Friday, September 30, 2011

The Story Of Charlie Oakseed

There's lots of oak trees 'round these parts. This time o' year, that means lots of acorns on the ground. Most of the dogs didn't concern themselves with such things. Because they're dogs, you see, not squirrels.

But there was one dog that was different. Charlie liked those acerns. Liked to pick 'em up. Sometimes he crunched 'em in his teeth. Most o' the time he did that, he spit 'em back out, but sometimes not. But other times Charlie would carry those acorns off the road, and drop 'em on the ground. I couldn't understand why he kept doing that, but he did.

Come one day, Charlie slipped his leash and took off a runnin'. I tried to give chase, but Charlie could fly when he put his mind to it. No, I don't mean fly like a bird, I mean run real fast. Get your head outta the clouds, child, we're talkin' 'bout a dog here. I only caught up because he kept stoppin' to move acorns off the road and set 'em on the ground. That's when I understood what he thought he had to do. So I let him loose, and off he went. I never saw Charlie again, but I hear tell of a dog crossing the country, setting acorns in the grass so oak trees will grow everywhere for the squirrels.

Course, it might have worked better if he'd tried buryin' those acerns, 'cause the squirrels and the birds just gobble 'em all up. But Charlie, well, Charlie never was all that bright.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Suspension Of Disbelief Abruptly Collapsed

Do you ever have moments while watching movies, where something takes place, and because of the actors involved you say, "No way"?

For me, I suppose the prime example has always been the end of The Jackal, where Bruce Willis is killed by Richard Gere. Setting aside that Willis was playing the supposed best contract killer on the planet, and Gere was playing some IRA guy, it was action movie star Bruce Willis being stymied by Richard Gere, that guy who appears in romantic comedies with Julia Roberts. I know, he does other stuff too, like Willis does more than action movies. But back then, in high school or whenever it was we rented it, that was my line of thinking, and so I couldn't buy it. The matter wasn't helped by the movie not being very good anyway.

I was watching Marlowe yesterday when a similar moment struck, though this one was as much about circumstances as it was the actors involved. Marlowe (James Garner) is at a classy high-rise restaurant with his lady friend, when he's called away to have a conversation on a patio/deck with a William Wong (Bruce Lee). William is acting on behalf of a rich man, and tries for the second time in the movie to offer Marlowe money to stop doing any investigating for awhile. Marlowe refuses, so Wong starts in the with a lot of kicks, gradually forcing Marlowe onto the ledge.

At which point, having Marlowe in a spot where even a slight misstep with send the gumshoe plummeting to his death, Wong allows himself to be baited with a suggestion he's gay, and launches a flying kick at Marlowe. Marlowe grabs a nearby support column and pulls himself aside, and Wong flies right over the edge to his death.

It was such a blindingly stupid way for the character to die. Yes, Wong might have been described as hot-headed, since he took Marlowe's initial refusal as an excuse to lay waste to the shamus' office, but "hot-headed" is not the same as "stupid". Wong had hopped onto a bench near the ledge, the after the insult actually hopes back down to the floor to launch the kick. I'm sure there were any number of ways a man of William's skill could have sent Marlowe over the edge, with far less risk to himself, and he could have enjoyed it just as much (Bruce Lee really did have a very good smile for "I'm going to enjoy what I'm about to do to you" in this flick). It took me right out of the film, which was only about halfway through. I let it finish running, but I wasn't paying much attention to rest of the way.

Anyway, have you had any moments like that? Did it happen on a first viewing, or was it something that nagged at you latter? Did you eventually reconcile it somehow? I've never tried watching The Jackal again, don't plan to, either. But I might try Marlowe again someday.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Spoilers

In its plot, The Spoilers is a fairly basic movie. Glennister (John Wayne) runs a successful mining operation with his partner Dextry, and some financial backing from his sweetheart Cherry (Marlene Dietrich), who runs the successful gambling parlor in Nome. Glennister is cheated of his claim by a trio of crooks: a judge (who has a daughter Glennister's been spending time with, complicating things with Cherry), a lawyer, and the local Gold Commissioner (Randolph Scott). Glennister attempts to fight back against the crooked system in a vigilante manner with the help of his friends. Good triumphs, and everything works out, supposedly.

There's a particular sequence that bothered me, specifically when Glennister, Dextry, and some of their miners rob the bank with their faces covered in soot. I don't know if that counts as blackface. None of the men behaved differently than they had up to that point, but the movie did have a gag where Glennister heads to Cherry's apartment afterward and is found by her black maid, Idabelle, who exclaims how happy she is there are finally 'some colored boys up here'. So I don't know, what that is exactly. I know I was uncomfortable watching it, and part of that came from there being no logical reason for them to use soot as a disguise.

Based on Idabelle's comments, there aren't any African-American males in Nome in 1900, let alone a half-dozen, so I can't imagine Glennister hoped to throw the authorities off the trail. Besides, it would have been rather odd for a random group of men to break into the bank, and only steal the safe with Glennister's money in it*, and nothing else. Also, some of those men are pretty recognizable, with their scruffy beards and awkward gaits, I don't think the soot would make them that unrecognizable. And the judge, lawyer, and gold commissioner all knew Glennister was going to do this because they'd purposefully forced him into this corner, so he wasn't fooling anyone that counted. Bandannas covering their faces would have worked just as well.

Ultimately, the soot served to allow for that one joke, and for Idabelle to later enter the room complaining to Glennister she couldn't remove the soot from his clothes when the Commissioner is there with his goons. Which makes it an especially stupid decision by the characters. Bandannas wouldn't leave hard to remove stains on clothes. So, poor choice in plot contrivance?

Anyway, there's also the issue of the marshall killed during the robbery. Not by Glennister, but it was pinned on him. The audience knows who did it, but he dies without admitting it, so even if it all becomes obvious that the judge, shyster, and Randolph Scott where scoundrels, there's still the matter of a murder charge Glennister has no way of clearing himself of. Other than "I didn't shoot him" *throws money around* Which might work.

There is a very impressive fight between John Wayne and Randolph Scott at the end, where they essentially destroy every bit of Cherry's bar. Well, they missed the chandelier, but managed to crash through every table, window, and most of the liquor selection. It's a really impressive fight, but I guess Randolph Scott's too big a name to lose easy.

* That had been confiscated because it was connected to the mine, and Glennister's claim on it was under a faked dispute, and he needed the money to send his lawyer to Seattle to prove it was all bunk)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cluemaster Certainly Lost Me

We're almost two months on from the end of the Steph Brown Batgirl series, and I still don't really understand the Reapers' plan.

I understand the Cluemaster, Stephanie's father, was the mastermind behind them, and that he was ultimately just using them in some Professor Zoom like attempt to make his daughter a better hero by putting her through hell. But I don't entirely follow what kind of plan he presented to the Reapers. I doubt "fight my daughter the superhero so she gets better at her job, which increases the chances you'll go to jail" would be a successful selling point.

Looking at it, they had Slipstream try and steal all those discontinued bills*, which would either be a simple desire for more money, or it's necessary capital for their overall plan. Slipstream winds up captured, without getting the money, yet Steph was convinced that prison was exactly ehere the Reapers wanted Slipstream to be.

Then Harmony tried to take those cells from the corpse of the nun with alleged healing powers. Stephanie captured and defeated her, too, but the Grey Ghost palmed the container and handed it over to the remaining Reapers as part of his plan to protect Batgirl/get the goods on the Reapers. This is getting somewhere. Assuming the rumors that nun had the ability to 'remove maladies from the accursed' are true, it may be a meta-gene trait, that with the right equipment, could be reproduced and marketed to interested parties. If it's regeneration, the list of people who'd want that either for themselves or for their soldiers/minions would stretch around the block. Even if it's simply healing abilities, that's still highly useful, if someone's interested in prolonging their life or are trying to scrimp on medical insurance pay outs. But the equipment necessary to find the proper gene sequence andreproduce it wouldn't be cheap. Which might explain the robbery attempt.

It's significant that Clancy overheard Harmony say she would succeed in her mission without ending up like Slipstream. While she was wrong about that, it suggests ending up in prison wasn't part of the plan, contrary to Batgirl's belief. Or else it was a part of the plan the Reapers weren't privvy to.

After that, Clancy gets himself killed, and the remaining Reapers suit up, get Harmony and Slipstream's suit back, and tear into the prison, going on a rampage as they look for their mysterious boss. Though this did bring Batgirl into contact with her father, as he wanted, I doubt he told the Reapers they were to break in and start trying to find and kill him. It's more likely he set them up so by this point they'd be angry enough to do exactly that.

The slacker that became Slipstream was apparently enticed with offers of money after all his other sources cut him off, so maybe it was as simple as promising them loads of cash. Not to mention power, with the super-suits and all. Give them enough treats, and perhaps Arthur could lead them around by the nose, without ever explaining what the point was. I wonder if Arthur even had a plan for the money or the DNA if Steph failed to stop him, or if these were simply weird crimes he dreamed up to test her.

* I still don't get why having him coat them with a marker they could track so he could steal it all at once was better than simply having him steal everything from each bank as he hit them. Surely the banks were trying to increase security in light of the break-ins, even though he wasn't taking anything?

Monday, September 26, 2011

I Wrote A Lot About A Movie I Saw Less Than 30 Minutes Of

We tried to watch Bringing Up Baby last night, but the DVD started skipping. Combined with the fact I was still reeling from a Saturday spent helping Alex celebrate his birthday, and I gave up and went to bed. Too bad, it had just reached the point where Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) pretends she's being attacked by the leopard so Dr. Huxley (Cary Grant) will rush over.

It just occurred to me this morning he brought his fossilized Brontosaurus bone along with him to her place. Would a jungle cat gnaw a fossilized bone? It'd be like eating a rock, which doesn't seem very catlike, but I suppose that could lead to hilarity when they have to take it to a dentist. And of course Huxley would be disraught that the last bone they need to complete the skeleton has been devoured/destroyed/damaged by a giant cat this crazy woman has.

I've watched several of Howard Hawks' movies before, notably To Have and Have Not and Rio Bravo, since my dad's a fan of Hawks' work. This was an earlier film, which might explain why the overlapping, interrupting dialogue was a bit harder for me to follow. Perhaps Hawks still hadn't quite worked the kinks out yet. Or, since this was a comedy, whereas the others were not, he wanted it to be a little confusing for the audience, so they'd feel as befuddled by the whole thing as Huxley seemed to be. Or I was tired.

I was impressed with Cary Grant in the little bit of the movie we got to see. I hadn't pegged him as such a good comedic actor. His character was how I think Clark Kent in All-Star Superman acts: a decent fellow, friendly, enthusiastic, but overrun by stronger, louder personalities around him. With Grant's character, it's both the women in the movie that run roughshod over him. He can't gain any traction with Hepburn's character or his future wife. Anything he says or does, no matter how accurate or well-intentioned, they simply bulldoze over by force of their personalities.

All of which makes me wonder if Cary Grant could have been a good Superman. I'd tend to think so, if only because he was a fine actor, and I'd expect talent would show through. Heck, Hepburn would probably make a fine Lois Lane. Susan Vance is a bit too spacey for Lois, but I doubt it'd be difficult for Hepburn to tone that down, and crank the noseyness up to 11.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Adventures of Brisco County Jr. 9 - Brisco for the Defense

Plot: Brisco is called to a town by an old college friend of his, Matt. Matt performs the role of town doctor, but now he's under suspicion of the murder of Potter Crow, the richest and most powerful man in town. Matt's not looking for Brisco to blast the bad guys, though. No, he wants County to put that Harvard law school training to use and defend Matt. Too bad Judge Gatt (Tony Jay) went to Yale. . .

In addition to dusting off his rusty legal skills (with some help from Socrates), Brisco will have to contend with Sheriff Bumper (Felton Perry) who isn't terribly concerned with rights, laws, or "innocent until proven guilty". He is interested in selling his cattle and wrapping up this murder trial, and doing both those things quickly. Then there's Cassie Crow, Potter's widow, who Matt is unfortunately protective of, and the inevitable lynch mob bearing torches.

Does Brisco use his gun? He's draws it once as a bluff.

Things Comet does: Pulls the steel bars out of a jail cell window. Must be eating his Wheaties. Perhaps 'feeling his oats' is more appropriate.

Kiss Count: 0 (still at 9. Up your game Brisco).

John Bly Spreads His Arms Dramatically: N/A (5 for the season).

Is Pete Hutter in this Episode? No

Pete Hutter Quote: N/A

Non-Pete Hutter Quote: 'These fingerprints leave oily traces on objects touched, Your Honor. Oh yeah? Says who? Mark Train in Puddin'head Wilson!' - Brisco, the Judge Gatt, and the last sentence is Socrates.

Brisco's Coming Things: fingerprinting

Bly Gang Count: 0 (4 overall). I've been debatong whether I should be counting Pete in this. It wouldn't really matter since he escaped the last 2 times we've seen him, but I'm debating it. It would bring the gang count for Pilot up to 2, since Pete was presumed dead at the end.

Stuff the Orb Can Do: N/A

Other: Prior to this, Brisco hadn't handled a case in 5 years. Socrates puts his pants under the mattress so they'll be pressed for the morning. Unfortunately for Brisco, Soc snores fit to wake the dead.

About the case. Is it standard procedure to leave a shell casing in the murder weapon? Potter was killed with a derringer, and the bullet was still in it. Also, hold did Brisco know that the print on the shell was the right thumbprint? I guess it was because he already knew who did it, and knew which hand they'd load with, but it was a little strange. His hunch was correct, so maybe it doesn't matter much.

The DVD collection has this guide with epsiode summaries by Bruce Campbell. He says after this episode he asked the writers to not give him so much dialogue to memorize. It is an unusual episode because Brisco does very little physical action. Even though he rarely uses his gun, he still tends to punch several people each episode. Here though, that doesn't really happen. He tries to fight his way through the mob, and he saves Matt's assistant from cattle running through town, but other than that it's up to quick thinking. The sheriff's a bully, but not so obviously corrupt Brisco can punch him out and throw him in jail, as he did his old buddy in "The Orb Scholar". The judge is gruff, but fair, and the prosecutor is mostly on the level (he springs a key witness late in the proceedings without first informing the defense). It has to be that way, and so it's nice to see Brisco use his wits, not only without backing them up with his fists, but also in a way that doesn't involve dirty dealing, as was the case in "Riverboat".

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Thin Man? More Like Drunk Man

My dad described the Thin Man as being the sort who, if he falls down drunk, bounces back up and keeps drinking.

I bought my dad the Thin Man movie collection, because he'd mentioned wanting to watch them, so we've been working our way through them the last three days. I hadn't ever seen any of them before, so it's been kind of interesting. At first, the banter between Nick and Nora seems a little harsh, but by the time we got to Another Thin Man, it was more obvious to me that there's genuine affection behind the digs they aim at each other. William Powell and Myrna Loy do deliver most every line with a smile and warmth in the eyes, which keeps it from seeming unpleasant.

I've been surprised by how long it takes for the mystery to get going. Usually they're 20 or 30 minutes in before the first person is killed, and any investigation starts in earnest. I wonder if that's how Dashiel Hammet wrote it up in his books, or if the filmmakers opted to focus more on Nick and Nora relationship. Films about a couple who solve mysteries, rather than films about mysteries solved by a couple, if that makes any sense.

I was concerned when Another Thin Man added a baby to the mix. I figured there'd be a bunch of sickening cutesy baby stuff, but they use the kid more for comic bits, so it worked out. I still can't figure out what was with the bit with Mrs. Asta's infedility in After the Thin Man. Asta is the Charles' dog, who accompanies them. In the first movie they were in New York, but on their way home to San Francisco at the end. In After the Thin Man, they've reached Frisco, and when they get home, Asta learns his lady's been fooling around with some little Scotty terrier. The mystery did involve an unfaithful husband, but it still seemed a strange introduction.

A word on the cops. The police in all these movies are dolts. Loud, frequently large and physically intimidating (and very eager to get in people's faces and bellow or dope slap), but dumb as a sack of hammers. By Another Thin Man, I was joking Nick and Nora would receive more help from the Three Stooges. Imagine my surprise when Shemp shows up at the baby party one of Nick's "acquaintances" threw at Nick and Nora's hotel room. And he was arguably more helpful in the resolution of the case than the police were. Go figure.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Ring Of Distrust

When I did my comic reviews back in August, I mentioned I didn't like the addition of a tragic aspect to Inque's origin in Batman Beyond #8. I still don't like it, at least not as Beechen chose to present it.

I still think it was a poor idea to start the issue with her killing a half dozen people for no reason other than meanness. It was a bunch of guards who were no threat to her, she had what she came for, just leave. Instead she killed them, but not Batman who is actually a threat to her. No, she contented herself with knocking him out. I imagine the point was to make her look really bad, but once we see how she's gotten to this place, we'll be more understanding. Except I think it went too far. Stealing was fine, I could have rolled with that, but needless killing is a little harder to swallow.

It was an act fairly in line with Inque's behavior in the cartoon, where she was at least a little sadistic, wanting revenge on the old man (Bruce) who helped defeat her the first time, using that poor sap that took care of her while she was locked up, opting for painful looking methods of killing people. Still, I didn't think it was the best thing to remind the audience of, right before making a sympathy play. It makes Inque look worse than Deadshot. Say what you will about Floyd Lawton, but he rarely bothers to kill or harm people who haven't done anything to him, unless he's been paid to do so. In this case, Inque was paid to steal, not to kill, and did so solely because she felt like it. On the whole, I'd chalk it up to poor execution by Beechen.

Maybe it was watching War Wagon that gave me a different a line of thinking. When I was discussing the movie yesterday, I mentioned that the audience could see Pierce dying at the hands of an employee as being "what goes around, comes around", since Pierce was in the process of killing that employee for trying to bail out. I also pointed out Tal Jackson killing Pierce would have functioned even better for that purpose, but the film opted not to go that way*.

So yesterday I realized that Inque could be seen in that light. She's been used by people who were unconcerned with her well-being her entire life. The end result has been that Inque cares for no one but herself and her daughter. What's more, Inque seems to have passed that on to her daughter along with the mutation. It leads to a strange sort of cycle. Inque has more than likely stolen from or performed corporate espionage or sabotage against the company that experimented on her. It may have been for a payday, but in that sense, their callousness helped create their own downfall. But that feeds back on Inque as well. Her own daughter regarded her as nothing more than a money source, to the extent she took advantage of her mother's weakness to gain access to her bank accounts, drained them dry, and tried to kill Inque. Girl learned the lessons of heartlessness well. Now that the situation is dire, Inque has to take jobs where she receives doses of mutagen just to keep her and her daughter alive. No more big cash paydays. Because of the way she operates, she can't find someone who would perhaps find a way to stabilize her condition simply to be helpful. She doesn't trust anyone enough to take that chance, but more critically, she's proven herself to untrustworthy. No one decent enough to help that could is dumb enough to, because it's entirely likely she'd show her thanks by killing that person five seconds later. So any advances that could be made by studying Inque's condition are lost along with any chance of a longterm solution to her problem. Everyone behaves callously, which prevents any trust from building, which blocks any true collaboration, which means everyone loses.

* I discussed it with my dad last night, and he said it had to do with how morality and ethics tended to be presented in movies then. It was important Tal not be seen as a thief and a murderer. The movie makes certain to point out the gold was mined from land Tal Jackson owned, which Pierce used underhanded tricks to take from him. In that way, it could be argued the gold was Tal's all along. He isn't stealing, he's taking back what's his. It sounds needlessly convoluted to me, and I don't see how an adult could have watched the film when it was originally released and not realized the plan would require Pierce to die somehow, and betting on a fearful employee to do it wouldn't be the wisest course, but maybe a character's unspoken intent was irrelevant.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Back In The Land Of The Dogs

Which means more old movies.

Even having watched their actual plan, and having seen the thought that went into it, I still think a better solution for stopping War Wagon's wagon full of gold would have been to blow up the bridge while the wagon was on it. The wagon goesup, but then it comes down - right into that gorge, where it'll be busted open, and no inside will survive to oppose the taking of the gold. Plus, the escort riders will probably be on the bridge as well, so that takes care of them, too. Yes, that's a lot of deaths, but John wayne's actual plan involved bribing some local Native Americans to attack, which got people killed, and they were going to have to kill the people inside the wagon, or else it wouldn't matter if they waited six months or six years to start spending the gold, because there'd be witnesses to their crime. They were simply fortunate, unscrupulous mining magnate Pierce killed his two employees for deciding to turn tail rather than face Tal Jackson and Lomax (John Wayne and Kirk Douglas), one of whom killed Pierce right back.

Actually, that little bit of employer-employee strife felt tacked on, as if the movie execs didn't want Wayne or Douglas to kill the guys for some reason. Admittedly, they'd already killed two guys who tried to kill them earlier, so I don't know why there'd be squeamishness now, but it seemed rather pointless and abrupt. I suppose the point could have been to demonstrate how Pierce's poor way of dealing with people was coming back to bite him. But consider Pierce mined the gold off land he took by paying Lomax to start a fight with Tal, then somehow manipulated things so Tal wound up in jail for 3 years, leaving Pierce free to take his ranch. I'd say being killed by Tal would have been a perfectly appropriate "what goes around, comes around".

My dad mentioned they had some trouble getting Douglas to appear in this movie, partially because he wouldn't really like having second billing (but it's John Wayne's Batjac production, so what would he expect?), and also because he really didn't like to do comedies. Dad's contention was that's too bad, as he thinks Douglas has good comedic timing. I suppose he does, though the movie really didn't feel that funny to me. There were funny parts, the bar fight was more silly than serious, but I wouldn't call it a funnymovie, not even to the extent of a Die Hard, let alone something like McClintock! Which is fine; it was a good movie, comedy or no, though I've enjoyed any number of other John Wayne movies more.

Watching Kirk Douglas get on his horse was practically worth it all by itself. He always mounts the horse in some flashy manner, but never the same way. My personal favorite was when his horse was next to another horse, and Douglas leapt over the other horse and landed perfectly in the saddle of his horse. If I tried that, I'd break my fool neck.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Revisiting A List From Last Year

Originally, I was going to do an update on the 5 DC characters I'd like to see made into Heroclix exactly one year after the original post. The two problems with that were: 1) It would have fallen on Sunday, and Sunday is Brisco day for the time being, and 2) There's only been one large DC set released in that time span. Since the All-Star Superman set was due to come out next week, I thought I'd wait. Then the poster showing all the pieces in the set was released, and there doesn't seem to be any point in waiting.

So, last year's list:

1) Ragdoll
2) Sand
3) Haunted Tank
4) Enemy Ace
5) Unknown Soldier

Ragdoll appeared in last winter's DC 75th Anniversary set, but other than that, it's been a dud. That set did give us a new Sgt. Rock, but I'm more concerned with figures that haven't ever been made. There's no reason to suppose a Superman-themed set was going to come through for me, but there also wasn't any reason to waste two spots each on Max Lord and Magog. 1 for both was more than sufficient, especially since Magog was already 'clixed once before. We have 3 Magogs, but no Sanderson Hawkins. Bloody hell.

Oh well, one out of five is better than none. It does leave an empty spot to fill. I considered listing Jeanette, since Secret Six seemed to have some success get representation. But, I decided I'd like to throw a vote out there for the current Terra. Well, the pre-restart current Terra. Power Girl's friend. They've only ever made one Terra, and that was the blonde one, many, many moons ago. They had a new Power Girl in the Brave and the Bold set that came out spring of last year. I see a lot of complaints online that she isn't awesome enough for her point cost, but honestly, I think some of the people online want every figure to be a one-person wrecking crew regardless of whether it's appropriate or not. Anyway, that Peej is 199 points, so I think they could make a decent Terra for 101 points.

There are rumors there'll be a Justice League set at some point in the future, but I haven't a clue when it'll be out, if ever. If it does appear, it's likely to reflect the New DC status, so Casual Friday Superman will show up, probably alongside Baseball Enthusiast Roy Harper, and um, I'm out of bad jokes. At any rate, none of the characters above seem likely to get much love in a set based on the reboot DC. Then again, I have no idea how far in the future that set is, so by the time they get started on, the Earth-2 JSA book may be a hit (and it isn't as though there aren't plenty of JSA members who could use an updated 'Clix version), or maybe war comics set in the past will be the big thing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I'm Just Letting My Mind Run

A month ago, The Road Warrior was running on some channel. While I was watching it, I thought about the possibility that it took place on the same world as The Planet of the Apes. Look, I don't know why that would occur to me. It was probably around the time James Franco was helping a super-intelligent chimp escape extermination so it could conquer San Francisco.

Looking at the extent of the apes' civilization, I think it's entirely probably they never made it as far as Australia. Not because they aren't smart enough to build craft to get that far, but they don't seem particularly adventurous. If they even know Australia exists, what they hell would they want to go all the way down there for? They have their little empire, plenty of idiot humans to hunt down and experiment on, they don't need to go anywhere. Plus, there was that whole Forbidden Zone/cursed land/land of telepathic illusion fire, that discouraged exploration.

Road Warrior mentioned stuff about social disorder, uprisings, energy shortages, 'two mighty tribes' going to war, maybe nukes were involved. Sure, maybe one of the "tribes" was the Apes. I don't know what effect North America being conquered by intelligent non-human primates would have on the world, but I could imagine it being destabilizing. Hmm, what's a good post-apocalyptic movie set in Africa or Europe? We'll tie them all together, make a half-baked version of Kamandi's world.

It'd be nice if there were some humans left on Earth who aren't the barely sentient human lab rats, or those telepathic jackasses who worship a nuclear missile. There were at least a few decent, intelligent folks left in Australia, so it's a marginally better cross-section of humanity.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Not All Individuals In A Species Are Identical

Buddy Baker (Animal Man) can draw on the abilities of any animal, right? What would happen if he tried to borrow the abilities of a human being?

I ask because I read a review of the first issue of his new series that mentioned he borrowed a cat's abilities when he was tired so he could fall asleep quickly. That's rather clever, and it isn't what I'd think of if you said "powers of a cat". Somehow, that looped around in my brain to wondering what Buddy could gain from his own species.

Would it not work at all because Buddy's already has a human being's abilities to start with? Or would it double his strength, speed, intelligence, having the capability of another person, in addition to his own? The best idea I have is it might be a way for him to gain certain skills he doesn't have. Say Buddy needs to fix his lawnmower, but isn't particularly mechanically inclined. Would adopting the abilities of humans give him greater understanding of mechanical principles? Or things like math and poetry. Some people seem to have natural aptitudes for those things, others can become proficient through hard work, and some people are just hopeless. I don't have much of a gift for poetry, myself.

Still, the capability is apparently there in the species, so perhaps Buddy could gain it in an area he lacks.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Adventures of Brisco County Jr. 8 - Senior Spirit

Plot: Brisco starts the episode escorting one of the tycoon's son to a cabin, where he'll get to spend some time with his father. Except Brisco is ambushed by John Bly, who absconds with the boy. Notably, Brisco freezes right as he's about to open a door to rush to the boy's rescue. Bly's ransom demand is for an Orb rod in amongst Brisco Sr.'s effects, and unlike in Pirates!, here the tycoon will pay the ransom. Brisco keeps Bly's men from getting the rod when they try a double-cross, but that means he has to try and follow their trail back to Bly's hideout to find the boy. Fortunately, he has a little help. No, not Bowler. Well, not initially. I'm talking about the ghost of Brisco's father.

Yes, Brisco Senior is along for the ride, though he spends most of the time criticizing how Junior's doing things, when he's not being cryptic. Bly, meanwhile, has an also abducted Professor Wickwire trying to unlock the secrets of the Orb. So Brisco has to save Jason Barkley, Wickwire, and Socrates, and perhaps capture Bly, if he has the time.

Does Brisco use his gun? Yes. He actually killed someone with it. Someone he couldn't even see at the time, which is pretty impressive.

Things Comet does: Well, we know he can sense ghosts.

Kiss Count: 0 (still at 9 for the season).

John Bly Spreads His Arms Dramatically: 1 (5 overall).

Is Pete Hutter In This Episode? No.

Pete Hutter Quote: N/A

Non-Pete Hutter Quote: 'You're learning fast, but your knowledge is far outstripped by your heroic endeavors.' - John Bly.

Brisco's Coming Things: Wickwire mentions electroshock therapy. You think that counts?

Bly Gang Count: 0 (4 overall). Bly escaped. I'm not counting Remy and Loco Bob, his random thugs for the episode.

Stuff the Orb Can Do: Reanimate spirits. Self-destruct.

