July rambling: “Tell Us How We Did”

time to use the F-word

Misinformation
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

The U.S. could lose its top-level bond rating because of the Big Lie

Yes, this is fascism: The Atlantic’s conservative David Frum says it’s time to use the F-word; a dark warning

Military Chiefs Planned Joint Resignation To Thwart Trump’s ‘Gospel Of The Fuhrer’

Deadly Flooding Turns ‘Small’ German River Into a ‘Raging Monster’. Video by Roger Green (not me)

NBC News: Eighty years after a segregation wall rose in Detroit, America remains divided. That’s not an accident

Flight attendant harasses Muslim woman

DACA: One More Example of Broken Democracy

I lived in an airport for seven months

According to the EPA, clothes, and shoes account for more municipal solid waste than .plastic items

Now I Know:  Literally Nuts for Candy and The Problem with Lots of People Drinking Lots of Tea and  The Pink Hat of Fidelity and  The Biggest of Macs and  When It’s Better to Be in Fourth Place and The Problem With Stealing High-End Electronics and The Bugs That Make Danger Glow

Media

Inside Big Tech’s angry, geeky, often petty war for your privacy

Hank Green: Should You Abandon Social Media?

I’m Breaking Up with ZOOM

“Tell Us How We Did”. Irrefutably TRUE

An Exploration of James Baldwin’s Life and Works Through the Powerful Lens of His House Chez Baldwin in St. Paul de Vence, France

Voice actors

Emmy’s Big Problem

Ken Levine interviews author Mark Harris who wrote the book MIKE NICHOLS: A LIFE here and here.

The Marvel Sacred Timeline

At The Washington Post, Harry Rosenfeld found himself handling the most important political scandal of the 20th century – Watergate – before joining the Times Union in Albany, N.Y. “HIRSCH MORITZ ROSENFELD and his Polish immigrant parents fled the violence engulfing Nazi Germany in 1939, and found refuge in the Bronx. He never forgot the price his family paid for freedom, never took American citizenship for granted. He developed a keen eye for unaccountable power and nascent oppression and embraced his responsibility to fight for the freedoms that made America a beacon of hope.” The last time I saw him in person was in 2017.

Jackie Mason, R.I.P.

Summary: No Exit – Jean-Paul Sartre

Central Warehouse

Cartoons: Human time and 10 ways to befriend a misanthropic cat and  explaining confusing things

MUSIC

Harlem – Duke Ellington. Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by JoAnn Falletta.

Run Run Run – Kurt Vile,  from the album I’ll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute to the Velvet Underground and Nico; long version

Mighty River by Errollyn Wallen.

Dragon live album concert during two weeks in an Auckland hotel for quarantine clearance

Coverville 1365: The AC/DC Cover Story III

Just A Friend– Biz Markie, RIP

The Glamourous Life – Audra McDonald from A Little Night Music

Bohemian Rhapsody in Blue – Postmodern Jukebox

He’d Have to Get Under, Get out and Get Under  (to Fix Up His Automobile) – The Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra

A medley of ten Hanna-Barbera theme songs performed by Alex Duquette  in two minutes

Jim Croce

The Music of the Night/Monster Mash – Big Daddy

Spider-Verse: 4+ different Spideys

Good thing I don’t suffer from arachnophobia

spider-verseAs I’ve noted, Spider-Man was my favorite character in the Marvel universe. So I decided to watch, in one week in August, four different iterations of the web-slinger, none of which I had seen before. Essentially each is it own Spider-Verse.

Spider-Man 3 (2007): This is the third of the Sam Raimi films. I loved the first two, which I saw back in 2002 and 2004. I’m fond of the players – Tobey Maguire as Peter/Spidey, Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane, and James Franco as Harry Osborn. Yet the film felt too overstuffed with villains. Sandman has a backstory that makes him rather sympathetic. Meanwhile, Eddie Brock is pretty unlikable from the beginning.

And Peter was pretty oblivious to the travails of his girlfriend. If she had left him for Harry, it would have been totally understandable. When this black goo appears on earth, why didn’t it trigger Peter’s Spidey sense?

It was about 1.4 good movies. In other words, too much. Yet I didn’t hate it as much as I had feared.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014): This is the second of the Marc Webb films, with Andrew Garfield as Peter and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy. But also overstuffed. I never cared that much about this Harry Osborn. The Elektro villain (Jamie Foxx) had a cringeworthy origin and was not terribly interesting. But this is what tipped me off that I didn’t care: the climax of the film I found oddly undramatic.

