Monday, January 24, 2011

On Cyberpunk Spider-Man.

Anytime I find myself with an extended period of time without responsibility, such during my recent move a few months back or this past holiday season, I find it incredibly difficult to motivate myself to do much besides read and revisit/discover TV shows or movies that have caught my interest. Over the past couple of years, each time I have loads of time, I've revisited various chapters of the DC Animated Universe, which I am sure I have talked about some here and elsewhere. I won't talk about what makes it such a compelling story to me, but something I watched this weekend while doing laundry made me appreciate the storytelling and world-building of the DCAU crew. It's a show that is actually very similar to their own Batman Beyond:Spider-Man Unlimited.

For four years, Fox ran an original Spider-Man animated series that was rather ambitious for children's television in the 90s. It used long story arcs, a huge cast of characters from the Spider-Man world, and tried to incorporate the other Marvel characters (many of whom had their own shows) to tell one giant story. I never watched it religiously, but I tuned in more often than not, though they lost me as a 10-year-old when Madame Webb and interdimensional travel made an appearance. In short, it was faithful to the source, but uneven due to mediocre animation and lots of laser guns/giant robots, and through it all was successful during its run. A year later, for some reason, the guys at Marvel thought it'd be a good idea to give the character a new set of adventures in a sequel series and the result was this:

I won't say there aren't interesting ideas in even the first five minutes... it's just so jam-packed and terribly paced. First of all, how did MJ return from being lost in some other dimension/time/world? That Spider-Man is disliked by much of New York (the country? the world?) is something that the old show would have taken a few weeks to process, and show how Peter was dealing with being seen as a pariah. Instead, we jump ahead six months where everything has been worked out, and Parker even has a new suit thanks to Reed Richards (no cameo, he stole it at some point we never see). And then there's the space travel and Counter-Earth. For perspective, this is the first of a two-part episode, and already it's moving so fast that it's not worth paying attention. And the icing on the cake: they completely changed the animation style to make it more reminiscent of a comic book and recast the voice of Peter Parker. Yet, they reused his heroic theme. In a sequel series. The mind boggles.

Compare the first few minutes of Spider-Man Unlimited to the pre-credit sequence of Batman Beyond and, like me, you'll be surprised by its emotional power:

Whether you've watched the previous shows that are in the continuity is irrelevant; the show's creator's were focused on good storytelling, period. It doesn't hurt that the animation style and voice acting remained consistent, but the writing/animation came first. I remember vividly my anticipation for this show. It seemed like a naked cash grab to get kids to buy new Batman toys (a teenage Batman!), and somehow it worked better than anyone would have expected. As a quick aside, it's funny to note that in both of these shows, besides the post-apocalyptic future setting both kind of share, each hero's suit includes a cloaking device. Whereas Spider-Man Unlimited used lavender waves to show you that he's invisible, the DCAU just made Batman clear with some shadows. It's the little details that make all the difference.

To be clear, this is really not a "DC vs. Marvel" rant, though I am a bit skeptical about all of the movies Marvel is making and trying to tie them together. It just seems like it will be so easy to make a giant mess, especially considering there all being written, directed, and produced by different people. I hope for the sake of those character's fans that I'm wrong.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Let 'em fight.

Thanks to the greatest reality tv show ever and Power 99, I will never forget this song. The summer after I graduated from high school, this was all they played.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gordon Smith.

And yet, his acting is still better in Belly. Given that he was in Hawaii to shoot this scene, is it safe to assume he also ended up on the MBDTF cutting room floor, and we'll hear that tune in the coming weeks?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Trying my best to find my way

