The Road

I watch movies once and I’ll wait for them. Four years after Cormac McCarthy’s The Road was adapted to film, I have finally seen it. I’ve waited longer for other movies.

The movie was right up my alley; asking more questions than it provided answers. I’ve gleefully read some exuberant analyses of the ending, that have been floating around the ether for four years or so.

This was nearly a perfect movie. I’m reminded of Terry Gilliam’s comments regarding 2001: A Space Odyssey: “2001 had an ending. I don’t know what it means…I have to think about it. I have to work. And it opens up all sorts of possibilities and probably the next person I speak to has a different idea of what that ending means.” Oblique endings are extremely satisfying to me. They speak to real life more directly than any ‘happily ever after’ could.

My problem with story’s endings is deep and I really just need to sit down and hash it out one day. I can summarize it, maybe: All stories reflect the story of Christ. That’s the point of this blog. We don’t know how the story – we don’t know if the story – of Christ has an ending. It doesn’t. He’s immortal. We don’t know how the story of His work of salvation will end. We have a nice climax on the Cross, but we’re promised a lot more action to come. So if the stories of mankind reflect the story of Christ and we don’t know how the story of Christ ends, what do mankind’s endings look like?

Of the possible endings, the mysterious one best suits my worldview. I don’t know what the new creation will be like. I don’t know what my work will be like. I don’t know how much of my current understanding of who I am and what life is will continue on into that next world. It won’t be horrible, but it might be terrifying. It won’t be dangerous, but it might be painful. And I don’t know what events have yet to transpire to get us from here to there.

One theme that’s appropriately common to most endings is the new world. The new world, or the new life, of the characters can be good or bad. But the point of every story is that this part of existence needs to be told because things were one way before and they’re another way after.

A story could end on a wedding, which explicitly indicates a new way of life for characters, or it could end more subtly. A new way of thinking, after the death of someone close or the perseverance through something hard, can be suggested at the end of a movie. “After all, tomorrow is another day.” “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” “I’ll be right here.” “It’s too bad she won’t live. But then again, who does?” Even Leia’s final comments tie up the love triangle and hint at the possibilities: “It’s not like that at all. He’s my brother.”

These all indicate a larger world than the story they’re inside of. There’s more to come. There’s more here. Keep watching the skies.

Even the tidiest endings suggest a bigger world than the story can contain. The messier endings indicate a world infinitely bigger than the story. Even the author can’t conceive of this world’s scope. Endings of this type are much more sympathetic to my worldview. The implications of Christ’s work, not to mention the stuff He’s done that we don’t even know about yet, are beyond our understanding.

The mysterious ending of The Road indicates that the world of Man and Boy is much stranger and larger than their journey.

One thing that this movie, and its bizarre ending, accomplish is to make the viewer think. Not many movies can do this.

Here’s an excerpt from an interview with McCarthy:

I have the same letter from about six different people. One from Australia, one from Germany, one from England, but they all said the same thing. They said, “I started reading your book after dinner and I finished it 3:45 the next morning, and I got up and went upstairs and I got my kids up and I just sat there in the bed and held them.”

Any story that can inspire that reaction is worthy of our species’ narrative heritage. Let’s keep The Road.

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Fussing about comic movies

The big news last night was the casting of Batman for the follow-up to The Man of Steel. I was surprised that Ben Affleck was chosen, mostly given his big name. The two big stars of the Superman movie were not the most famous people in that movie. Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, and Laurence Fishburne all brought more starpower than either of the two leads. I’d never heard of either Michael Shannon or Henry Cavill until they were announced to play Zod and Superman. So to cast Ben Affleck, who has been hanging around the top tier of movie stardom for fifteen years is a bit surprising. I’m guessing they hope that Henry Cavill will become a huge star in between Superman movies so he can hold his own against Affleck’s Batman. Here’s hoping… Though, at the risk of sounding too much like a blogger, I don’t think Cavill has near enough charisma or screen presence to hold his own against anybody dressed as Batman, let alone an actor who has proven his charisma numerous times.

That sounds like I’m a big Affleck fan. I like him alright. I don’t follow his career. I haven’t even seen Argo or Good Will Hunting. He’s a movie star though. He has that elusive movie star … (I’m just gonna go there) je ne se qua. And I’m guessing that his Batman will either play a small part, like Crowe’s Jor-El did, or he will outright steal the whole movie. If he plays a small part, he will still dominate. As much as I like Superman, Batman just looks cooler. He especially looks cooler when real people dress up like him. And if Batman shares an equal number of screen minutes with Superman, then Cavill doesn’t stand a chance. It won’t be a World’s Finest movie. It will be a Batman movie.

Cruising around Twitter and the blogosphere, I noticed a generally negative reaction to the news of Affleck’s casting. And I just don’t understand that. Dislike Affleck. Lose interest in the Man of Steel sequel movie. Whatever. I just don’t understand the people that accuse Affleck of potentially ruining Batman. Now this goes for all comic-to-movie, book-to-movie adaptations. The movie version is not the definitive version of the story.

The movie version is not the definitive version of the story.

We already have years of Neal Adams’ Batman comics. In my opinion, that is the ultimate telling of the Batman stories. That’s canon. Everything else, including movies and later comics, is something like fan fiction. Some is good, some is bad. Likewise to fussy comments about any franchise. “Did the movie of The Hunger Games ruin the book?” What?! No! The book is right there, intact. I’ve spoken with, and read articles by, many people who actively dislike Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies because of freedoms he took with the text. (And if you’re one of the people I’ve talked to about this, I’m referring to someone else that I talked to about the same topic.) I’ve even heard and chatted with a few that even regard The Hobbit movie as superior to the first set of Middle Earth flicks because the story was told with greater adherence to the book. That is, some people prefer a bad movie to a good one because it is ‘truer’ to the book.

This is the most common conversation regarding film adaptations of comics or books. “Did they get it right?” “Did they screw up my favorite book?” “They ruined ______!”

Now of course everyone is entitled to their opinion. But when I hear opinions like the ones above, I assume that those reviewers have little respect for the source material. Even though they claim to have utmost respect for the source, and that is the reason for there dismay at the crappy movie version. I would argue that they do not respect the source. Think about it. Do you feel threatened by a new crappy Star Trek flick? If so, what exactly are you afraid of? It’s not like JJ is going to personally come to your house and scratch your DVD of Star Trek II. (Lucas, on the other hand…) JJ’s just going to make a new movie that lazily borrows sequences from better movies. It’s a Star Trek greatest hits album, only with new (!) and exciting (!) cover versions of your old favorites. But you still have the originals. And if you let the new version distract you from enjoying the classic, then isn’t that your problem?

The same theory applies to book, or comic book, to movie adaptations. So there’s a new actor playing Batman. Ben Affleck is not going to rip up all your old Batman comics. Neither is his movie version to ever be considered the definitive version of Batman. If you esteem the next Batman movie so highly that you’re afraid for the character’s future, then you don’t know Batman. First of all, comic fans were panicking about Michael Keaton and he turned out to be awesome. In fact, he’s my favorite screen Batman, maybe even my favorite screen superhero. And if you’re afraid that a bad Batman movie will screw up the future of Bat-cinema, well don’t forget that Batman Begins came out a mere eight years after Batman & Robin, and its attitude was probably at least partly a direct response to the crappy Clooney flick. And thirdly, most importantly, stop putting so much emphasis on the movies. The Batman story is done. It’s already been told. Movies just add to the mythos. What works, stays. What flops gets discarded.

One more thing. Batman is a serialized character. The rules are a little different for him than they are for Lord of the Rings. But the philosophy of the film adaptation is the same. The movies are movies and the books are books. Okay. You’ve probably already talked that over. Different media, different rules, different goals, different experiences. Some changes are necessary. Omissions are accepted. Additions are to be fussed about.

What I do not like is the conversation about whether a film adaptation is true to its source. The “did they get it right” conversations bug me. It’s a staple of fandom to argue over accuracy and canon. But I say that it’s not only fruitless, but indicative of a disrespect for the original book or comic. As I said, comics are different because it is in their nature is to be refreshed. Books are finite and comics are of a nature generally closer to resembling infinity. But the attitude among fans persists. The disrespect for the source comes by giving too much importance to the adaptation. You expect the LOTR, or the Hunger Games, or the Batman, or the Star Trek movies to match your interpretation of the source? If you want the source so badly then why not go to it? Why bother about a movie that got it wrong if you can easily just go to the place that gets it right? Read the books you love, watch the movies you love, read the comics you love.

What impact can a supposedly bad adaptation have on the original? I say if it’s not zero, then maybe you don’t like the original as much as you think you do.

And here’s my big point: The movie version is not the definitive version of the story.