Other: This is Bly's first appearance since "The Orb Scholar". It's R. Lee Ermey's first appearance as Brisco Sr. since "Pilot". Professor Wickwire returns for the first time since "No Man's Land".

This episode has some fun playing up Bowler's ability as a tracker, since he doesn't actually catch up with Brisco until the end. We see that he can tell how long ago an ant hill had someone sit on it, and he'll follow a trail right over a cliff. Brisco decided that jumping off a cliff was a good way to escape a bad situation partway through the episode. Which reminds me, during their second confrontation of the episode, Bly states Brisco can't kill Bly because he'll never find Jason, while Bly can simply kill Brisco and take the Orb rod. Couldn't Brisco have killed Bly and followed his trail back to the lair?

After the opening sequence, Brisco's back in Frisco, which is where Socrates shows him the Orb rod, but he's also playing chess. Except there's no one in the chair opposite him, so who is he playing chess with? Maybe Ellie (Yvette Nipar) the bartender, who has appeared briefly in a few other episodes (Scorates' Sister, Pirates!), usually as a sounding board for one of the main characters. I guess Brisco can't work out his difficulties talking to Comet all the time.

We get a little more about The Orb in this episode. Brisco Sr. found the Orb rod amongst Bly's possessions when he arrested him. It's not clear why Bly hadn't already inserted it in the open slot on the damaged Orb, unless he found this Orb since he escaped custody. While Wickwire can't scratch the surface of the Orb with hydrochloric acid, it can be damaged, as half of this Orb is scorched. Bly states it was found in a crater, suggesting an extraterrestrial origin. Bly does know enough to know it can destroy the one who uses it, which is why it falls to Loco Bob to insert the Orb rod. Wickwire opines that 'I may be a scientist, but I don't think it has much to do with science.' I'm not sure what we make of Brisco Sr.'s statements that he isn't allowed to tell Brisco the truth about the Orb, what it is, where it came from. He can't even tell Brisco who isn't allowing him to tell stuff. It's a strange thing, because it isn't Senior saying he doesn't know, which would be understandable, since death might not confer all answers to you, but that some force won't let him tell.

The back and forth between the Briscos is interesting. Junior trying to live up to his father, but trying to do so his way. Senior clearly wasn't around much, as according to Brisco he'd come in off the trail, shave, and ask how school was going before riding off again. And Junior didn't get the impression Senior was really listening. In that regard, the Orb actually proves useful, since it gives them an opportunity to talk, say the things they didn't get around to while Senior was still alive.

I always enjoy episodes with John Bly, so that was a plus, and watching him interact with Wickwire was interesting, since Wickwire doesn't want to help Bly, but can't let him hurt Jason. Plus, there's a certain level of scientific curiosity about the chance to examine something like the Orb. Ermey as Brisco Senior has that right mixture of biting sarcasm but also genuine affection where you can see he really cared for Brisco Junior, but you can also see how it wouldn't have been easy having him as a father.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Control's Not A Constant Thing

Remembering Justice went to jail for killing his dad reminded me of something about the trial that always bothered me.

Quick history for folks who weren't New Warriors readers back in the 90s. Vance's father is a mutantphobic ass who also likes to beat his wife and kid. Which I believe caused Vance to leave home at one point*, but by the time of New Warriors, he's back at home. In a relatively short amount of time, the Warriors fought Terrax and Gideon, and Vance got pretty beaten up**. When his father (who'd been away on business) saw the injuries, and punched Vance in the face. I think he was just looking for an excuse, because he complains that he'll have to pay the medical bills, then when Vance explains the Warriors covered them, he gets pissed about that. Before he can hit Vance again, Vance lashes out with his powers and puts his dad through the wall, turning over 70% of his father's bones to dust. Anyway, abusive asshole dies of his injuries, and Vance gets arrested.

The prosecutor's whole case seems to be it was possible for Vance to stop his father from hitting him without resorting to that amount of force. To illustrate her point, she draws a gun during her closing statement, aims at Vance, and pulls the trigger. It turns out to be a toy gun, the kind that extend a little flag with "BANG!" on it, but she claims that anyone who can telekinetically catch even the smoke from the gun, could stop someone from hitting him more gently. Vance winds up cleared of 2nd degree murder, but found guilty of negligent homicide.

OK, first I find it crazy the judge says that kind of showboating during a trial doesn't constitute grounds for a mistrial. She does allow it's grounds for an appeal, but seriously, that's prejudicial as hell, and honestly, contrary to what the judge says, I don't think it truly demonstrates the points that were made throughout the trial. Which brings me to the second issue, it isn't the same thing.

What Vance can do in a courtroom, when he's reasonably calm, and he's had more time to recover from several injuries, is not the same as what he can do when he's reeling from having been punched in the face. It's like trying to take a test while someone blows an air horn in year ear. It might be a good test of your ability to operate under stress, but it probably wouldn't represent your true grasp of the knowledge you were being tested on. The prosecutor's treating things as an either/or, that if Vance has excellent control of his powers sometimes, he always has excellent control. And sure, that's because she has to make her case, and she's a lawyer, and thus has no empathy or any recognizable positive human personality traits, but it's still a load of crap.

Fortunately, this is the Marvel Universe we're talking about, where the average person has an apparent IQ of about 32, so it actually worked as an argument.

* Which is when he was the Thing's trainer during Ben's days as a pro wrestler.

** One eye is swollen shut, his nose is bandaged, there are various other bruises on his face, and one arm is in a cast.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Always Something To Deal With After The Fighting's Done

Assuming the Avengers Academy cadets survive, I'll be curious to see how the teachers move things forward after Fear Itself wraps up. Mostly, it's the fact some of the cadets did kill some of the bad guys. Mettle seems appropriately bothered by it, and Tigra's already tried to assuage his feelings of guilt. But Striker didn't seem particularly bothered by the idea, and Veil went for a revenge kill, which is certainly something I imagine the teachers will want to address.

If they find out about it. I can picture Veil voluntarily mentioning it, but I have this impression Gage might be setting up a jealousy thing between Hazmat and Veil, with that panel of Hazmat looking on while Mettle describes surfing to Veil. It could be that was Hazmat simply checking in to see if talking to Veil was really helping, but I don't know. I could see Hazmat letting the teachers know because she hopes it would get Veil removed from the Academy.

I'd like to think the teachers would be understanding. After all, they were the ones who threw the kids into the battle. But the heroes can be so weird about this killing thing. Ms. Marvel killed a bunch of Skrulls during Secret Invasion, but she wouldn't kill Norman Osborn when she had opportunities. Lots of people were killing Skrulls, but because Triathlon happened to kill the one Skrull that was on their side (though he wasn't broadcasting it), he was ostracized by the rest of the heroes*. I can't tell when the heroes are going to overreact, or when they're going to be fairly reasonable about the whole thing.

Maybe it won't even come up. I doubt it, if Veil knows soldiers returning from combat struggle most with having taken a life, I have to imagine Pym knows it, too. Still, there could be so much else going on the cadets have to muddle through on their own, which would be better than receiving condemnation for it, but not as good as - hey, I just realized, Veil could talk with Justice! Tigra said she really looks up to Vance, and he spent time in prison for killing his father. It isn't quite the same, since Vance was trying to defend himself and got a little overzealous, but he was fed up with some abusing the power they thought they had over him, and he struck back. Veil was angered by how the Nazi guys callously chopped down that woman, just because they could, and killed them. Hers was certainly a more intentional act, but it would be a place to start.

* Going by that first issue of Atlas, that's how it went. I haven't read the Avengers: Initiative issues in question.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

That's How You Spread Fear

I've read on the Internet in a few places that the Dire Wraiths in Rom really did a much better job of a "secret invasion" than the Skrulls did in, well, Secret Invasion. I've only read bits and pieces of both, but I wouldn't doubt it. By the same token, and adjusting for the fact I've only read about Fear Itself on the Internet, I think Liss and Zircher's Mystery Men has done a much better job with a story about supernatural forces spreading fear for their own dark purposes.

Nox feeds on fear, but it isn't as simple as, to pick a totally random strategy, having Nazis attack Washington D.C. in mechs. Nox isn't strong enough yet to engineer a showy display like that, and it might be rather tricky for the General to manage, either.

Instead they've built it gradually. The General uses the Board, it's greed, it's disdain for all the other people in the world, to their advantage. The Board uses the Depression, even helps it along in places to line their own pockets, to help push the world towards a war they can reap outrageous profits from. None of them realize that's a side effect. The true goal is to spark fear and unease in the people, and it's working. People are scared they won't find a job, won't be able to hold onto the job they have, won't be able to make ends meet even if they keep a job. Most of all, people are scared things will never get any better, because they can't see what caused this or how to fix it.

The Board most likely sees this as some meaningless effect of their plans. At most, they might regard the spreading fear and uncertainty as useful for the spread of totalitarianism they're hoping will spark that war. None of the Board realizes the fear is the real goal of their leader. The whole thing is a snowball rolling downhill, growing in size as it goes. As the fear grows, Nox gains strength, which enables it to communicate more frequently with the General, to guide him, aid him with gifts or warnings. Which makes the General all the more effective at ramping up the fear. Which increases Nox' power even more, and so on.

Eventually it reaches the point where he can have an entire town massacred, which enables Nox to manifest its own physical body (rather than possessing and burning out other bodies), while simultaneously no doubt terrifying people and increasing Nox' power still more. Still, Nox hasn't announced her presence to the world. Hasn't made a showy display with a giant hammer, for another totally random example. The Mystery Men have seen her, but they don't truly understand what she is, and no one else is aware of her.