As someone who hasn't truly liked an album by Kanye in about five years, I must say this new one is quite a force. When I was listening to it yesterday, I got to "All of the Lights" and I realized that this album reminds me a lot of Marvin Gaye's Hear, My Dear. I think the reason I couldn't get into Graduation or 808s was I didn't feel a sense of urgency from Kanye; he didn't give off the feeling that his moment was fleeting. Instead, it was always meant to be, and he was basking in it. But with MBDTF, from the lyrics to the production, it feels clear to me that his mother's death impacted a whole lot more than any breakup or MTV incident. One of the things that appealed to me about Kanye the summer he released his first single was that he had so many directions his thoughts could take him, and as he got more famous/isolated, his perspective didn't really match my own. So to hear him, however briefly, mention his bags getting searched on "Gorgeous" or talk about how he relates to what is happening in the world, I remember why I was such an ardent fan in the first place. He's not just angrily venting about his ex, he's trying to work through his own problems, which is much more relatable. To get back to to the Hear, My Dear comparison, the song above is easily my favorite from that album, and comes halfway through a 70-minute kiss-off to Anna Gordy. The trauma of losing a significant other or loved one can force you to reassess your values and trajectory in life, and it's pretty obvious Gaye is concerned with all that as his marriage is crumbling. I haven't watched or listened to any of the interviews Kanye has given, since Matt Lauer is hard to deal with, but does anyone know if he's been asked about his mother's passing and how that influenced his goals with his album? I'd be curious to know if he brought it up on his own, too. Anyway, the way this new album plays reminds me of my own thoughts when I lost my grandmother and my roommate lost a close friend. In sum, it's good to hear Kanye thinking broadly again. Also, Bink!

As good as this thing is, I still don't think Kid CuDi needs to be on here at all. And does Alicia Keys only moan and yell now? Plus, the posse cut combination of "Monster" and "So Appalled" feel rather random in terms of flow, but I like both.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

It should be clear by now that I am a pretty big basketball fan. I don't have a TV, nor do I follow the league at all times, but I care a great deal about the players and certain teams/styles of play/uniforms. Basically, I am a sucker for the details. If I learned anything over this past summer, it's that when you feel like mainstream outlets for sports news are failing you in terms of depth or breadth of coverage, go looking for what you want. If I might recommend one source to a few of you, it would be Voice on the Floor. It's a series of podcasts from a bunch of different basketball writers, of various length and tone. I would encourage you all to listen to the first episode, looking at how the Gilbert Arenas episode effected the Wizards. I'm of the opinion that great, long-form reporting on sports and science are lacking in terms of the quantity of resources, so anything like this I can get my hands on, I will cherish. Enjoy.

Also, has anyone listened to the 11-minute Kanye song yet? I haven't heard it, is it worth checking out?

At first glance, I see the merit in this article, but it is also so incredibly frustrating. I need to think more clearly about why it bothers me. Though a quote like this:

FK: When you were reading all these lyrics, did you ever imagine what they would sound like spoken?

SA: It's funny: I mostly imagined them in my internal "textual" voice — the voice I tend to use for all reading. Which is probably a ghost version of my own.

FK: So all the same tempo I'm guessing.

SA: Yeah, basically the same. And then I'd read some of my favorite passages aloud to my wife, and she would laugh at me because it sounded ridiculous.

makes it easy to see why I'm irritated. My emphasis, by the way.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

An announcement.

I suppose it's been a while, for which I apologize. I was busy moving across the country and trying to get my act together for graduate school. I suppose the break was good to acquire new music and just marinate over my opinions, but I feel guilty neglecting the site. I'll resume opinions soon, and I may try podcasting provided i make the time to do so. I also started a tumblr about a week ago. I imagine that the podcasts will go both there and here. Some of you may know that I did a radio show in college, and I kind of miss that structured playtime. So why not relive that experience thanks to modern technology? I'll try and get my act together, for all our benefits. Since I don't have much of a social life, I took all of five minutes to come up with a name and "artwork" for this radio show, as you can see. I'm trying to convince my roommate to join me on the show, so look out for that. But it will happen, and there will be music.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

blow the whistle.

We had this conversation last year. Mike Brown, above all, is the problem. He has no actual gameplans, which isn't useful if Bron Bron gets in foul trouble, gets hurt, or has an off night. Having said that, if I were Mr. James, I'd leave Cleveland... who really wants to live there for the rest of your 20s?

and for good measure: