Backlash is an interesting thing.
It’s always interesting when something in the cultural zeitgeist becomes so successful that the tipping point occurs and people flee the bandwagon they were just crowding. Sometimes, it’s because we just get sick and tired of hearing about a particular thing or event. Sometimes, it’s because, as hipsters, it annoys us when something we used to like becomes popular in the mainstream.
Either way, backlash is almost always unfair.
I’ve always been fascinated by horror movies but, for some reason, never really been much of a fan. I remember being intrigued by Fangoria magazine when I was young, and I love me some monsters. As a kid I had a ton of books about movie monsters, but, for some reason, that’s never translated into an enjoyment of the genre for me as an adult.
There are a couple of reasons for this, I think:
First of all, horror films tend to wallow in human suffering. It’s sort of the point. You can’t really make a horror film without something horrible happening to the characters. A nubile 16-year-old blonde getting disemboweled with a machete? Horrifying! A nubile 16-year-old blonde getting asked to the prom by the perfect boy? Not horrifying! Horror content doesn’t play nice.
MINOR SPOILERS BELOW
Like many people with geek tendencies, I was at a local multiplex the other night for a midnight screening of The Avengers. And, since I have some nice flexibility to my work schedule, I actually took the day off to attend the 14-hour Ultimate Marvel Marathon hosted. For anybody who may not have heard about it, Marvel Comics’ film division hosted a marathon of the five films they produced leading up to The Avengers, with the main event being the screening of the newest film as the clock struck 12:00. Or, in my case, due to technical difficulties, 12:45. (Side bar: Seriously, AMC, you don’t get to scratch your collective head and wonder why people aren’t going to the cinema as much, and then screw the pooch this badly during a heavily promoted event.)
So, yesterday morning, starting at 11:30 a.m., I got to see Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger. It was to say the least a fun day spent in the dark with a room full of strangers. But, seeing the films back-to-back like that provides an opportunity to reflect on some pretty impressive accomplishments Marvel Studios has had in a short time.
One of the great American artists working in any form right now is the comedian Louis C.K. Whether it’s his brilliant and confessional stand-up material or his equally great FX Network series Louie, C.K. is utilizing all of the purposes a joke can have.
All that flowery praise would make it sound like I think Louis C.K. is the heir apparent to a droll wit like Noel Coward. He can be. But, he’s not afraid to go below the belt for a joke either. But, whether he’s working highbrow or blue, there’s no off button to Louis C.K.’s intelligence. Which is awesome, as so many in the comedy world seem to think brains aren’t required for lowbrow humor.
So this is what contracts have brought us to.
A few years back, the gang at Marvel realized there was more money (and more creative control – take that, Fox!) in producing their own films as opposed to signing over the rights of their characters to other studios. Of course, the gang at Marvel is pretty smart, so they had written into their contracts with these various studios that made the character screen rights revert back to Marvel in the event that a studio just sat on a property without making a film from it. This is, of course, how Marvel was able to get the screen rights for the Hulk back from Universal. And, thank God, too. Can you imagine Joss Whedon’s Avengers movie without the Hulk in it?
Long story short, my dad is a Gilmore Girls fan. I was a huge fan of the show, and I somehow talked him into watching it. And, once he gave it a whirl, he loved it. Now, he’s a big fan of Bunheads, the new show from the Gilmore Brain Trust. I was talking to him the other day, and he mentioned that there probably weren’t many men his age (he’s 71) who would watch a show about the goings on at a small town dance studio.
He’s probably right. But, I would argue that any story that is compellingly told should be enjoyable to anybody, regardless of their age, race, sexual orientation, or any other demographic grouping.
I didn’t walk out of Ted, so that’s saying something. If I see a movie by myself and I’m not liking it, I will often leave before it’s over. It’s not an offended leaving or storming out in disgust. It’s merely me saying, “You got my money, you’re not going to get my time, too.” If I genuinely don’t care to see the end of a film I’m not enjoying, what’s the point of wasting an hour to see how it turns out?
Let’s just make it easy and blame Punk’d.
It was MTV’s lame, Ashton Kutcher-produced practical joke show that introduced me to actor Dax Shepard, who often played various roles in the show’s elaborate “pranks.” Man, was that show horrible, smug, and staggeringly unfunny. Because Punk’d was so totally abhorrent, it caused me to never pay much attention to Shepard’s work, even when he was collaborating with people I respected, like Jon Favreau. (Shepard appeared in Zathura.) And, I was always a little baffled by his real-life relationship with actress Kristen Bell, she of Veronica Mars and sloth-loving fame and somebody I completely adored.
Old people will always tell you, “They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.” And, regardless of what “’em” they may be talking about, the elderly are usually right about these things.
There was definitely a retro feel to watching Premium Rush, the new action picture starring Joseph Gordon-Robin-Levitt, and it isn’t just because of its similarities to that '80s Kevin Bacon bike messenger movie, Quicksilver. While the studios today are in the business of making largely bloated, over indulgent, $250 million movies stuffed to the gills with computer generated imagery, Premium Rush (which was made for only about $30 million) feels breezy and fun. But, more importantly, it feels handcrafted, with the vast majority of its stunt work being done on set rather than against a green screen.
Call it Ronin with bicycles.
"When you're alone,
And life is making you lonely,
You can always go downtown.
When you've got worries,
All the noise and the hurry,
Seem to help, I know, downtown . . ."
So go the lyrics to Petula Clark's famous pick-me-up song, "Downtown," and the same could be said about Ellen DeGeneres' feel-good afternoon talk show. If you lost your job, your car won't start, or your freakin' hairdresser cut your bangs too short, Ellen can turn all of that around.