Nox (or writer David Liss) understands it's what you can't see that can scare you the most. If the world knew who was behind everything, they might be frightened, but they might also rally together now that they knew their foe. As it stands, there's nothing to fight. The economy is in shambles, Europe's being overrun by dictators, children are being abducted, entire towns slaughtered, and no one knows what's causing it. Is it all coming from the same source, or are they entirely unrelated events? Who is to blame, how can it be set right? No one knows, and the uncertainty is terrifying. It's such an effective way to heighten the fear.

I think the difference between the strategies in the two books is akin to that saying I've seen attributed to Hitchcock about surprise versus suspense. Paraphrasing, A bomb goes off under a table, that's surprise. We know there's a bomb under the table, but it doesn't go off, that's suspense. Fear Itself feels like surprise, where big things are happening but there isn't much of a build up. Mystery Men is more suspense, where we know the clock's ticking down towards the big moment, but the heroes don't know precisely what's happening, and there's a question of whether they can get their acts together in time to stop it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

It All Looks So Good In My Mind

Now that I've read the final issue, I guess I can consider Batgirl canceled. Which is too bad. The book started slow for me, but I thought it really hit its stride the 2nd year. I would have loved to see stories about the things Stephanie saw under the Black Mercy's power.

Not so much her, Damien, and Oracle fighting Blackest Night zombies, but the others, absolutely. Fighting the Queen of Fables in a fairy tale world (I especially like Stargirl with the wizard hat, and Miss Martian as a pixie). Steph did say she hated magic, but her team-up with Klarion didn't go too badly, so perhaps she'd be more comfortable with it. If not, well, placing the hero in situations outside their comfort zone can be fun. Plus, I'd be curious to see who, if anyone, acted as leader of that quintet. None of them have much experience running teams.

Or fending off the Royal Flush Gang in civvies on Graduation Day. Nothing says "Booster Gold guest appearance" like the Royal Flush Gang! Not that they need to team-up to beat the R.F.G., but Booster, Time Master, showing up could segue nicely into the story I'd really like to see: The Batgirls teaming up with the Blackhawks in 1944.

I think there's a lot of potential there. I'd like to see how Miller would write Cassandra when he has more than 3 pages. How would he write a Barbara Gordon who hasn't become Oracle yet? She'd be less experienced obviously, but I think she'd been more cheerful. Not that Oracle is gloomy, but she's definitely more serious, because she's experienced so much more. It's kind of like the difference between Steph as Spoiler and Steph as Batgirl. We could have the first team-up between Barbara Gordon and Lady Blackhawk. Assuming Zinda isn't Queen Killer Shark at this point (which I wouldn't be as interesting).

One thing that could have been interesting is having Cass and Steph defer to Barbara. Even though both of them have faced their fair share of threats alone, they've both also had Oracle guiding them plenty of times as well. They might unconsciously defer to Barbara, which could be interesting if you pull her from early enough in her crimefighting career that she's less experienced than either of them. It'd be neat to see Barbara's reaction when she finds she's spawned a legacy*.

There could be some pitfalls, if the story devolved into whether heroes should kill during a war (like that Brave and the Bold JMS did with Barry Allen and the Blackhawks), which I don't think ever ends well. I'm sure there'd also be some issue of whether Steph and Cass can try to warn Barbara about the Joker. I'm sure Booster would have -grudgingly, and only because Rip made him - told them not to, and I'm equally sure they'd both ignore him. I don't think Miller would have them buy into the "it's predestined, so don't even bother trying to avert it" line of b.s. JMS had in that other issue of Brave and the Bold.

If they could have waited on the reboot, that would have been something. The Batgirls avert The Killing Joke, the timeline shifts, viola! Babs is still Batgirl. DC gets what they want. Maybe make the New DC be the result of multiple alterations made by different folks. The Batgirls change something here, Barry Allen changes something else there, Booster gives something a nudge off to the left, and Bob's yer uncle. Hey, it makes as much sense as "Flashpoint Universe was created because Barry Allen saved his mother."

* I know there was a Bat-Girl before Barbara, but she was the one who handed the mantle to Cass, and Cass gave the costume to Steph, with Barbara eventually giving her approval.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What I Bought 9/9/2011 - Part 3

Going back to the opening paragraph from Part 1, you think Fraction's Defenders series is going to be any good? Immortal Iron Fist is the only thing of his I've read, and he co-wrote that with Brubaker. I haven't heard good things about his Uncanny X-Men work, but part of the problem is it sounds like he had access to every mutant, and he let the cast swell too much. The poster suggests a static lineup for Defenders, though he could mess around with it, as long as he kept it to a manageable size, and took the time to make us care about the characters.

Mystery Men #3 & 4 - Issue 3 introduces the Surgeon and Achilles, two men whose lives were wrecked by the General's plans. It also is the point when the fear god, Nox assumes physical form and we start to get an idea how her plan will take place. Issue 4 is more of a fight issue as the heroes struggle against a transformed General and some of Nox' children. The heroes seemed divided between the Surgeon and Achilles, who are more lethal, and the others who don't mind using violence, but don't want to kill anyone. Except the General, I'm sure.

I'm curious what point Liss is trying to make about loss. It's something that keeps coming up in the Mystery Men's internal monologues, what they've lost. Usually they mention it at the moment they become heroes, but I think it's more than a simple "they had to lose something to become heroes/power and responsibility" bit. I also like how Nox and the General are putting the plan in motion. It started methodically, and disguised within other motives, but now it's grown to the point that it demands audacity to keep momentum.

I'm not positive, but I think Zircher's gradually making the General look smaller. Certainly his sickness has gone from giving a terrifying look (the Surgeon's taken that role), to a more pitful, emaciated look. Any panel they're in together, Nox dominates. She's either standing in front of the General, or the color of her dress grabs the eye much more so than the General and his pale, grey skin. It's not that the dress is bright, it's more than it's such a deep, dark purple it's visually arresting, even in scenes where the background is a dark, murky color. Credit to Andy Troy there, no washed out, boring colors here.

Rocketeer Adventures #4 - The first story involves Cliff and Betty helping a man recover an antique surfboard, written by Dave Gibbons and drawn by Scott Hampton. I like the story, and in places I really like Hampton's art and the coloring. In other places, the faces look odd, which is perhaps the lack of inks. There's no inker or colorist listed, so I assume Hampton did it all

The second story involves Cliff ditching Betty at the amusement park to investigate what turns out to be a Japanese sub. I liked the idea of the Joe Pruett's story, but not so much that Cliff ditched Betty without bothering to explain why to her (he did tell Peevy). I think I prefer the stories where Betty's encouraging Cliff to help, or getting mixed up in things herself. Tony Harris' art is interesting, certainly expressive, but does he usually have such thick panel borders, and oddly shaped panel. There are these odd chevrons and patterns going on around the panels, I don't know what they're there for. Also, I think he violated the 180 degree rule when Cliff steps through the doorway and gets a gun pointed at the back of his head. I'm not sure why, I think he could have gotten the point across from the original direction.

The third story involves the Nazis swiping some plans Peevy drew up to add wings to the rocket pack, and Cliff tangling with the Aeronaut, who has her own jetpack, with wings. She supposedly speaks in a Midwestern accent, but dresses more like some lady from New York City, with the cigarette holder, and the short fur coat looking thing. Fortunately for her, Cliff's not very bright. After Arcudi's story here, I'm starting to wonder if anyone doesn't know Cliff's the Rocketeer. He's worse at the secret identity bix than Ultimate Peter Parker was (can't call him Ultimate Spider-Man anymore, can I).

"The Flight of the Aeronaut" had some nice action, but I think I liked "A Day at the Beach" best, since I guess I like Betty being proactive. Brendan McCarthy's art on "Aeronaut" was my favorite, though.

Monday, September 12, 2011

What I Bought 9/9/2011 - Part 2

Back to reviews. I just noticed that Marvel seems to have gone down to 20 pages. 21 if you count the recap page. At least, that was what I counted for Avengers Academy 18 and Daredevil 2, as well as one of the three books we're going to look at today. I'm sure that's been reflected in solicitations for awhile, but I rarely pay attention to how many pages they say there'll be, since they include the ads in the page total. Why was I counting pages? I'm trying to keep track of artist output in the books I buy. It's for the Year in Review posts.

Darkwing Duck #15 - I see Darkwing's campaigning on the baseball platform (an out-of-date stance, with the rise in popularity of American football), while Launchpad is sticking firm to his pro-pie stance (always a safe position). Where's the candidate that will speak up on moms, though?

Darkwing's splitting his time between fighting more new villains, and pulling his hair, er, feathers out over the success of Launchpad's mayoral campaign. Rather than talk to Launchpad about why he's running against him, Darkwing opts to visit a "communications strategist", and shortly thereafter launches a negative ad barrage at Launchpad. Which is matched by his former sidekick, who saw the same "communications strategist". Once the two sort this out, they go to confront Constance Denton, only to find themselves under attack from Suff-Rage and the League of Barely Remembered Super-Villains.

I admit to being a little confused. The "communications strategist" is clearly evil, and works for/with Constance, so I figured she was behind the rash of new villains. But the angry mob at the end have the strange ink that controlled the heroes on their fingers, so maybe it was all Suff-Rage. But Constance's initials are C.A.D. Maybe this is a Typhoid Mary situation? Brill does seem to be putting a point he hinted at in an earlier storyline into play now, which is nice. I don't have anything new to say about Silvani's art. I did really like the page where Darwking explains what he plans to do with the mayor's power. He made Darkwing look very intense, and a bit scary, then melancholy in the next panel.

Fear Itself: Fearsome Four #3 - Dang, Jack keeps remembering I ordered this. At least he forgot about Secret Seven.

