Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ranking Star Trek: The Animated Series: Best to Worst

The Great:       

1.         “The Jihad”
2.         “The Slaver Weapon"
3.         “Yesteryear”
4.         “The Survivor”
5.         “The Magicks of Megas-Tu”
6.         “The Time Trap”

The Good:       

7.         “Beyond the Farthest Star"
8.         “One of Our Planets is Missing”
9.         “The Ambergris Element”
10.       “The Counter-Clock Incident”
11.       “Albatross”
12.       “How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth”

The Fair:       

13.       ‘The Lorelei Signal”
14.       “The Eye of the Beholder”
15.       “Once Upon a Planet”
16.       “The Practical  Joker”
17.       “Bem”
18.       “The Pirates of Orion”
19.       “The Infinite Vulcan”

The Bad:          

20.       “The Terratin Incident”
21.       “Mudd’s Passion”
22.       “More Tribbles, More Troubles”

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Star Trek: The Animated Series: "The Counter-Clock Incident" (October 12, 1974)

STARDATE: 6770.3

The U.S.S. Enterprise ferries Commodore Robert April, the first captain of the starship, and his wife, Sarah, to the planet Babel, where they will be honored for their many years of service to the Federation.  In fact, Robert is now nearing the Starfleet’s “mandatory retirement age” of 75, and laments the fact that his journey is nearing its end.

Captain Kirk (William Shatner) diverts the Enterprise’s course, however, when sensors detect an alien space vessel traveling at Warp 36 and heading straight into the Beta Niobe supernova.  The Enterprise uses a tractor beam to grab the racing vessel, but only ends up being pulled into the nova itself.

Miraculously, the Enterprise and the other starship survive to emerge in another universe, one where the stars are black, and space is white. As Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) soon learns, however, time is also moving backwards, meaning that the crew will soon become too young to manage the controls of the starship. 

As the Enterprise teams with the captain of the alien ship -- which sought to return home to the negative universe -- Commodore April assumes command of Kirk’s starship to help guide the Enterprise safely back to its own plane of existence…

At first blush, “The Counter-Clock Incident” is another one of those very gimmicky Star Trek: The Animated Series episodes; one that seems to exist primarily because the concept is highly visual, not because it makes good story (or scientific…) sense.   Here, the Enterprise crew ages in reverse, becoming young children in the process, and yes, we’ve seen this kind of tale before.  “The Terratin Incident” featured the crew shrinking while “Mudd’s Passion” involved a love potion, and so on. 

But two qualities make “The Counter-Clock Incident” an enjoyable episode.  First and foremost, the episode examines the issue of ageism in Starfleet, which we learn here possesses a mandatory retirement age of 75.  “The Counter-Clock Incident” should indeed be commended for noting that people of various experiences and ages have something valuable to offer. 

I wonder, does the age requirement also apply to Vulcans, or only to humans? 

And also, I couldn’t help but think about Peter Capaldi here and his recent casting as the new Doctor in Doctor Who.  Have we learned anything in almost forty years, or are we still judging a person by his or her age?

Secondly, “The Counter-Clock Incident” practically overdoses on original series continuity, and frankly, that’s impressive.  Here, we learn of the building of the Enterprise at the San Francisco shipyards, and get mentions of Babel (“Journey to Babel”) and f the super-novas at both Minara (“The Empath”) and Beta Niobe (“All Our Yesterdays.”)  A Capellan flower also makes an appearance, and Capella was visited in the Star Trek episode “Friday’s Child.”  Considering that this episode was aired in 1974, before our culture had overdosed on sequels and such, it’s rather remarkable to consider the internal continuity.  Clearly, someone was paying close attention to the details of the mythos.

