The Roundup: October 27

Cinema

Destroy All Monsters: Marvel vs. DC Could End the Moviegoing World by Matt Brown at Twitchfilm

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If you think we’ve had a lot of superhero movies already, scroll down this post a minute to the Image of the Day and take a look at what’s in the pipeline, if both Marvel and DC hit all their announced release dates (I’m betting DC won’t, but that’s neither here nor there). Then come back and read Matt Brown’s astute take on why this rivalry might destroy moviegoing as we know it. Personally, I’m in for about four of these announced films, but I’m feeling fatigue already.

I’m not referring to the glut of similar properties (though that will be a factor) and the perennial movie business column-incher called “audience fatigue.” I’m simply referring back to the infinities of scale problem above. Great: you’ve assembled fifty superheroes and literally saved the universe. What now? What’s next?

DC and Marvel’s real-world pissing contest will force each of them to go bigger and bigger and bigger or go home, home, home. But on both a conceptual and visual level (and alongside them, a financial one), there is actually a ceiling on how big these movies can get. Iron Man vs. Captain America in Captain America 3? Brilliant, but what do you do for an encore?

15 Great Russian Movies by Sergey Kuznetsov at Film School Rejects

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Most of the time “12 Great Movies You Probably Haven’t Seen”-type lists irritate me, because I usually have seen many of the films on them, and it’s incredibly difficult to target one of those lists well when your potential audience is everybody. First of all, this one doesn’t make the mistake of titling itself with “you haven’t seen”, but it also focuses on films that are well-known and revered in Russia but not as well-known outside of Russian, which is a fascinating tack for me. I’d love to see more lists like this from other countries.

The Diamond Arm (Leonid Gaiday, 1969)
Perhaps the best Russian comedy, the story of an ordinary man who was incidentally involved in illegal diamond trafficking. It’s a parody of crime movies and of the Hitchcockian “wrong man in wrong circumstances” plot, as well as a satirical sketch of Soviet life. Sometimes the American audience might need some knowledge of Soviet realities, but I’m sure real cinephiles would highly appreciate the stylistic diversity and charms of the actors.

Why I Hated Pulp Fiction the First Time I Saw It by Joe Lynch at Wired

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Filmmaker Joe Lynch gives his experience of anticipating Pulp Fiction and then being…disappointed. But don’t worry, the story has a happy ending for both Lynch AND Tarantino’s film. It’s a good read, and a good reminder not to always trust hype-laden first impressions.

The theater we entered was completely empty. OK, no worries. This was considered the rare “art house” flick that was getting a wider release, so an empty theater didn’t faze me. Hell, it felt like our own private screening! We sat down, middle row center, our anticipation for the lights to lower and the movie to flicker to life was at its peak.

And then it happened. The movie played, the credits rolled, the lights came up … and I turned to my friends.

“Guys, I kinda hated it.”

Must Watch Warner Archive Instant 10/23/14 by Wade, Carly, and Jill at The Black Maria

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Warner Archive has been KILLING IT lately with their additions to their Instant service – I definitely want to start highlighting more of them myself soon, but in the meantime, the good folks over at The Black Maria are recommending three per week, and this week has a particularly good set. Check it out, and then check out Warner Archive Instant.

Busby Berkeley was a space cadet. Seriously. He was really out there. It’s hard to narrow down his most batshit insane choreographed numbers (because they are all batshit insane), but all the ones in Footlight Parade have to be high on that list. They’re also some of his most impressive and completely badass. Let’s start with the rehearsal number Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence. Ruby Keeler, a grown woman, is prancing about in a cat costume. She’s dancing, in that really weird, but endearing Ruby Keeler way, on a mural of a creepy-looking moon. Then she flirts with a “tomcat” who looks more like a malnourished tiger than alley cat. Then there’s the “you just gotta see it to believe it” Honeymoon Hotel, By a Waterfall, and Shanghai Lil prologue productions that make you ask questions like: “How are they doing this on one stage?”; “The audience can’t possibly see that, can they?”;”Is that an opium den?”; “Is that Baby Billy Barty trying to get lucky?”