The New Fantastic Four show up, and attack the Fearsome Four, because they stand between the guys and Man-Thing. Psycho-Man may be involved. That's most of the issue. The Fearsome Four gaining an advantage, the the Fantastic Four turning it around, then Howard uses the doohickey he's been pulling out and staring at on Psycho-Man. Then he tries to use it on Man-Thing, but it won't work.

OK, here's what I don't understand. I thought the Nexus of All Realities was in Florida, and Man-Thing guarded it. But with the way he warped reality last issue, and apparently brought this Fantastic Four here, it seems more likely the Nexus is within him. Or he is the Nexus. Something like that. Maybe Montclare explained that in the first issue. I also don't get what's going on with Nighthawk. is he angry purposefully, or is it being done to him somehow? And what's with She-Hulk getting pummeled by Mr. Fixit Hulk? I thought Jen was strong enough these days she could pummel what's just about the smallest, weakest Hulk there is. Maybe it's more fear stuff.

Ray-Anthony Height did the pencils for most of the book, though Tom Grummett did the layouts. It's fine. They brought in Henry Flint to draw three pages when She-Hulk's been knocked well clear of the battle and tries to save some people, only to be pelted by the typical fearful morons who inhabit the Marvel Universe. You're mad the Thing smashed your neighborhood? Fine. Show some damn common sense and don't piss off the large green lady who's holding a full water tower over her heads, you imbeciles. I'm not sure why that sequence needed a different artist, except that it's the only one that doesn't take place in that park.

Wolverine and the Black Cat Claws #2 - That's not a bad cover, with the Martian walker looming in the background. Well, I wish Felicia was zipped up a little more, but most artists draw her costumes like that these days, so I can't single out Linsner.

The title characters run and hide with Killraven's band. Then they try and infiltrate a Martian base to save some of Killraven's friends. Various monsters and traps are encountered, the heroes are captured, and are going to be transported to Mars.

I find it weird when certain characters don't use contractions in their speech. I mentioned it on Sally's blog when she reviewed the first issue of the new JLI, but it comes up here, as some of Wolverine's dialogue sounds very strange in my head. 'You are inspiring and giving hope. I respect that. I suggest we pick up the pace at this point then. . .' Mostly the first two sentences. I can believe Logan saying something to that effect, but it's rather formal. I suppose he could have learned a more formal manner of speaking, for hanging out with Mariko (or it's something left over form his childhood memories), but this doesn't seem the place.

Beyond that, I didn't really care for Felicia leaping into Logan's arms at one point. Not that she wouldn't get to high ground away from the things that were crawling about, or use Logan to do so, again it was the way it happened. Very graceless and panicky. I don't know, I'm kind of regretting this, as I was hoping for more Arcade. I am curious how they're going to reach a suitable conclusion in one issue from this point, with the good guys imprisoned in the future, so they have to deal with that before they can even begin worrying about Arcade or the White Rabbit.

Tomorrow's going to be focused on the pulp - or pulp inspired - heroes.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Adventures of Brisco County Jr. 7 - Pirates!

Plot: Brisco's after Blackbeard LaCutte (Andrew DiVoff), a member of John Bly's gang. LaCutte was a pirate but was driven from the seas by the various navies, and now he's reduced to robbing stagecoaches and covered wagons (albeit with his own armored up stage with a cannon on it). This time around he's robbed a family who was trying to rush their sick child to town. Brisco gets the child to Homestead Acres, but there's no medicine because LaCutte's men take everything. Bowler shows up, following Brisco's trail, and the two reluctantly team up. They're both captured and we learn how much the tycoons value Brisco when LaCutte demands a ransom. Socrates goes to negotiate, which gets him neatly mixed up in this as well. There are swordfights, Brisco swinging on ropes, death traps, double crosses, and Clayton (the sick boy's father) trying hard to be the dad he thinks his son wants.

Does Brisco use his gun? He did. He shot a wine cask to douse some black powder.

Things Comet does: Critique Brisco's lasso throwing. Pull dopes out of quicksand.

Kiss Count: 0 (9 for the season).

John Bly Spreads His Arms Dramatically: 0. Bly's not in this episode.

Is Pete Hutter in this Episode? No.

Pete Hutter Quote: N/A

Non-Pete Hutter Quote: Brisco - 'You wouldn't be offering to help, would you?' Bowler - 'Maybe. You offering me a reward?' Brisco - 'I'm not in this for the money, Bowler.' Bowler - 'You've got a deal.'

Brisco's Coming Things: I can't think of one. I don't believe Homestead Acres is a precursor to those planned, homogeneous suburbs we have today, even if that's what the name suggests.

Bly Gang Count: 1 Blackbeard LaCutte, drowned in quicksand (4 overall). Guess it was too much to hope for that last week was the start of Brisco bringing them in to stand trial.

Stuff the Orb Can Do: N/A

Other: I knew I'd seen Andrew DiVoff in something else, which isn't a surprise since he's been in a lot of stuff. I didn't expect it was A Low Down, Dirty Shame. What? I loved that movie when I was younger. He does make a fine pirate. LaCutte's got the flair I love in a villain. He even has a member of the crew to do illustrations of LaCutte and his men during and after their triumphs. Which is how they catch our heroes after they sneak into LaCutte's hideout. The artist drew the two of them partially hidden behind some crates without realizing what he was drawing. He's quite good, actually. I'd be fortunate to be so skilled.

You can't claim a bounty on a man who's lost to the quicksand. . . unless someone vouches for you apparently. This episode has the series first significant bar fight, when Brisco objects to how some of LaCutte's men are treating the help.

Brisco knows various remedies for diphtheria.

This episode is probably most notable for Brisco and Bowler working together. They've done so previously (The Orb Scholar, No Man's Land, Riverboat), but those have been situations where they approached the mission separately, and were thrown together once things started to get out of hand. Here, they agree to work together before they've even seen LaCutte or his men. It starts as a money thing, Bowler getting the reward for LaCutte, but Bowler encourages Brisco to escape without him at one point, and Brisco naturally comes back to rescue him. Then Brisco agrees to vouch for Bowler as to LaCutte's fate, so Bowler can still get the reward.

Though he's not a huge part of the episode, there's also a nice shift in Brisco and Socrates' relationship. Soc goes to negotiate with LaCutte personally, and is enough bold enough to tell the henchmen, he'll only negotiate face-to-face. Socrates had aided Brisco in his plans prior to that (Riverboat), but always with a bit of trepidation, since his and Brisco's styles didn't overlap much. Plus, that was Brisco getting him out of a mess Soc found himself in. Now he's willing to risk his neck for Brisco and Bowler.

There's a scene where Brisco checks in on the sick kid, and the kid is clearly struck with hero worship, which makes Clayton (who's listening in the next room) feel like less of a man. After he's left (when it won't stop him from possibly doing something foolish). Brisco tells his wife that when the boy's older, he'll understand how he should look up to his own father, for being brave enough to pull up stakes and move out West, take a chance to give his family a better life. It comes back to Brisco's father, I imagine. His dad would have been the kind a kid would look up to: The brave lawman, always out bringing in wanted criminals. The problem with that is it means he's never around for his wife, or his son. Clayton might not be the two-fisted, gunslinging lawman, but he's there for his family, trying to ease the burden on them.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What I Bought 9/9/2011 - Part 1

Jack sent along a promo poster for the Fraction/Dodson Defenders series. It concerns me they didn't list another artist with Dodson, because I don't think Dodson can stick to a monthly schedule very long, and not having an artist team suggests we'll get random fill-in artists. With Daredevil, it's Paolo Rivera or Marcos Martin. Go back to Guardians of the Galaxy, it was (after Pelletier drew the first 6 issues) Brad Walker or Wes Craig. Even Uncanny X-Men was Dodson and Greg Land. OK, that's an argument against a pair of artists, but my point is it maintains a certain level of stability if you can alternate arcs (or issues) between the same two people.

Avengers Academy #18 - The possessed Titania and Absorbing Man lay waste to half the team, leaving Finesse, Hazmat, and Striker to try and win by playing dirty. They are, after all, the ones most likely to go bad. Not that they're particularly good at it. Well, the Pym holograms were a nice touch, but even possessed by gods, Creel and his lady aren't very bright. Too busy bellowing about fear and other bull. The students hope to enlarge themselves and grow out of the dimension Pym keeps the mansion in, but Absorbing Man's going to enlarge the entire mansion, which is expansive enough to destroy an entire city. Problematic.

Even if their schemes don't work, the plans the cadets put into motion are fairly clever, in a rushed sort of way. Now that I think of it, this issue is a horror movie. Bunch of teens trapped with a pair of unstoppable monsters. Lots of running away, attempts to outsmart the monsters, only to find they've somehow already cut off the avenue of escape. I just thought of that now. Though thinking of it that way, Andrea DiVito steps in for an issue as artist. I'm not sure that it works with this idea I have about the issue as a horror flick, but that's hardly DiVito's fault. One thing I noticed is there's quite a few situations where something from one panel overlaps into another. Like Absorbing Man throwing his hammer in one panel, but it's traveling down into the next one. It's a nice touch, but I can't remember if DiVito's done that much before. It could fit the horror vibe, things leaping at you from outside the panel, which could be unexpected if the panel is what makes up the character's world at that moment.

I do wonder what dinosaur Reptil turned into. A sauropod with sharp teeth? I'm out of the loop on dinosaurs, clearly.

Batgirl #24 - That's a really nice cover. Nguyen even included The Blimpmaster! Maybe he'll show up again someday. Hopefully not in something written by Johns. I want the Blimpmaster alive and unmutilated, damnit. I like that Alfred's trying to dislodge some of Clayface from his fingers. Nice touch.