Still, the whole person “aging backward” trope in “Counter-Clock Incident” is one that has appeared frequently in cult-television history, and is one which I actively dislike.  This concept doesn’t possess even a borderline plausibility.  How is a baby-sized mammal (an elder) to give birth to a full-sized body (a youngster), purely from a physical standpoint?  Series such as Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (“The Golden Man”), Mork and Mindy (in terms of Mearth), and Star Trek: Voyager (“The Innocents”) have utilized this illogical idea too, and it never quite seems plausible, in my opinion.  Is the idea that as an old person, or baby, you are just spontaneously born from “death?”  If so, how do you get the genes from your parents?

By the same token, “The Counter-Clock Incident” uses the same deus-ex-machina ending as “The Terratin Incident” and Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes such as “Lonely Among Us” and “Unnatural Selection.”  The sick or “affected” individuals go through the transporter device and are restored to normality.  As I noted a few weeks ago, the transporter is really Star Trek’s miracle medicine.  It can be used to fix anything, and renders Dr. McCoy a dunsel.

Despite the illogical story I do feel like “The Counter-Clock Incident” is one of those “feel good” episodes of Star Trek (not unlike The Voyage Home [1986], one where the happy, re-assuring emotions and pro-social value in some way trump science or even believability.  The head may be unimpressed, but the heart flutters.

“The Counter-Clock Incident” is the last episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series, and I must say, I’m sorry to be at the end of the catalog.  I have thoroughly enjoyed re-visiting these stories, and feel that there are several “undiscovered” gems here.  Sure, there are stinkers too (“More Tribbles, More Troubles,” “Mudd’s Passion,” “The Terratin Incident”), but there are perhaps six-to-ten absolute stand out installments too, and that’s not a bad batting average for a series that ran for 22 episodes.

Next week for Saturday morning blogging, I start two new series.  I'll begin my retrospective of the 1990s Land of the Lost and also the 1975 animated series, Return to the Planet of the Apes.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Cult Movie Review: Sunshine (2007)

Way back in 1981, the Sean Connery/"High Noon in Space" sci-fi movie Outland was advertised with the memorable tag-line: "Even in Space, the Ultimate Enemy is Man." A deliberate homage to classic outer space films from Solaris (1972) and Dark Star (1975) to Alien (1979) and Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Danny Boyle's Sunshine (2007) could have re-purposed the same slogan.

Because if you remove all the technical bells and whistles, the harrowing Sunshine concerns not the final frontier, but the yin-and-yang of the human psyche; the best and worst angels of our nature.

Just how far would you be willing to go to save the human race? To the surface of Sun? 

And where would that journey take you, spiritually-speaking? Would it lead you to an epiphany about yourself, or contrarily,  and like a character in the film named Pinbacker, to the very heart of darkness itself?To put it another way, would you curse the blackness and loneliness of space, or share in the glowing illumination and belonging of a radiant star...even if you knew such belonging was short-lived?

Set in the year 2057, Sunshine is the tale of Icarus 2, a massive spaceship bound for our Sun, and carrying eight fragile human beings aboard her. The international crew has been tasked with dropping a vast stellar bomb into the Sun in hopes of re-igniting the dying star before it fades out and leaves Earth a frozen, destroyed world. The entire human race hangs in the balance.

En route to the sun, however, as the ship enters a communications "dead zone," the crew of Icarus 2 intercepts a mysterious signal. The signal originates near Mercury, from Icarus 1, the first ship that attempted this mission some seven years earlier...but disappeared without a trace. It too carries a massive stellar bomb, and thus offers the crew of Icarus 2 twice the possibility of success on their critical mission. Though some crew members disagree with the decision, the captain of Icarus 2, Kaneda (Hiroyuki Sanada) orders a course adjustment on the recommendation of ship's physicist Capa (Cillian Murphy). Their mission: to secure a second payload.

What follows this fateful decision is a surprising and terrifying glimpse of human psychology, of man both at his remarkable best and at his absolute worst. Catastrophic human errors jeopardize the mission and yet egregious instances of human heroism - and selflessness -- bring the mission back from the precipice over and over. 