A Few More…

Not Cinema

Gamergate

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Sorry, folks, as much as I try, I can’t stop watching this GamerGate train. The latest batch of articles have been less news and more thoughtful about what GG is, how it works, whether its claims have any merit, and what it means for gaming. The quote I’ve chosen below is from The New Yorker, and I chose it because it’s particularly concise and direct against the GamerGate demand for objective journalism and criticism without politics or “agendas.”

Other solid articles: Polygon uses the very Journalistic Code of Ethics that GG demands to show why covering the Zoe Quinn story (the sparking incident of GamerGate) would’ve been unethical. US Gamer also meets the journalistic integrity question head on, while Jenni Goodchild, who has been engaging with GamerGaters’ ideas with superhuman patience for weeks, puts her conversations with them to good use. I’m glad to see articles like this, because a couple of weeks ago, everything was so focused on the harassment issues (which are very real and troubling) that there was no room to point out that GG’s stated goals of journalistic integrity don’t even hold water. ADDENDUM: Here’s one from September I didn’t see until now, which is very good on the journalistic ethics issue.

Arthur Chu looks at the similarities between the outrage of GamerGate and the outrage against disco in the ’70s, while Noah Berlatsky looks at the way comic book fans resisted the influx of serious/indie comics in the ’90s. Neither of these were quite as gendered as GamerGate, but the takeaway is that a) fans can be fiercely protective of the things they love, whatever those things are, and b) after the chips fell, it turned out that multiple kinds of music, and multiple kinds of comic books can coexist. Academic Katherine Cross discusses the gamer identity and the way GamerGaters are attempting to police it in ways that ultimately hurt the whole gaming community. On the more depressing side, Daily Dot points out how toxic it’s become for women to work in the games industry, either as developers or journalists, and interviews several (most of them staying anonymous) who have left the industry because of this.

And finally, actress and geek icon Felicia Day (of The Guild and Geek and Sundry, as well as BtVS and Dollhouse) has stayed quiet on GG until this magnificent post about her fear and the divide she’s seen GG cause in the gaming community. Her personal information, including her address, was posted on Twitter within a few hours, proving her fear was not unwarranted.

Video games, like all art and entertainment, are inherently political; they are created worlds that can’t help but express the values of their creators. Sometimes, those values are reflected in the demographics of the games: in how they represent, or fail to represent, women and minorities, or in the virtual foes they ask players to kill with their virtual guns. Other times, the systems and rules that govern games reflect and reinforce those that we experience on this side of the screen. The political nature of games is not something to fear, or to shy away from discussing. It is in part what makes them so fascinating. Strong criticism is neither an act of betrayal toward a work nor the first step toward censorship; it leads to illumination and improvement.

The Vault of Glass is the Best Thing in Destiny by Kirk Hamilton at Kotaku

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I’m so torn on the way Destiny plays out. Everything I’ve read sounds like the Vault of Glass is awesome, but I have about fifteen levels to go before I can even play it. And when I do get there, I have to find five other people (not just people, but FRIENDS on Xbox Live) to play it with me. I get that this is how MMOs work, and the need for cooperation sounds like a really cool feature. But I simply don’t like online gaming that much, haven’t done it enough to have made enough friends on there for this, and the ones I do have are in different time zones and we can’t play at the same time. I’m being whiny about what sounds like a solid experience – I just wish it were more accessible, and that the rest of the game that I can actually access were more compelling.

The Vault of Glass has been the sort of challenging, rewarding team-challenge that the rest of Destiny promised, but generally didn’t quite manage to be. It has brought me closer together with people I barely knew, and has given me a feeling of collective accomplishment that I haven’t gotten from a video game in ages.