It was the Cluemaster behind the Reapers all along. He's stealing Zoom's schtick, and wants to make Steph a better Batgirl. Oh, and he's cultivating Black Mercies. Where he got those I have no idea. He doses her, but she manages to trap him before falling into a coma. Wakes her up in the hospital with her mother by her side, who has at some point figured out her daughter's Batgirl. We see a little of what Steph dreamed while she was in the coma, she and Oracle have a nice chat, and Steph swings off into the sunrise to fight crime. Then Barry Allen had to go and mess everything up. Damn bow tie wearing dweeb. A pox on your house, Allen! A pox, I say!

Someone online wondered if the whole ending wasn't a sign Steph's still in the coma. Her mom knows and accepts her crimefighting, she fought her way out from under a Black Mercy, even Damien was watching over her. That's a terribly depressing thought, one I can't seem to unthink. It nibbles at the back of my mind, but I prefer to think it's a true happy ending.

Pere Perez handles the art chores and does his usual good work. Cluemaster looks very creepy, and slightly deranged, which is appropriate. There are still times I think the facial expressions are overdone, but better too expressive than not enough. The brief fight between Steph and her dad at the beginning was well done, too. Perez draws the action moving smoothly from one panel to the next. Strike, block, counterattack.

Daredevil #2 - Cap's after DD because of that whole Shadowland mess. Matt deduces Cap, having watched Bucky get put through the wringer in a trial for crimes he committed under outside influence, expects everyone to take responsibility for their actions. Matt points out he was controlled too, which Cap only grudgingly accepts. Enough to wait to beat Matt up. I know, Daredevil has no proof he was possessed by a demon, but you think Cap would be more open to the idea, considering all the stuff he's seen. That's barely a 5 on the Avengers "Weird Stuff-O-Meter". Daredevil starts asking other attorneys why they turned down Mr. Jobrani, which leads him to investigate Jobrani's old store, where he makes a startling, and weird, discovery.

There are a lot of things I like about this. Matt's attitude (especially that he appreciates how well-balanced Cap's shield is), Foggy's goofiness, but still with a keen legal mind, but especially that the threat is weird. It would have been so easy to do police corruption, or some mob thing, but this is a very cool idea given Matt's powers and the particulars of the enemy.

I might buy this book for Rivera's art alone. The grin on DD's face as Cap's shield takes one of his horns. That Cap carries a canteen in that belt he wears. OK, I don't actually care for the belt, but if he's going to have - and apparently he is - then he might as well carry some water. He makes the bad guys look very spooky. Seriously, I'd freak the hell out of I saw one of those things, let alone a half-dozen.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Cry Wolf

Cry Wolf is an alright movie, nothing spectacular. It's a bit of an unusual role for Errol Flynn, as he isn't particularly dashing, and is actually a colossal jerk for much of the picture. But that's not a big deal. What bothers me is the ending.

The story is that Stanwyck is one Sandra Marshall, the widow of recently deceased Jim Demarest. A widow Flynn, as Jim's uncle Mark Caldwell, knew nothing about. We learn that Jim's (and his sister Julie's) mother wrote her will so that it was placed in a trust Mark controlled. If Jim married, control of the money transfers to Jim's wife. It's not stated, but we might guess any future husband of Julie's would gain the same privilege. Jim believed Mark will use this to marry him to some woman Mark can control, so he married Sandra, an acquaintance from college, on the sly. Jim's will hasn't turned up yet, so Sandra remains at the manor, befriending Julie, which leads to disagreements with Mark about how he runs her life, as well as trying to figure out what Mark's up to. Then Julie, who is convinced Mark's up to no good despite his insistence those screams she hears are only nightmares, dies by falling off her balcony trying to run away, and Sandra sees Mark running away from there into the house.

My issue with the ending is while the explanation for everything may seem reasonable, we only have Mark's word that it's true. The other possibility, that Mark is a conniving sleaze out to cover his butt, is still in play, but the movie seems to expect us to dismiss it because Mark and Sandra have fallen in love, which must mean he's an OK bloke. I'm going to SPOIL the ending entirely from here on out, so if you'd like to watch it without knowing the big surprises, come back after you've watched it.

Sandra finds Jim hidden on a game preserve, watched over by Laidell, a man loyal to Mark, and Jim's kept drugged into a forgetful state. Sandra breaks through, and he agrees to meet her back at the estate, where Mark grabs her and lays it all out. No, Jim isn't dead. He is, however, crazy. He killed a man while on a trip to Canada, and Mark has faked his death and is keeping him in a sedated state on an unused game preserve which borders the estate. Jim and Julie's father died in a sanitarium, and their mother (Mark's sister) fearing it runs in the family, asked Mark to watch over them. Julie committed suicide. Jim arrives, knocks Mark over the head, then chases after Sandra who no longer seems to trust him. Mark and Liadell pursue, Jim fights with Liadell on the second floor of the house, and tumbles over the balcony to his death. Sandra and Mark walk off together, hand in hand.

Let's rip this to shreds. If you don't want to read the full breakdown, here's the short version: Character depicted as manipulative, domineering and untrustworthy throughout the film is suddenly presented as being decent and trustworthy, without any incontrovertible evidence to support it. He's the closest thing to a villain until he's abruptly a misunderstood, noble soul.

Point: Mark says he has papers proving Jim's father died in a sanitarium.
Counterpoint: We (or Sandra) never see these papers. Julie tells us she was three when she last saw her father, going to a hospital. Which doesn't mean a sanitarium. He could have died in a regular hospital of dysentery.

Point: Jim will fly into rages, and killed a man in Canada over a minor disagreement. The screams that Julie really did hear after all are listed as more proof that Jim goes berserk, as Mark admits he was keeping Jim in his laboratory until the compound on the preserve was ready.
Counterpoint: Again, we have only Mark's word the murder happened. He claims he and his senator brother (who we have seen, so he does exist) used their influence to keep it out of the American papers. Again, no proof. Also, Mark admits he was keeping Jim against his will in the lab. I don't think one has to be crazy to scream and struggle when he's being imprisoned. Sandra tells us she saw no sign of Jim being crazy while they knew each other in college. Which doesn't mean he isn't crazy, but it's no less supported than anything Mark says.

Point: Julie committed suicide, and Mark had the head maid Marta prepare a suitcase, then set it next to Julie's corpse. He did so because her suicide would bring out the history of the Demarest madness, which would ruin his brother's bid to be appointed some big Senate thing.
Counterpoint: Mark is a scientist, smart enough to prescribe drugs to keep Jim sedated and unaware of himself. The maid, Angela, tells Sandra she brings Julie hot chocolate every night. Mark could drug the chocolate, enter the room, prepare a suitcase himself, then throw the drugged girl over the balcony, before bringing the suitcase downstairs to place next to the body. That would take much less time, and it'd be more likely under that circumstance Sandra would just happen to see Mark reentering the house after he leaves the body, then if he had to wait until after Julie's death to prepare a suitcase. Sandra didn't dally that long before looking out the window.

Point: Mark says he opened Julie's mail and tried to keep her away from her boyfriend because he couldn't risk her having children and passing on the madness. The same would have applied to Jim, if he'd known Jim was planning to marry Sandra.
Counterpoint: Or, Jim's theory about the clause in the will were the spouse gains control of the fortune could be true. Mark's seen how much trouble Sandra was causing with her snooping, he could have decided it was simpler to kill Julie than take a chance she got away and married someone he couldn't manipulate.

Point: Jim is totally crazy and prone to berserker moments. He cracked Mark over the head with that branch!
Counterpoint: Yes, he hit the guy who kept him a drugged prisoner, who made everyone believe he was dead, and who drove Julie to suicide. That was how Sandra described it to Jim, that Mark pushed Julie to it with his domineering ways. Only a crazy man would hit someone who'd done all that, obviously. *rolls eyes*

Point: Jim gets angry with Sandra for being concerned about Mark, accuses her of being in love with Mark, and chases after her when she flees from him.
Counterpoint: He thought Sandra was on his side. She sought him out, told him all this stuff Mark's done, and now she's worried about him? We've seen that Mark can control people. Marta, the housekeeper, locks Julie in her room at Mark's command. Liadell and his wife stay in the preserve and keep feeding Jim drugs at Mark's command. An unseen Dr. Reynolds fills the prescriptions for these drugs without question because of who's recommended them. Jim may not know all that, but he knows some of it, and probably more besides since he lived with Mark for years. He could see this as Mark having gotten to Sandra as well, turned someone he was sure was with him, against him.

Point: He tries to strangle the life out of Liadell, and got a little rough with Sandra while pursuing her.
Counterpoint: I can't really excuse the getting rough with Sandra, other than it could bother him that she's bought into the "he's crazy *moves finger in circling motion around ear*" line Mark's spouting. As for Liadell, the guy is trying to restrain him, to drag Jim back to the preserve where he'll live out his days a stupefied shell. Jim was fighting for more than his life, he was fighting for his Right to Think! Sorry, Inherit the Wind's sticking with me.