In one torturous, edge-of-your seat sequence, three crew members traverse a gap in space (between airlocks) with only one space suit between them. In another tense scene, one committed astronaut, Mace (Chris Evans) dives headlong into freezing liquid to re-start a computer mainframe. When he can't do the job at first, he goes back into the coolant again. And when he still doesn't finish, he goes back in a third time...

On the opposite side of the equation is a man called Pinbacker who believes that if humanity dies, he will be "alone" with God. He believes, I guess, that there will be some sense of intimacy there, in that twisted relationship. That's the mission he's assumed, and it involves murder, sabotage, and chaos. Pinbacker is consumed with self, while the survivors on Icarus 2 are consumed with saving the planet...and the species. These are two diametrically opposed viewpoints, and yet both are human.

The battle between these opposing aspects of the human psyche leads right to the surface of the Sun itself...and beyond, into a beautiful, even transcendent metaphysical climax. And Boyle doesn't spare viewers any comforts on the trip. Characters you grow to love make agonizing sacrifices, face grotesque and gory deaths, and broach a suicide mission with the dignity we all hope we would evidence if, by chance (or bad luck...), we found ourselves in their shoes.

In Sunshine, Danny Boyle has crafted an intimate, haunting, and utterly believable space movie, one that is never cheesy, trite, or less than totally involving (not to mention anxiety-provoking). And while you're watching be certain not to take your eyes off the screen even for a second, especially during one unsettling scene that creepily employs nearly subliminal (and highly-disturbing...) flash cuts.

Boyle revived and re-energized the zombie genre with 28 Days Later (2002), and Sunshine is strong enough that it should have also re-ignited the cerebral outer space film. An aficionado of the genre will recognize and appreciate many of Boyle's tributes to genre greats of yesteryear too. The film's villain, Pinbacker, is named after Dark Star's Sgt. Pinback (Dan O'Bannon), and even the Icarus's mission -- deploying a destructive device: a bomb -- reflects that nihilist John Carpenter classic. Boyle's slow, majestic pans across empty and isolating high-tech ship corridors deliberaately evoke memories of the Nostromo and Ridley Scott's Alien (1979). And the talking computer Icarus may be the Nostromo's "Mother" or 2001's HAL.  Even the steadfast focus on human psychology reminds one of Solaris (original or remake, take your choice).

Boyle utilizes these references and homages not as gimmicks or nudges to appreciative fans, but in the very manner Quentin Tarantino might: re-directing them for his own unique story, and making certain that they carry significance for viewers beyond their original context. 

For instance, any time a talking Computer appears in a science fiction film, we expect certain...things to happen. HAL, Proteus (Demon Seed) and Mother all turned out to be treacherous "beings," after all. Boyle plays with that anticipation in a unique way, particularly in a scene that involves the captain of the ship and Capa embarking on a dangerous space walk. As for the Ridley-Scott-esque pans, these carefully-orchestrated shots serve to remind viewers of a few important things. First, of the technological nature of the shelter that houses this group of human beings; and secondly that -- in this case -- the haunted house in space is not one invaded by a nightmarish "outside force," a malevolent extra-terrestrial, but rather a monster direct from the human id; a flawed "man" not a "perfect" alien.

Sunshine is also highly reminiscent of the literary works of Joseph Conrad (1857-1924), which are considered, to varying degrees, inspiration for films as diverse as Alien and Apocalypse Now (1979). As is the case in Conrad's works, Sunshine offers a tangible sense of place (the Icarus 2 could be the Nostromo or the Narcissus of Conrad's travels), and characters' fates are played out in a remote location (stellar orbit...) far from the lights of modern civilization. 

Another Conrad-ian theme, the Evil "Outside" creating an Evil "Inside" also finds purposeful life in the Boyle film. Pinbacker goes insane because of the "loneliness" of black space, and also, perhaps, because of his religious upbringing. Those evils "outside" Pinbacker grow an evil seed within him; one that germinates on the long voyage to the Sun.