First HBO, then CBS: The Cable Bundle is Slowly Coming Apart by Derek Thompson at The Atlantic

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I’m not making judgements on HBO’s solo offering until we hear more about it, but the cat’s out of the bag on CBS, and to be honest $6 a month is not bad for this. I’m looking forward to the end of cable, but I realize that will mean the end of the most niche channels that only survive because they’re subsidized by the rest of cable. I don’t know which ones those are or if they’re anything I’ll personally miss, but they might be. I guess we’ll see. But like the quote below says, I want the freedom to be able to choose what pay for, and drop what I don’t want when money’s tight. The all-or-nothing-ness of cable is grating. (It is weird that they used a Big Bang Theory image for this article, since that’s one of the shows that is NOT included in CBS’s streaming package, due to rights issues.)

The mess of streaming options–the “mini-bundle,” or TV à la carte–might not be a better economic deal, if you think about the total value of the cable bundle. But economics is an overrated element of consumer psychology. Families don’t make decisions about entertainment by calculating the cost-per-attention-hour of their leisure time. They ask themselves simpler questions, like: “If I want to watch my favorite new TV shows—Orange Is the New Black, Game of Thrones, The Good Wife, and The Big Bang Theory—do I need the cable bundle?”

Read Whatever the Hell You Want: Why We Need a New Way of Talking About Young Adult Literature by Elizabeth Minkel at the New Statesman

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This is an old debate at this point, but I thought this was a worthwhile addition to it.

When we do have our hypothetical Harry Potter conversation, I might be talking as a literary critic. I’ve got the text, and I’ve got my frameworks, and this is my job (though I personally think most readers have the tools to join any given literary “conversation”, whether they’re paid to do it or not). But perhaps I’ll be talking as a fan, a member of the Harry Potter fandom. One of the biggest in modern media history, and, by the nature of a (loose) community of its size, one of the most vibrant. But would it surprise Tim Parks – or you – to know that “critic” or “fan”, I’d be talking exactly the same way? That millions were reading Harry Potter critically and communally – that the communal nature of any fandom, the vast, collective critical mind, turns over texts in ways that might startle someone on the outside? There was a huge conversation around Harry Potter, yes – and it was precisely about social issues. Or character development, or morality, or themes and allusions and structural observations, or the success of any given stretch of writing versus another. Plenty of it was critical; fandom can celebrate while it analyses – or while it demands better of its source material. People – of all ages – didn’t have time to worry about who should or should not be reading these books; they were busy actually reading and engaging with the books.

Poor Kids are Starving for Words by Jessica Lahey at The Atlantic

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I’ve heard these statistics before, about the importance of the number of words kids hear when they’re very young. We use as many $2 words as we can in Karina’s hearing! Hopefully some of these initiatives to reach poorer children will help bridge the word gap.

According to a 2012 report by the Brookings Institution, less than half of poor children show up to school prepared with the early math and reading skills, emotional and behavioral control, and physical well-being needed to be ready to learn, and that disadvantage persists into adulthood. The report continues, “children with higher levels of school readiness at age five are generally more successful in grade school, less likely to drop out of high school, and earn more as adults, even after adjusting for differences in family background.”

Much of this disadvantage has been attributed to what researchers call the “word gap.” Higher-income parents spend nearly a half hour more per day engaged in direct, face-to-face, Goodnight Moon time with their children than low-income parents do, and by the time these children are 5 years old, the poor ones will have heard 30 million fewer words than their wealthy peers.

Images of the Week

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Superheroes for the next few years, via ComicsAlliance. Nope.

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A Map of Raymond Chandler’s Fictional LA in Real Life LA, via Electric Literature. I want this map really badly!

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Awesome Bookish Jack O’Lanterns, via BookRiot. Many of these are based on the movie versions, but whatever. They’re still awesome.

Videos of the Week

All the Hitchcock cameos. The most interesting thing about these is seeing them go from basically “we needed an extra” to very in-jokey and clever.

Video Games are Good, and also good for you. Love, love, love the style of this. Really made me want to play Fallout 3 or BioShock again. :)