Swinging younger

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018): Now this was intriguing. Miles Morales is a nerdy teenager who becomes the Spider-Man of his universe. Is he ready? Heck, no. But he gets help from one Peter B. Parker. At this point, it’s a bit of a buddy pic, in a good sense.

Eventually, fellow web slingers also show up, and they’re wonderful in their own unique ways. The visuals are weird and wonderful, including an absurdly large Kingpin with a relatively tiny head. The movie works because of some fine voice actors, starting with Shameik Moore. I haven’t read the comic book in a quarter-century, yet I recognized this film as the love letter to Spider-Man it was intended to be.

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019). Where I grew tired of the first two Spidey franchises, I’m actually warming up to the Tom Holland character. Part of it is him being totally weirded out when it appears his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) might be expressing romantic interest with each other.

Meanwhile, Peter is going on a class trip to Europe with his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), his major crush MJ (Zendaya), and the others. Peter ends up doing the superhero gig again, taking on some elementals. Fortunately, he is aided by an alien ally, Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal)! Or so it would seem. Very satisfying up through the closing credits. Then the OMG coda.

A franchise?

Rotten Tomatoes considers Spider-Man, in its various iterations, a franchise. And a successful one, at that.
Average Tomatometer Score/Rank: 81.25% (11th)
Average Audience Score/Rank: 77% (15th)
Average Domestic Box Office/Rank: $411,579,893.13 (7th)

Could the new Spider-Man movie bring all the Spider-Men together?

Ragnarok, more MCU, Phase 3 films

save Asgard!

Thor.RagnarokI’ve now gotten to the part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe where the release dates and the chronology of the movies – or most of the films – diverge. And the various TV shows, none of which I ever saw save for a handful of SHIELD eps, fit in there as well. Fortunately, I’m going to mostly ignore those facts. The titles in italics I saw in July 2020.

Captain America: Civil War (2016). When I used to read comic books, the creative teams often developed fights among the superheroes. Sometimes it’d be a brief misunderstanding. Occasionally, it’d be a more elaborate brawl. Too often, though, the motivation seemed sketchy. Not here.

The Hero Registration Act, designed to limit the actions of superheroes, was embraced by Tony Stark/Iron Man, but Steve Rogers/Captain America balks. I found this film surprisingly emotional, especially with the big reveal. Why it’s a Captain America movie, I don’t know, since most of the combatants were Avengers, but whatever.

Doctor Strange (2016 ) -it was an origin that took too long to get going. And it felt formulaic. But I did like the weird dimensional stuff, walking on the sides of buildings.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017). Apparently, this takes place before Avengers: Age of Ultron, not that it particularly matters. Odd that despite the massive amount of comic book violence, the story was much more interesting to me than the first Guardians. Part of that is Kurt Russell as Ego, whose presence makes the Star-Lord character feel less of a Han Solo wannabe. I also like Sly Stallone’s appearance and the curious character of Mantis. And Baby Groot is cuter.

Heck, even when the music was too much on the nose – Fathers and Sons by Cat Stevens, really? – I found it touching. Speaking of music, it also featured my favorite Fleetwood Mac song ever, The Chain.

Dorky high school kid

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) – There was a movie called The Birdman starring Michael Keaton as an actor pigeon-holed as someone who had played a superhero. I didn’t love it, though it reviewed well. Yet I projected that character onto his playing the Vulture in THIS movie, and it worked, especially his threat to Peter while the young man was on a date.

I’m starting to warm up to Tom Holland as this version of the web-slinger. His classmates are appealing, though incredibly patient with Peter. And while he’s hanging out with Tony Stark, he still feels like your friendly neighborhood dude.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017) – Despite the serious theme – save Asgard! – this turned out to be a very funny film, with great action to boot. Even Doctor Strange was fun in a cameo. Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) is as stubborn as the Thunder God. Hela (Cate Blanchette) appears invincible. The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) is very Goldblumesque. Did I mention the Hulk?

I take it that director Taika Waititi deserves some of the credit. Clearly, the best Thor film.

Black Panther (2018) – I saw it when it came out before I was aware of the events of Captain America: Civil War. This actually makes the accomplishments of this film more impressive. Because the real star of Black Panther is Wakanda itself.

Well, those last two Avengers films and a couple of others will have to wait until next time.

Winter Soldier, other MCU Phase 2 films

A.I.

Winter SoldierMore Marvel Cinematic Universe movie reviews. The ones marked in italics I’ve seen since the summer solstice 2020 in the northern hemisphere.

Iron Man 3 (2013) – Entertaining enough, I suppose, but a bit of a slog. It does bring us the Black Widow for the first time. I don’t love the theoretical villain. “Stark discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?” Yeah, yeah.