Long story short: Sunshine is a remarkable outer space movie because is about us, not clones, robots or monsters. When Man finally reaches the stars, he may have to reckon with the clones, the robots and the monsters of space opera too, but one thing is for certain: he will certainly have to reckon with his own psychology first.  This is perhaps my favorite of all "outer space" conceits, and evident in Space:1999 (1975), and Prometheus (2012) to name just two other productions.   In exploring this facet of the human experience, Boyle's film is about the darkness and the sunshine to be found there too.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Late Night Blogging: KISS on TV (1974 - 1979)

Lunchbox of the Week: KISS

KISS Your Face Makeup Kit (Remco)

One of my dear friends, Jonathon, reminded me of this KISS collectible on Facebook, so I thought I would share some images of it here.  I never knew (or had forgotten...) that this even existed.  The seventies were great, weren't they?

Collectible of the Week: KISS action figures (Mego; 1978)

If you grew up in the mid-1970s, one fact was certain: The Fab Four was not really The was KISS!   

The era brought devoted fans a popular KISS comic-book from Marvel, a KISS TV-movie (KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park), not to mention lunchboxes, board games, and, yes, collectible action figures.  

I had a Gene Simmons action figure in my toy collection once, but never owned the rest of the band, alas. And today, these original figures are very hard (meaning expensive...) to come by.

Anyway, Mego acquired the license to market KISS toys in 1977, and produced four twelve-inch figures of the band-members in full, awesome regalia.   The figures were sold separately and marketed as "America's #1 Rock Group."

The company's toy catalog explained: 

"Create your own rock concert with these authentic replicas of America's #1 rock group.  KISS dolls are 12 1/2 inches tall and fully poseable.  There's Gene Simmons, the tongue-thrusting vampire figure, Peter Criss the whiskered feline; Ace Frehley, the silver-eyed spaceman, and Paul Stanley, the starry-eyed sex symbol."

Below, a toy commercial for the Mego KISS line:

Model Kit of the Week: KISS Custom Chevy Van (AMT)

Board Game of the Week: KISS on Tour

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cult Movie Review: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

The late great movie critic Pauline Kael once wrote that the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers was “the American movie of the year – a new classic…the best movie of its kind ever made.”

Even at this late date, I can find no reason to quibble with that assessment.

In particular, Invasion of the Body Snatchers craftily updates the 1950s context of the original Jack Finney novel, as well as the Don Siegel film adaptation.  It does so in order to deliberately comment on the contentious 1970s: the decade of “The Me Generation” and the Watergate conspiracy and cover-up. 

Accordingly, the film’s conclusion seems to be that human life in the decade of “self-realization” seems to hamper, not encourage, real connection between people, while an overt, even paranoid lack of trust in society’s institutions and hierarchies makes that disconnect exponentially worse. 

In the absence of real connection and real love, a seed grows, and terror blossoms.  

Invasion of the Body Snatchers thus concerns, as film scholar Michael Dempsey noted in Film Quarterly (February 1979, page 120), “the manifold pressures which life brings upon people to abandon that ambiguous blessing, humanity.”

In San Francisco, lab tech Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) grows increasingly convinced that her boyfriend Geoffrey (Art Hindle) is not himself.  When she brings her worries to her boss, Matthew Bennell (Sutherland), he recommends she see his friend, pop psychologist and relationship guru, Dr. David Kibner (Leonard Nimoy).  Kibner promptly reports that he has seen six similar cases in just one week, and suspects that the cause is the fast-moving 1970s life-style, in which people move in and out of relationships too fast, without really getting to know each other.

But as Matthew, Elizabeth, and their fiends Nancy (Veronica Cartwright) and Jack (Jeff Goldblum) soon discover, the problem in San Francisco is much graver than that.  Alien plants from a dying solar system have arrived on Earth and are rapidly producing emotionless doppelgangers of the human race.  They desire a world of peace, with no hate…but also no love. 