Things I like that should become Christmas presents. For me, or your friend. MOVIES

The Dark Knight Trilogy

My most anticipated movie of the year was probably Dark Knight Rises. I still haven’t decided how I feel about Nolan’s final chapter in his Batman movies. I enjoyed pretty well while I was watching it. I’m a little unsure about the solution…
Still. Batman Begins and Dark Knight remain truly excellent films. They will probably stand as the great superhero films.

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Batman:

The Dark Knight Returns

These look fantastic! I really enjoyed last year’s Batman Year One. I expect the same level of attention was paid in the production of this two-part adaptation of Frank Miller’s comic.

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Justice League: Doom

Superman vs The Elite

Here are DC’s other two animated features from 2012. Both look pretty well made. That Justice League one looks like a ton of fun!

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Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase One

So you already have The Avengers. And Iron Man. Maybe you skipped Iron Man 2 and The Incredible Hulk. Well, here are all the feature films of Marvel’s Phase One cinematic initiative in one place. Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers.

So that’s the good news. The bad news: the release date has been pushed back to Spring 2013.

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Lord of the Rings Extended Editions

Don’t drool now.
Five discs for each film. Extended cuts.

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Planet of the Apes series and Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The classic films and the modern prequel-ish thing have some beautiful sets to lust after.

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Alien Anthology and Prometheus

Check out the first two excellent films! And remind yourself that the crappy prequel wasn’t as bad as the third and fourth movies!

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Agatha Christie’s Poirot

Blu Ray Collection

What better way to lead in to next year’s grand finale.

David Suchet has expertly played the finicky detective since 1989. 1989!! The first six series (a total of thirteen will be completed next year) are now available on Blu-Ray.

Parfait!

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Star Trek: The Next Generation, season two on blu ray

Who could forget this beauty? The Next Generation continues to be released on high quality blu ray format box sets. This one has a boatload of extras. But most fans are eager for the top notch digital upgrade applied to every episode.

This is one of my favorite periods in Star Trek. I just love Dr Pulaski. She was a bit of life added to a show with a cast of characters that easily bored me. As much as I love the Enterprise D, I found the interpersonal success enjoyed by her crew insipid. Dr Pulaski was a real person – maybe the only believable person on the show. She had great skill and knowledge, like the other crew members, but she was also prideful. While I normally wouldn’t encourage prideful behavior, I find hers to be honest and refreshingly presented. Here was a character that sometimes failed. She had doubts. She had prejudices. And, most interesting for the narrative, she was a character that could change/grow.

This season marks the only appearances of Dr Pulaski in all of filmed Star Trek.

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Bond 50

I love Bond. I’ve seen them all (well, all except Skyfall and I haven’t seen that yet because I’m an idiot). Connery’s my favorite. There’s no contest. Daniel Craig is great and his movies are good. But he’s no Connery.

Skip Roger Moore. I couldn’t stand his Bond movies when I was a kid. I tolerated them when I was older, my hand at diplomacy. I’ve returned to be annoyed at them.

Dalton is fine. Brosnan was in one good one and three increasingly stupid other ones.

How many great flicks are on this set? Dr No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, Goldeneye, Casino Royale.

How many good ones? Most of the others are good.

How many total stinkers? Live and Let Die, The Man With the Golden Gun, Moonraker, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World is Not Enough, Die Another Day are all pretty hard to get through.

27% Great
27% Stink
45% Okay

That’s about right for Bond.

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Road to Avonlea

and

Anne of Green Gables

My wife and I don’t watch a ton of TV…well, we do but we don’t watch anything broadcast. So we watch our DVD sets. I usually let her pick. (It’s an easy way to die to myself!) Her TV choices range more to the girly and kiddie than mine would, but I tend to enjoy whatever it is anyway! She recently watched through the entire Road to Avonlea series, which is a spin-off from the excellent first two Anne of Green Gables TV-films.

The entire seven seasons have received the digital restoration treatment.

Road to Avonlea: The Complete First Season
Road to Avonlea: The Complete Second Season
Road to Avonlea Season 3
Road to Avonlea: Season 4
Road to Avonlea Season 5

And the movie that started it all:

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Once Upon a Time

Here’s one that my lady loves to watch and I can only tolerate. It has a lot going for it, but I feel like I’m watching TV when I’m watching this TV show. And that’s a bad thing. Maybe I’m asking for too much.

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For the kid




Am I the first to notice this?

Maybe I’m just late to the party, and this is a well-known bit of Star Wars lore.

Could this be the birth of the symbol for the Rebel Alliance?

Since I couldn’t find anything written or illustrated suggesting this, I slapped my own little illustration together. It’s crude, but it gets the point across.

Thoughts?