Just a quick update to keep active in this blog; life has a way of distracting me from the important things. There is lots of writing-related stuff fermenting around inside–more on the superheroes post, especially after watching The Dark Knight for the first time over the weekend (had watched Batman Begins for the first time a few weeks ago). Superman is the other superhero who will most likely be involved in the essay, but I have to watch the Donner cut of Superman 2 this weekend coming up first.
I diluted down The Dark Knight experience with a little Zoolander because I wasn’t sure how I would react to Ledger’s performance. Zoolander would be much better known if its setting (fashionable New York) and release date (October 28, 2001) hadn’t coincided with the national tragedy. It’s hilarious, extremely well done, and might qualify for a mention in the “comics” part of the superheroes essay, in comparison to the “graphic novel” part.
The movies (spoilers may follow)
“Graphic” is the part of Dark Knight that was disturbing. It has become a code word for “lots of gore” when used to describe a movie, but not in this case. Ledger’s Joker shows us the soul of a psychopathic terrorist, in clear detail, and it is not a pleasant experience to watch…basically because it almost makes sense. There is very little actual blood seen in the film, and the murders are not shown in much detail, but that isn’t of much comfort to the audience.
In the movie’s opening scene, clowns kill clowns, but we never see the human faces of either victim or killer, which makes it all strangely impersonal–we see both murderer and victim as things, not people, the way a psychopath is said to view fellow human beings.
Then the Joker appears and terrorizes someone without killing him. Throughout the movie, the Joker does this sort of stuff–terrorizing somebody and then usually killing them–and the camera lingers on the terror and uncertainty, not on the details of the murder. This is probably done, at least in part, to keep the film’s rating relatively family friendly, but also there is this: however the Joker kills his victim, it will be less terrifying than whatever fate we have already imagined, in graphic detail, he is about to administer to that unfortunate person. And that is the classic goal of a terrorist.
What is really unsettling is that this Joker goes beyond that. Terrorists, at least, have plans. The Joker has impulses, and they always seem to work out. Ledger’s Joker is an element, a force of nature made incarnate, and seemingly unstoppable.
All this unpleasantness is not done gratuitously. It makes us understand Batman better, so we cheer whenever the Joker is interrupted by a “bat-call” (it doesn’t happen all the time, and frankly, on the second viewing I skipped a couple of Ledger/Joker scenes I found very disturbing).
The whole movie is done to give us an idea of what is going on in Batman’s head, and we have to meet the Joker, too, so we can get an idea of what Bruce Wayne is thinking as he sits there in his bat costume and listens to the Joker’s oh-so-personal explanations of things. This is, after all, a story of how the Batman character went “dark,” just as the title of Batman Begins sums up that movie’s story. A certain literalness is necessary in a comic/graphic novel, and it’s quite satisfying that The Dark Knight tells this story of darkness in terms of light; the movie’s genius is shown in the scene of the two boats, and the type of character who finally does the right thing, or, as he puts it “what you should have done 10 minutes ago.” That all seems only remotely connected to the action of the movie, but it’s absolutely necessary to set up the ending.
So, yes, these were all good movies. I enjoyed the brief appearance of Cillian Murphy, too, as I had wondered, after Batman Begins, if this man ever looks “normal” (I haven’t seen Inception yet; it’s a new movie, not old). And it’s a joy to see William Fichtner, even in a brief appearance, after having first encountered him in The Perfect Storm. The Hong Kong sequence, though brief, is totally enjoyable as a classic superhero action movie sequence, which is rather odd considering that Bruce Wayne is a ninja and Hong Kong has some serious Bruce Lee vibrations, at least to someone in my generation. It’s done as pure Batman all the way here, and a lot of fun.
As mentioned, the superheroes essay, some time in the future. Another essay, finishing up the “feathered dinosaurs/Ray Harryhausen” topic I began a long time ago over on ScribD, will hopefully be finished up this week. The SEO is hard, but everything good is. Right now, I am plodding through the topics that were once contest entries at Helium but couldn’t be completed, and actually doing fairly well. They are tightening up and becoming interesting (to me anyway) and possible for completion, but it is slow going. The day job is taking up a lot of time (and I am going to have to end this post soon and get to it).
Made incredibly delicious biscuits with the starter by adapting this recipe by Phil Mahan after stumbling across it during a Web search for sourdough biscuit recipes that don’t use baking powder (messes up the texture) or baking soda (undoes the sour taste and adds annoying bubbles). I toyed with the idea of using a crockpot as a substitute for the coal cooking method, but didn’t have the time just then. Ended up cooking them in muffin tins, which came out surprisingly well. He uses the same amount of oil that I use (roughly) in a two-loaf bread batch, and it seems like an excessive amount, but the results were close to perfect.
Enough already. To the day job, and the work week. I am taking a two-day weekend this week. Yay!