Matthew, Elizabeth, Nancy and Jack attempt to escape San Francisco, but the conspiracy has grown too big, and the human race stands on the brink…

The 1970s remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers by director Philip Kaufman primarily concerns shape and form, and the myriad ways that human beings misperceive shape and form, and thus make unwarranted assumptions that fit pre-conceived notions about those qualities. The film itself depicts an invasion of alien “pod people” -- essentially sentient plants -- who secretly  replace human beings (while they sleep…) in a vast 1970s liberal metropolis, San Francisco. 

But unlike its 1950s predecessor, which was either an indictment of communism or an indictment of McCarthyism depending on your personal Rorschach, the remake plays meaningfully against the unmistakable backdrop of an increasing divorce rate in the United States and the ascent of the so-called “Me Generation.” 

Or, as the psychiatrist in the film, Kibner (Leonard Nimoy) trenchantly notes: “people are moving in and out of relationships too quickly,” and therefore never really getting to know people they presumably love. Accordingly, when individuals make discoveries about their intended loves ones that they don’t like, it is easier to disassociate from them, to blame the “other” for being “different” and then just move on.

But if you are so focused on self and can’t get to really know other people, how can you tell if they are even human at all?  They may look and act human -- their shape and form could be human -- but they could be…pods.

In terms of background context, the Me Generation famously consists of Baby Boomers (born 1946 – 1964, generally-speaking) who, because of rising disposable income in the 1970s and perhaps as a direct response to the ethos of the World War II generation, began to place a new importance on “the self” over the well-being, necessarily, of the community.

In fact, the 1970s was determinedly the decade of the “self,” a fact reflected in the hedonism of disco music, and the blazing ascent in popularity of the “self-help” book genre.  Popular buzz-words of the day included “self-realization” and “self-fulfillment,” yet as the movement of “self” grew, many people saw the new age as merely one of “self-involvement.  The consumption-oriented life-style of immediate gratification soon gave rise to President Carter’s notorious 1979 “Crisis of Confidence” speech, which warned against judging success on material wealth rather than intrinsic human qualities of character and morality.  Meanwhile, we kept building more shopping malls, and imagined worlds futuristic (Logan’s Run) and apocalyptic (Dawn of the Dead) set at them.

Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers plays meaningfully with the idea of form and shape in its visuals by depicting a world where “disconnected” people can’t distinguish between genuine humanity and invading, emotionless aliens.  This tension between form and reality occurs almost immediately in the film when a health inspector -- the film’s protagonist, Bennell (Sutherland) -- starts a fight in a restaurant kitchen, arguing over whether a small black object is actually a caper or a rat turd.  This debate is actually a metaphor for the entire film.

The only way to know for sure about the caper/rat turd is to eat it…and by then it’s too late, isn’t it?  By then, what you fear is actually inside you, doing you harm…

Forecasting its bleak, terrifying, and legitimately unforgettable finale, Kaufman’s camera proves deeply ambivalent even about Bennell -- the hero -- and his “true” human nature.   For example, when Bennell first appears in the film, he is seen through the restaurant’s door, through a peep-hole, and the audience gazes at him through the filter of what seems like a fish-eye.  Bennell appears distorted and strange, and not fully human. 

Later, at a book party for Dr. Kibner, we see a distorted visual representation of Bennell again.  As he talks on the telephone to the police, he stands before what seems to be a funhouse mirror, and it corrupts his features once more. 

And when Bennell goes to rescue Elizabeth from her boyfriend’s house, he is deliberately lit from below, a visual selection which casts shadows upon his features and makes him look diabolical or sinister.

All these visualizations of the good guy prove a point in Invasion of the Body Snatchers:  You can’t trust appearances.

That lesson is learned the hard way by Veronica Cartwright’s character, Nancy, in the film’s last moment.

