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3 Stars Movies

Fascism by Common Consent in James McTeigue’s V for Vendetta

For all the negative buzz regarding V for Vendetta writer Alan Moore’s total disavowal of James McTeigue’s adaptation, I was surprised to find that the film kept far closer to the book than I expected. Closer, in fact, than the two other travesties of Moore’s comics, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell. Perhaps not coincidentally, it’s better than both, if by itself still not very good.

It’s impossible for me to imagine how I would have reacted had I not read the book several times, but I suspect I would have had very mixed feelings either way. When it comes to movies based on comics, it’s the prerogative of every fan to obsess over “what they changed.” So let me point out a few changes I feel illustrate how the filmmakers either misunderstood or deliberately warped some key themes that make the book what it is.

Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta
“The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous.”

First, the dystopian state of Great Britain as seen in the film is in a far less desperate state than in the book. The book opens with Evey at the absolute end of hope, her parents dead and herself alone, blacklisted and unable to survive. She makes a misguided and pathetic attempt to prostitute herself, runs afoul of the corrupt police, and is “saved” (in more ways than one) by V. Her susceptibility to V’s seduction is much more plausible if she herself is already a victim of the state. In the film, as played by Natalie Portman, she’s a rather happy person with a regular job, and her encounter with V is motivated by a redundant invented character called Deitrich. Every theme Deitrich represents is already covered by the character Valerie (which is, incidentally, lifted almost unaltered from the book).

But perhaps the biggest deviation is the very nature of the fascist state Great Britain has become. In the book, it’s something that just happens; a form of order that arises out of the chaos following a nuclear world war. In the film, the great societal disruption is a conspiracy machinated by a cabal of shadowy old white men, who then step in and profit from the reconstruction. Of course, the filmmakers are obviously reaching for an analogy to the Bush Administration, Carlyle Group, Halliburton, etc. While that may make the story of the film relevant to today, it obscures a more powerful point of the book: it’s far more scary when fascism arises out of the common consent of the people, as it did with Nazi Germany.

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The Dork Report

The Dork Report for March 23, 2006

Well, I don’t trust me, either. So there!

The bizarre story of New Line’s resolutely non-ironic Snakes on a Plane continues: Snakes on a Blog [no longer online: snakesonablog.com] and a slew of amateur marketing, most of which will probably be better than the real thing. My favorite: “Jonathan Frakes on a Dame”

The original hand-scrawled liner notes to what is perhaps my most-played cd.

Quotable Mike: “This is New York, and I would suggest the coyote may have more problems than the rest of us.” [no longer online: nytimes.com/2006/03/22/nyregion/elusive-coyote-is-captured-in-central-park.html]

As if proof was needed that comics corrupt our nation’s youth, who would surely otherwise be reading Ranger Rick and Highlights. My favorite: Holy Boner, Batman! (spotted on Boing Boing)

Radiohead have suddenly resurfaced: a new tour [no longer online: pitchforkmedia.com/news/06-03/21.shtml] and A Scanner Darkly soundtrack. Plus, Thom Yorke won’t play ball [no longer online: edition.cnn.com/2006/SHOWBIZ/Music/03/21/people.thomyorke.ap] like Bono, and is planning a solo album [no longer online: pitchforkmedia.com/news/06-03/20.shtml].

Categories
5 Stars Movies

2001: A Space Odyssey on the big screen at New York’s Ziegfeld theater

One of the best movies ever made, on one of the biggest screens in New York. What could be better?

It’s taken me many years and many viewings to realize that the movie is actually very, very funny. Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising for a movie that directly followed Dr. Strangelove, but the sombre serious air about the film disguised some of the comedy to my young mind watching the movie almost every year, running uncut on a local Philadelphia TV channel. Just a few of the many huge “jokes” packed into the film: the entire human condition condensed into chimp pantomime, fantastic visions of the future punctured by hilariously closed-minded humans more interested in sandwiches, and the most naked human emotions shown on screen coming from apes and computers as opposed to supposedly evolved humans.

2001 On the web: Kubrick 2001 presents an elaborate, though sometimes silly, animated explication. Then there’s The Underview, helpfully including the complete Zero Gravity Toilet instructions. [update: link no longer available]

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The Dork Report

The Dork Report for March 20, 2006

A third 2,500 year-old sarcophagus (no longer online: us.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/03/20/cyprus.coffin.ap) found in Cyprus, with illustrations from Homer. The US and Britain each already have one; who gets to cart this one home?

Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blogge (no longer online: houseoffame.blogs.friendster.com/my_blog). (guest submission by Dave)

In what can only be evidence of cosmic karma, one cat will get to experience life as a mouse. (spotted on Boing Boing)

If anyone can appreciate a killer attack of the absurd, it’s Neil. (spotted on Boing Boing)

Hearteningly, Bush has been deemed unfavorable by, get this, Fox News! (since about October of last year)

I don’t even like South Park, but Trey Parker & Matt Stone’s recent statement is a work of comic brilliance.

The New York Times notes a trend towards nattering in feature-film animation.

Shall I compare thee to a nerve-wrackingly insane-making scripting language (no longer online: heavyflash.com/poetry/Shakespeare_Sonnet18.html)? (guest submission by Dave)

Snakes on a Mutha&$%#in’ Plane! The new teaser is rockin’ blogs all over the web, so why don’t I just post it here too (no longer online: www.tagworld.com/snakesonaplane). I am SO proud to work for New Line.