There was this recent article about racist terms. Somehow the author determined that “douchebag” could be a slur towards certain white people. I didn’t quite get the argument. Still, it suggested that Tony Stark was a douchebag and that Steve Rogers, Captain America, most assuredly was not. And that’s the underlying annoyance about Iron Man. He’s that guy named Steve in my library school classes who claimed to know everything.

Thor: The Dark World (2013). I suggested to a friend that IM3 was a slog. “Wait until you watch the next one,” they said. I’m afraid they were right. It was confusing keeping track of the nine realms. Any time you have that many screen overlays to try to let you know where you are, it’s usually problematic. Wormholes that lead to where? What? I did like the fiery farewell to one of the characters. And the final fight was a bit of goofy fun.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). This movie was great! You don’t even need to know the characters well to appreciate this conspiracy-laden story. Who ARE the good guys? Nick Fury of SHIELD (Samuel L. Jackson) doesn’t even know. I was holding my breath quite often, particularly when the title pair collide. And Robert Redford’s character is unfortunately quite credible. The introduction of Sam Wilson, the Falcon.

Hooked on a feeling

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). I may not have seen this in the right setting. It was on a bus tripon the way to Indiana in 2019. The movie seemed disjointed and dark. The ’70s soundtrack, which hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts, was often an affectation and a distraction to me. And yet I later bought the album, mostly for the Bowie, 10cc, Redbone, and Five Stairsteps. I don’t suppose it helped that one of my pastors thought the film was pointlessly violent. I should probably watch it again.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). Now you’ve done it, Stark. You’ve helped create an Artificial Intelligence that wants to destroy humanity. Earth’s mightiest heroes need to work together. I’m glad I used to read the comics, as I understood better who the Vision, the Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver were. The movie was occasionally confusing, but I got the gist. An overstuffed film which I nevertheless mostly enjoyed.

Ant-Man (2015). As I noted in my review, my wife, who is not a big comic book fan, and I saw this when it came out. I figure that an origin story could stand alone, and it did. We liked it quite a bit. It’s light and funny when so many of these MCU films seem serious and ponderous.

Thor, Cap, and The Avengers, BTW, I watched in one 28-hour period on July 4 and 5 when my blog was down. Viewing them kept me from looking at my URL and wondering, “Is t working yet? Is it working yet? Why isn’t it working yet?”

The Avengers and more MCU, Phase 1

A wait of eight years

On March 13, just a couple hours before the COVID lockdown in New York State, I ran to the Pine Hills branch of the Albany Public Library and grabbed seven Marvel Comics Universe (MCU) DVDs to check out. Sure enough, the library was closed the very next day. Three months later, they remained totally unwatched.

I then decided that Alan David Doane’s very good idea of rewatching all the films in order was going out of the window. I had plenty of movies to see, and not just the seven. Fortunately, every single one that I did not have I could catch on cable.

MCU, Phase One

I saw all of these within the year of their release, except IM 2 and The Avengers. I’ve not rewatched any of them.

Iron Man (2008). I liked it quite a bit, as I noted.

The Incredible Hulk (2008). I never saw the 2003 movie directed by Ang Lee. My recollection of this film, which starred Edward Norton as the scientist Bruce Banner, was that it was murky. It looked weird, the storyline was confusing, and the behemoth was unimpressive.

Iron Man 2 (2010). It wasn’t as good as the previous one, but I saw it on video, not the big screen. Don Cheadle replaced Terrance Howard as James Rhodes.

Thor (2011). I remember liking it well enough. Yer basic god kicked out of Asgard and set straight.

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). Now, THIS film I unabashedly liked a LOT. A great telling of the origin story. The Red Skull. Government experimentation. A man out of time. Chris Evans played Johnny Storm in those non-MCU FF movies; this is quite a step up.

Put the brakes on

But then I stopped watching the MCU films. There was a great dispute at the time over the credit that the late Jack Kirby, co-creator of almost all the Marvel characters, should receive for the films. (The general consensus: Jack was owed a LOT, including monetarily.) When the situation was finally settled in 2014, I never got back to see the ones I missed. Until now.

Marvel’s The Avengers (2012), which I watched in late June 2020. Having all those characters in one film could have been a recipe for disaster. It’s a bit slow as the formation of the group develops. But it turns out to be an entertaining enterprise, filled with action. And it had a REASON to get together and fight as a team, “to stop the mischievous Loki and his alien army from enslaving humanity.”

A lot of its success involves the humor among the disparate characters. It may have been the most fully realized comic book to hit the screen to that time. The action sequence, which must go on for a good half hour I allowed myself to get sucked into.