To approach this facet of Invasion of the Body Snatchers another way, the aliens are creatures who do understand, mimic and manipulate form and shape to their advantage.  Late in the film, a pod merges the body of a dog with the head of a homeless man because the host’s genetic materials were damaged during the duplication process.  What emerges is nothing less than an abomination (and one my earliest movie-going experiences with a jump scare, at that).  But that’s okay to the aliens because they don’t possess emotions. They don’t know fear, disgust or horror.

The protagonists further misunderstand the pods because of their “familiar”-seeming forms.  First, the pods are accepted as harmless plants and brought into human homes, where they commence the invasion. Secondly, these plants are not considered a viable “host” for aliens, as Nancy observantly points out.   Why do we expect UFOS to be metal ships?

And thirdly, the heroes operate on incorrect assumptions about plants, and those assumptions prove deadly.  Even though Nancy notes that plants do respond to music, Bennell leaves Elizabeth for a time because he hears music playing nearby, on a boat.  The song he hears is “Amazing Grace,” one of the most moving compositions ever written, and he assumes it must be sign or symbol of emotional, feeling mankind. 

On the contrary, however, the tune emanates from a cargo ship transporting pods.  There is no hope here, no “grace” to speak of.  The pods, though emotionless, listen to music as well, though it is doubtful they would ever compose new music.

Again, we believe that music is unique to us, but this scene proves that it isn’t, and that mistake costs Bennell the love of his life.  He should know better. When he breaks into Geoffrey's house, the pod Geoffrey is also listening to music.

Over and over, Kaufman’s film attempts to trick us or mislead with its visuals, making the case that in this day and age, we can’t really know anyone else.  Sometimes, the director throws the audience a bone and offers up a visual composition that makes the point we need to learn, or provides an important clue, even before the dialogue tells us.  In one scene set at Matthew’s apartment, for instance, a tower bisects the frame vertically, separating Matthew and Kibner on opposite sides of rectangle, a visual representation of the fact that they aren’t working towards a common end.  We get verbal verification of that fact in the very next scene, but the visuals tell us first, and that’s a remarkable and deft achievement.

The 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers also plays deliberately with the lack of confidence Americans felt in their government following the Watergate Scandal.  President Nixon authorized criminal activities from the Oval Office and resigned from office in disgrace, and then his successor, President Ford immediately pardoned him.  Citizens, to a certain extent, were left out of the loop, and Nixon didn’t seem to pay much for betraying the public trust.  So there was a sense that government, and government bureaucracy was not working for the good of the people, but rather to corrupt ends.  Government (Ford) took care of its own (Nixon).  I don’t necessarily agree with that reading, and I believe Ford did what was necessary to begin the healing process in America.  But others felt differently, and throughout this movie, the paranoia of Watergate proves quite pronounced as shadowy figures rendezvous and talk in hushed tones about plots and strategies.  

At one point, the specter of Watergate is directly referenced, when Matthew realizes that he and all his friends are being watched, and their phones are being tapped.  A telephone operator calls him by name before he gives it. This is, perhaps, the most chilling moment in the movie.

To Philip Kaufman’s credit, he orchestrates the conspiracy in Invasion of the Body Snatchers right under our (unaware) noses, much as President Nixon managed to do for a time.  If Watergate had its “plumbers,” then Invasion has its “garbage men.”  Throughout the film, unobserved and unremarked upon, garbage trucks enter the frame and cart off this weird organic-looking soot or fluff. 

The conspiracy's garbage men are here.

Notice the dumpster behind Leonard Nimoy.

Could that body have disappeared into the garbage truck sitting outside the window?