It’s about time, yadda yadda. Doctor Who finally premiered in the US on March 17. Too slow, suckas! I already got my region 1 dvd from Canada! A few choice press pieces culled from the fantastic Outpost Gallifrey (no longer online: gallifreyone.com/news.php): The New York Times, The Village Voice, Time Out New York, The Hollywood Reporter, and Entertainment Weekly.

More good examples of how bad Microsoft’s imminent patent-dodge (no longer online: baekdal.com/articles/Technology/microsoft-ie-activex-update/) will suck for everyone. (spotted on Kottke.org)

Blogging 4 Books (no longer online: joshilynjackson.com/mt/archives/000468.html).

Categories
4 Stars Movies

Peter Bogdanovich’s Mask (Director’s Cut)

I vaguely recall seeing Mask when I was a kid, but only recently learned A) it was directed by Peter Bogdanovich and B) there’s a well-regarded director’s cut available on DVD.

The film is very unconventional for the genre of disabled-person-beating-the-odds. Roy, doomed to die from Craniodiaphyseal dysplasia, loses his friend, his girl, and dies in his sleep never fulfilling his dream of traveling Europe. And yet, it is nevertheless moving and even uplifting. I think one reason is the sympathetic matter-of-fact presentation of a biker gang, a group often maligned or at least treated condescendingly by Hollywood.

Categories
2 Stars Movies

Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal

Oops. I should have let The Dark Crystal live on in my childhood memories as a Good Movie. Seeing the brilliant Mirrormask reminded me how much this movie affected my childhood, but seeing it again as an adult I find it has not aged well. The special effects of course cannot rival contemporary digital epics, but I was surprised to find the storytelling stilted and overly dumbed-down. Recent kids’ movies are pitched at a more sophisticated level, not feeling the need to start with a lonnnnng opening expository narrative and pause every 15 minutes or so to do a plot recap.

Still, you have to admire Jim Henson’s sheer bloodymindedness at spending five years pulling off this difficult-to-make film. And it scores points for just being so weird.

And a quick word about the DVD: cheap menus and a horrendous print. What’s up with that?

Categories
The Dork Report

The Dork Report for March 17, 2006

Who ever said labels were misleading?

A surprisingly good article on the digital future of movies in Time. All the right filmmakers are interviewed, with lots of interesting (and sometimes bitchy) things to say: Mann, Shyamalan, Lucas, Rodriguez, Soderberg.

A for Alan, Part Two. You can cut the irony with the Ripper’s scalpel: “By asking DC to take my name off V for Vendetta and stop giving me the money for V for Vendetta, all I’m asking for is for them to treat me in the same way they’ve been completely happy to treat hundreds of much greater comics creators than I over the decades. I’m asking them to say to me the same thing they said to Gardner Fox and Jack Kirby and to all those other guys, just say to me you are not going to see a penny for any kind of future reproductions of your work and we’re not going to put your name on them.”

Reported on the same site is this absurdity, which is too bizarre not to make The Dork Report. Unfortunately, it has a disappointingly rational (and capitalist) explanation [no longer online: comicon.com/thebeat/2006/03/chinas_toon_ban_explained.html].

Not through with Alan yet. The Gray Lady covers the V for Vendetta dispute.

Saw on Neil Gaiman’s blog that Dave McKean’s next feature film will be an adaptation of Varjak Paw for the Jim Henson Co. Also spotted this older profile on Apple.com.

It’s a foggy day in the cosmos today, so be sure to use your lo-beams. (guest submission from Andrea – smart chicks are hot!)

Categories
The Dork Report

The Dork Report for March 15, 2006

Part one of a massive interview with Alan Moore about his extreme decision to take his name off every comic his publishers own (spotted on Boing Boing). Moore makes reference to being cheated out of ownership of Watchmen and V for Vendetta but doesn’t clarify; I’ve read (can’t find the source at the moment) that they promised ownership would revert back to him and the artists when the books went out of print, which of course hasn’t happened for 20-some years.

Um, gosh, E.

The last thing I need: more fonts. 25 Best License-Free Quality Fonts (no longer online: alvit.de/blog/article/20-best-license-free-official-fonts) and 15 Best License-Free Pixel Fonts (no longer online: alvit.de/blog/article/25-best-license-free-pixelfonts). (spotted on Kottke.org)

And in related news, the best (by leaps and bounds) font manager for the Mac is finally finished. And FREE.

Speaking as both a designer and as one also afflicted with Apple Lust himself, this is a really clever marketing idea.

Here we go again. Is it a tablet, a proper video iPod, or a typically frenzied buildup of increasingly unfounded rumors and speculation (no longer online: thinksecret.com)?

Categories
2 Stars Movies

The Ice Harvest

I think, but I’m not sure, this is supposed to be a comedy. Honestly, The Ice Harvest is one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a long time. It apparently aspires to be a comedy of villainies along the lines of Bad Santa, extending even into the casting of Billy Bob Thornton, but it decidedly lacks the x-factor that can twist violence & mean-spiritedness into satire.

No matter how much I hated it, it nevertheless narrowly misses a one-star rating, which is reserved for true crimes against humanity, like Polar Express.

Categories
4 Stars Movies

Lizzie and Darcy deserve each other, in Pride & Prejudice

Pride & Prejudice: The timeless love story between Miss Elizabeth Bewitching-yet-Blind Bennet and Mr. Darcy, Earl of Wetblanket-Upon-Broadchestshire. In the most romantic way possible, they truly deserve each other.

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