.

Still, we had a lot of fun and it will be happening again. In the meantime, come back tomorrow for day 4 of our week of new videos.

Hollywood Keeps Adapting the Same Book

It’s time for day two in our week of new videos!

Pop quiz:  Why would DBM Original do a marathon of Biblical Epics and not include Noah?

If you answered “because this video is so old that Noah was sill in theaters when they shot it,” then you’re correct.

You see, sometimes we get ambitious and try to release videos that are relevant to current events.  Since we took our little hiatus after shooting this, however, it didn’t really work out.  Nonetheless, we totally watched a bunch of Bible movies!

Obviously, there were some that didn’t make the cut. Chief among them is The Passion of the Christ, which we opted to skip primarily because there was no way we were watching that with our sons in the room.  They’re not allowed to watch a man get tortured to death until they’re at least 10.  So here are the ones we did pick:

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And here we are doing it:

The Ten Commandments (1956)

In case you’ve never seen it, the first thing you need to know about The Ten Commandments is that it’s LOOOOOOONG.  Like, Lord of the Rings Extended Edition long.  Only without Sam Gamgee or orcs.  Just a bunch of white guys pretending to be middle-eastern and… well, the voice and finger of God.

I guess that’s a good reason for a four-hour movie.  Didn’t stop The Prince of Egypt from doing the story in 99 minutes though.

Commandments was obviously a great film.  Its reputation is earned.  For a marathon, however, four hours was too much, so we pulled a trick.  When Commandments got to intermission, we watched another movie before going back.  That way we were able to break up all the Heston into two manageable chunks.

The Prince of Egypt (1998)

This was one of my favorite films in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, but I hadn’t seen it in so long, I had completely forgotten how good it was.  The beautiful, layered animation uses several techniques at once to create a world that feels deep and nuanced, while the soundtrack keeps blowing your mind with incredibly powerful songs.  The score was Oscar-nominated and When You Believe actually went home with Best Original Song.  That’s actually not my favorite song in the film, but only because there are so many other awesome songs in it too.

Sure, they took numerous liberties with the Biblical account, but what film on this list didn’t?  At least in The Prince of Egypt, they made changes that really feel like they made the movie better without violating the spirit of the story.  In fact, having watched the DVD commentary in the past, I know that they had a multi-faith panel of consultants to make sure they didn’t change something that was too important.  The scene where Moses kills an Egyptian to save a Hebrew was originally written with Moses’ sister Miriam as the Hebrew.  Apparently, the rabbis consulted objected, saying that the point of that scene is that Moses is starting to feel a connection to his people, not just to his family.  The filmmakers listened and changed it back to the Biblical version: just some random Hebrew.  That was definitely the right decision, as it reinforces the emotional arc of a character who goes from blissful ignorance to putting his life on the line for his people in the space of 99 minutes.

I could go on and on.  The point is, it’s a great movie.

And short.

Samson and Delilah (1949)

That Cecil B. DeMille sure did love him some Bible.  Samson and Delilah came out seven years before his the Charlton Heston version of The Ten Commandments and twenty-six years after DeMille’s first film by that name.  He’d also made a Jesus movie called The King of Kings in 1927, and various other period pieces set in and around Biblical times.  Still, Heston’s Ten Commandments was the last film DeMille personally directed in his life, which makes it seem like all of the others were just practice for that one.

Watching Samson and Delilah, that’s exactly what it feels like: practice.  The characters’ actions don’t always make a ton of sense and nobody in it gives a truly memorable performance.  Still, it’s a fun movies to watch, if only for the action.  Samson butchering a thousand Philistines with an animal bone is a feat even Rambo hasn’t matched… yet… and the movie lets us see it.  Well, it lets us watch for long enough to get the idea without it becoming like a two-hour game of whack-a-mole, then cuts at the right time.  Then, of course, Samson’s final act is done very well in this film.  If you don’t know what Samson’s final act was I’ll avoid spoilers, but go read your Bible.  Or watch this film.  Or at least skim over Wikipedia.

So good solid movie, but not one I’m in a hurry to watch again.

Solomon and Sheba (1959)

Making his second appearance in the marathon, let’s have a hand for Yul Brynner.  Solomon and Sheba was a good movie about royal romance set against a backdrop of political intrigue in a monarchy.  It was not strictly a Biblical story.  Certain plot elements, like the infighting of David’s children and the fact that Sheba was… around at the time… are taken from Biblical accounts, but pretty much everything else is totally fictionalized.  This type of “it’s good, but what were they thinking” tone is reflected in the art design as well.  The sets and costumes are intricate and beautifully made.  But for some reason, the Israelites have the Star of David proudly displayed on all their armor, shields, buildings and throne rooms.  If that doesn’t seem weird to you then you, like the filmmakers, are clearly unaware that the Star of David didn’t exist for centuries after the time in which this movie is set, and wasn’t widely used by the Jews themselves for even more centuries.  I mean, David himself appears in the film!  He was still alive for part of it.  So what did Solomon call that symbol, The Star of Dad?  Give me a break.  Still, nice to look and and good fight choreography, so not a total waste of time.

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)

This here is one of my favorite movies of all time.  True, I’m a believer and this film is made from a primarily agnostic standpoint, but it was still the first screen Jesus I ever saw where my Lord and Savior was actually portrayed as a powerful figure.  Whatever else you do with Jesus onscreen, I feel like that’s the key thing that a lot of versions miss: Jesus walked into rooms and people noticed.  They noticed so much they eventually had to kill him.  Joe takes issue with some of the uncertainty Jesus displays in the film.  Specifically, the scene where he is mobbed by folks needing healing and calls out “there’s too little of me.”  That hits the wrong chord with Joe, and I do see where he’s coming from, but I don’t agree.  The Gospels mention plenty of instances where Jesus cried, got frustrated, got angry, wanted to be by himself for a while and, famously, got so stressed out that he actually sweated blood.  Whether or not God incarnate would ever say out loud “there’s too little of me,” I think it’s pretty clear that he must have felt that way from time to time.  That’s why I’m actually glad Jesus Christ Superstar was not made by people who weren’t necessarily believers: they didn’t shy away from exploring the human issues.

Also, the music is awesome.  Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson were the rock stars of my high school years.

So that wrapped up the Biblical marathon.  Come back tomorrow to see the Martial Arts marathon I did with Reggie and Bertran.

Blasting to the Top at 88 mph!

Greetings DBM fans everywhere!

If you’re reading this, then you have probably already voted in the Death By Movies Greatest 1980’s Movie Ever Poll.  And because this is Death By Movies, you know that we are the authoritative source, and there is no flaw in our methods or arguments.  Because we are deadly that way.  And the people have spoken: Back to the Future is clearly the greatest 1980’s movie of all the 1980’s movies because internet poll.

"We won, Marty!  We won!"
“We won, Marty! We won!”

And the prize? Back to the Future will be the April marathon for DBM Texas.  So charge up your flux capacitors, lace up your self-lacing shoes, and buckle your seat belts.  DBM Texas is going Back… to the Future!

 

P.S. Yes, if you are wondering, the DBM Texas Indiana Jones marathon (from January – I know, I’m a terrible human being) will be posted about, and I’m trying to find time to do the video games project.  But we just got a house and a dog.  We’ve been a little busy.