We don’t learn until the end of the film that this grotesque material is all that remains of the human body after the duplication process.  But at four or five different junctures in the film -- starting in the first shots after the opening credits finish – anonymous-looking garbage trucks, garbage men and dumpsters are captured in the frame, along with this mystery substance.  Only in the film’s final moments does the full breadth of the conspiracy -- and its duration -- become plain.  Invasion of the Body Snatchers also makes literal that old proverb “you can’t fight City Hall.” Here Matthew realizes that the invaders (garbage men and aliens) “control the whole city,” just as we learned they ran the country in Watergate.

Between extreme paranoia about the motives of trusted officials, and the lack of connection between citizens in a permissive utopia of “self,” Invasion of the Body Snatchers fosters deep uneasiness about how easily our natures might be mimicked or mocked.  The final scene, which sees Bennell revealed as a “pod person,” is the ultimate exclamation point on that theme.  He does everything that he did before he was an alien, and so we hope, like Nancy, that he could be “hiding” around the other aliens.  But instead we’ve missed the truth again.  We have mistaken form for substance.  He’s been “born again” into an untroubled world that has no need of hate, and no need of love, either.

Tellingly, Invasion of the Body Snatchers proposes that the alien duplication occurs while the original human sleeps.  Sleep is a universal must and biological need among human beings, so the process is both inescapable and inevitable.  Furthermore, how often have we heard from friends and family that that they “just woke up one day” and felt different about someone important in their lives. This Invasion of the Body Snatchers lives in paranoid suspicion of such a revelation.

Movie Trailer: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Ask JKM a Question: Batfleck?

A friend and regular reader, Bruce, writes:

What's your take on Ben Affleck as Batman?  I think he has come a long way as an actor/director but I think it's a very odd choice and he does have the Daredevil baggage. 

Great question, Bruce, and one that has certainly traveled from one end of the Interwebs to the other.

Personally, I don’t really get what all the uproar is about.

Although I feel it is kind of insulting to declare that Batman isn’t King Lear (as Matt Damon did recently) -- because in today’s culture, Batman is very much King Lear -- I nonetheless feel that the casting of Ben Affleck is in line with the character, and the character distinction that the film creators (Nolan and Snyder) are looking to make vis-à-vis Cavill’s Superman.

Specifically, Affleck is both older (meaning less-fresh-faced) and far more world-weary than Cavill is, and should prove a good contrast.

My take?

Anyone who survived the Gigli-Bennifer press/public onslaught and yet somehow came back to direct an Oscar-winning film like Argo just nine years later is someone who is well-acquainted with life’s ups and downs, and a man who can absolutely play Batman. 

Affleck’s got the experience in him, just from what we know of his public life.  He took the public fall for the J.Lo relationship in the press, and his career took a colossal hit, just as Batman took a hit for Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight.
In short, Affleck understands what it means to victimized by a fickle public, or in this case, a mob. 

In fact, if I were coaching him (which I am most assuredly not…), I would instruct Affleck to draw on that experience while playing the role; of a fickle public demanding his head one minute, and then feting him the next. 

Batman is sometimes beloved and sometimes hated, and sometimes both in the same day.  Can you name one other contemporary actor (except perhaps Kevin Costner…) who you can honestly say went through the same thing so publicly?

For those who argue that Affleck isn’t physically fit enough to play Batman, I merely say: huh?  I would argue that right now -- and without any further training -- Affleck is already more athletic and fit than either the beloved Adam West or Michael Keaton were at the time they each donned the cowl.     

As for Affleck being a bad actor and not boasting the gravitas to play Batman, I would suggest only that naysayers take look at him (literally) busting heads as Loki, a vengeful renegade angel in Dogma (1999) and judge his capacity for intensity.  And that movie was a comedy.

And finally of all the actors with the “chops” or ‘gravitas” to play Batman, wouldn’t you say that George Clooney topped that list?

And if so, how did that work out? 

I didn’t think Daredevil was a very good film, but I don’t know if the blame lands on Affleck.  Do we blame Ryan Reynolds for Green Lantern’s failure? Eric Bana for Hulk’s? Halle Berry for Catwoman’s?  I don’t know that starring in one bad superhero film disqualifies a performer from being in another, better one.

In short, Affleck as Batman doesn’t seem that much of a stretch to me as Batman, and I think the whole kerfuffle is much ado about nothing.  He’ll either rise to the occasion (which I predict), or he won’t (and I’ll be shocked…), but the same fact would be true of any actor cast in the role.

Ben Affleck?  He’ll be just fine as Batman, and we’ll wonder what all the fuss was about once the movie is out.


Cult-TV Theme Watch: Angels

In mythology, angels are spirits or supernatural entities often disguised in human form.
According to literature, angels are agents of Heaven, who do the work of God on Earth, which includes guarding and guiding some human beings.  The stereotypical angel wears robes, boasts wings, has a halo over his or her head, and emits a kind of glow or illumination.
Angels have been a staple of cult-television programming for decades at this point.  Series including Out of the Blue (1979), Highway to Heaven (1984), Touched by an Angel (1994 - 2003) and Teen Angel (1997 – 1998) are all series that have specifically involved the travails of angels on Earth, attempting to guide people to better destinies.  Out of the Blue -- an ABC series which featured cross-overs with Happy Days (1974 – 1984) and Mork and Mindy (1978 – 1981) -- lasted only a season, but featured an angel named Random (Jim Brogan) helping out a suburban American family. 
Both Highway to Heaven and Touched by an Angel involve lead angels (Michael Landon and Roma Downey, respectively), helping a progression of people, rather than one family.

Other series have also featured angels.  The original Battlestar Galactica (1978 – 1979) imagined a cosmic order of Manichean proportions in which a race of angels -- billeted on a “Ship of Lights” – oversaw the affairs of man, and had to contend with a renegade among their people, Count Iblis (Patrick Macnee).  The angels appeared in the two-part episode “War of the Gods” and also “Experiment in Terra.”

The Chris Carter series The X-Files (1993 – 2002) and Millennium (1996 – 1999) have also featured angels on more than one occasion.  In particular, the X-Files episode “All Souls” involves a Nephilim, the offspring of angel and men.  And Frank Black’s (Lance Henriksen) partner in season two of Millennium, Lara Means (Kristen Cloke) often sees images of angels.
Angels have appeared in supernatural based series as well, including Hex (2005 -2007) and Supernatural (2005 -  ).  In the latter case, a war in Heaven is part of the ongoing plot-line.
Doctor Who (2005 - ) has featured angels on more than one occasion.  In “Voyage of the Damned,” the Doctor encountered robots constructed to resemble the supernatural entities.  In “Blink” and other episodes of the tenth and eleventh Doctor, the Weeping Angels have appeared…and become one of the modern series’ most popular (and frightening) villains. 

In other cult television programming, Angel has been a popular name for individuals, teams, and even series.  Charlie’s Angels (1976 – 1981) concerns an all-female team of detectives for instance.  And Angel (David Boreanaz) is a vampire investigator who helps the hopeless.

The Cult-TV Faces of: Angels

Identified by G: Charlie's Angels.

Identified by Donald G: Battlestar Galactica: "War of the Gods."

Identified by Donald G: Random (Jimmy Brogan) from Out of the Blue (1979).

Identified by Donald G: Highway to Heaven, Michael Landon.

Identified by Donald G: The Simpsons.

Identified by Donald G.: Touched by an Angel.

Identified by Jaime Nelson: Teen Angel.

Identified by Mr. C: Millennium: "Monster."


Identified by Donald G: Angel (David Boreanaz) from Buffy/Angel.

Identified by SGB: Mystery Science Theater 3000: "Once Upon a Honeymoon."

Identified by Donald G.: Jessica Alba on Dark Angel,.


Identified by Donald G: Doctor Who: "Voyage of the Damned."


Identified by Donald G: A Weeping Angel from Doctor Who's "Blink."

Identified by Donald G.: Castiel (Misha Collins), from Supernatural