Like I said above, I can't trust Mark simply because he's Errol Flynn, when he hasn't given any reason for me to trust him. He admits he keeps Jim drugged and imprisoned, but it was all for the right reasons, don't you see? He's kept his reasons hidden until now, why should the audience trust because he deigns to explain himself? Admittedly, I can't explain who he hadn't killed Jim sooner, except that there were lots of people around. By the time the film ends, the only ones at the estate are Mark, Sandra, Jim, and Liadell. Mark was supposed to be leaving, and so was Sandra. Once she was gone, assuming she hadn't found Jim, what stops Mark from returning, telling Liadell he'll look after Jim, then eliminating him? Of changing up the prescription to something lethal? Liadell doesn't look smart enough to question Mark if he changes plans, and they're using Dr. Reynolds precisely because he doesn't ask questions of Mark.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Inherit The Wind

Alright, Inherit the Wind. It was originally a play based fairly loosely on the Scopes Monkey Trial (they changed the names, Scopes/Cates motivations, so on), where a schoolteacher was arrested for teaching his students Darwin's theory of evolution, in defiance of a state law. Former populist Presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan took over prosecution, Clarence Darrow was hired by a Baltimore paper for the defense. In this case, Bryan becomes Brady (Fredric Marsh), and Darrow become Drummond (Spencer Tracy). Scopes becomes Cates.

I wouldn't say the movie is particulalry subtle (Claude Akins as the Reverend Brown is especially over-the-top*), but it's impressive in its bluntness. The strength of it is in the dialogue, especially that of Brady and Drummond (I'll also tip my cap to Gene Kelly as Hornbeck, the cynical newspaperman). It helps that Marsh and Tracy are top-notch actors, with excellent deliveries.

Marsh gives Brady a sense of showmanship and bombast, which makes it all the more fun with Hornbeck or Drummond get in a dig on him**. And Marsh's reactions, the abrupt, scowling look help to sell the jabs, and lighten what's a pretty ugly movie otherwise. At the same time, there's enough genuine warmth and friendliness in Brady that I can't help feeling a little bad for him when Drummond puts him up on the stand to speak as a scholar of the Bible, and proceeds to dissect him (which occurred in the real trial as well). Also, the two actors play off each other well, both in the courtroom and outside it. The scenes where they can talk cordially, such as the discussion on the porch, convey to the audience the respect and fondness the two have for each other, even as opponents. Yet they're equally determined to defend what they perceive as right. It makes their back-and-forth when Brady's on the stand all the more effective.

I think it's significant that after he's finished with Brady, and as Brady is lead off the stand by his wife, Drummond won't look at him. He did what he thought he had to, the only option he felt he had left after the judge wouldn't let him call any scientists, and Cates begged him not to cross-examine Rachel after Brady lost control and tore into her. That doesn't mean Drummond enjoyed doing it.

My dad didn't think much of Dick York as Cates, but I thought he did alright. It would be hard to stand out when you're essentially a sock being pulled on from both ends by two enormous dogs (Drummond and Brady). Still, I liked the contrast from the beginning, when Cates is playing cards with his jailer, and only enters the cell on the off chance their unknown visitor might object, to the sequence when Cates sits in the cell while people outside sign about hanging him from a tree. The lighting makes his cheeks lunk more sunken, and he really looks trapped. He might truly be in that cell for his own protection at that point.

* Not that I doubt there were men like that, then and now, who are such religious zealots they'd damn their own daughter to Hell for asking them to show forgiveness to someone.

** One of my favorites is during the trial when Hornbeck turns to Cates and describes Brady - who is in earshot - as the 'only man who can strut sitting down.' Maybe I just like Hornbeck because he's a smart aleck, like me.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

In This Case, It's Better To Be The Wrong Man

At some point I want to discuss Inherit the Wind, but then I watch a movie like The Wrong Man, and Spencer Tracy's going to have to wait another day.

The Wrong Man is Hitchcock's first movie based on a true event. A musician (Henry Fonda) in the Stork Club band is accused of committing several robberies on the basis of some highly dubious police work. How dubious? Let's see:

- The teller at the insurance holding company identified him to her coworkers (Balestrero was there to see if he could borrow against his wife's life insurance policy to pay for her to have some dental work) even though she was too terrified to even take a proper look.

- The police has Manny write out what the robber had on a note he gave to the teller. Then they made him do it again. On that second attempt he wrote "drawer" as "draw", just as the robber did. The police treat this as significant.

- The cops take Manny to the places that were robbed, and tell him to walk into each one, then turn and leave, to see if the employees recognize him. Except the cops told the employees beforehand they were sending him in there, so they've prejudiced the witnesses before they've even begun.

- When they bring the two tellers in to do the lineup, they bring them in together, rather than separately. The teller that was robbed never got a good look at Manny in the building, but her coworker did, and their combined stupidity serves to reinforce itself.

It seems like a farce, that a man could be locked up and put on trial on such shoddy evidence. Really, Manny didn't even need a good attorney, he simply needed Fonda's character from 12 Angry Men on the jury. That guy would have had a field day with this incompetent of an investigation.

What's impressive is how Manny persists in the face of this. He keeps moving forward, going to work, finding some way to make ends meet (if money was tight before!), even as his wife Rose is crushed under the weight of their troubles, which she blames herself for. It reminds me of the Simpsons' episode where the Flanders' house is destroyed by a storm and Ned snaps under the seemingly unrelenting string of misfortune. I guess Maude, who didn't lose hope, would be Manny, and Ned would be Rose.

There's a bit about faith, as Manny's mother exhorts him near the end to pray, and lo and behold, something good happens. I don't know that it was really established prior to that. I didn't think of Manny' personality as being specifically influenced by religion, so much as he's simply a good guy, who believes in following the rules, and trying to be a good father and husband.

The story does end happily, at least for Manny's family. I wonder about the man arrested actually robbing a store. He said he'd never done it before, but he's going to get all those robberies that were originally pinned on Manny stuck to him. He did attempt at least one robbery, but I imagine the penalty for that is less than for a multiple offender. Manny seems pretty sure the guy committed all those other robberies, but what does he know? Yeah, the tellers identified this new guy as the one who robbed him, but they'd already identified someone else as the guilty party earlier. As witnesses go, they're worthless.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Lotta Tense Moments

Dad's been on an early Hitchcock kick the last week. You could do worse.

I didn't care much for The Lady Vanishes. The sound quality wasn't great, so I only heard about half the dialogue. Plus, every character managed to either be a jerk, or at least irritating to me within the first 15 minutes. Maybe I was just in a bad mood. There were two English fellows in the movie who also showed up in Night Train to Munich. In both cases they're a bit self-absorbed and oblivious, but they do rise to the occasion each time. I wonder if Hitchcock was making a comment on the British in the time running up to World War 2. That it took awhile for them to pull their heads out of their rear ends, but once they do, they're stalwart sorts. Though you could describe the Americans that way, since they were even more self-absorbed in the 1930s.

I liked Foreign Correspondent quite a bit. Mr. Jones, er, Mr. Haverstock (Joel McCrea) was an amusing lead character, though I grew a little tired of his insisting he was out for a story. At a certain point, when you pursue something through all the challenges he had, I refuse to believe he's only doing it for the story. The ending giave me the impression Hitchcock agreed, so perhaps it was that Haverstock hadn't realized the truth abou himself. Trying too hard to remain cynical. The bit where van Meer rants about the fascists felt a little overdone at first, but when he fixes his eyes directly on the camera, it's hard to deny the force of scene. Certainly you can feel the strength of his convictions, which have enabled him to resist days of interrogation.

I find it hard to believe Rebecca is the only movie Hitchcock made which ever won Best Picture. It's a fine movie, I just can't believe Rear Window or Vertigo couldn't manage it (I'm not actually a fan of Vertigo, but I still know it's a high quality movie). A young girl (Joan Fontaine) meets an older gentleman (Laurence Olivier) standing at the edge of a cliff in Monte Carlo. He's there, to escape memories, or perhaps to drown in them. She's there working as an assistant to an older wealthy lady. Whirlwind courtship and they return to his large estate. Where the specter of his deceased wife hangs over everything, with no small assistance from her personal maid, Ms. Danvers (Judith Anderson).

The first half of the movie didn't particularly engage me, though it's necessary for the romantic plot development. Showing how insecure and out of her depth Fontaine's character is, Maxim's mood swings, Danvers' disturbing devotion to her dead mistress. The second flies by in comparison as Danvers twists the screws, and we learn that what we think we know about Rebecca and her demise isn't true.

Judith Anderson gives a heck of performance. The house itself, being so large and empty helps, but she has that quiet certainty to her movements and her speech. Never perturbed, never ruffled, just grinding away slowly with her unshakeable certainty that Rebecca was the greatest woman who ever lived. Which lead to several exchanges between Dad and I.

Me: OK, that that's settled, time to slip a little something in Danvers' drink.
Dad: or slip a little something into her back. Like a pickaxe.
Me: I don't think that qualifies as "little". But I like where your head is at.

It does highlight, to me anyway, the importance of honesty in relationships. If Fontaine and Olivier would talk more openly about what's bothering them, Danvers wouldn't be able to mess with Fontaine so effectively. Of course, as my dad pointed out, Fontaine could always just fire Danvers.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Have To Keep The Peasantry Engaged

The unexpected side effect of Stephen Koch's The Breaking Point was that it made me want to learn about the Spanish Civil War. Fortunately, my dad has several books on that topic sitting next to each other on the shelves. I started with gerald Brenan's The Spanish Labyrinth, only to learn the book stops right before the Civil War started, but does cover the various political struggles in the country over the previous 150 years or so. But without knowing much about the civil war itself, all the discussion of the disagreements between the Anarchists and Socialists didn't mean much. I turned to Franz Borkenau's The Spanish Cockpit, which isn't precisely an overview of the conflict, but he does give an idea of what it was like in the republic-controlled parts of Spain during the summer of 1936, and the early months of '37.

The one thing both authors bring up is what I allude to in the title. The Republic, and before its establishment, the parties which comprised it, fail to keep their strongest resource in a state of high energy. Both authors make reference to earlier conflicts where it was the lower classes that did the work in armed conflicts, when the army and upper classes were either too incompetent, or on the side of the enemy, such as invading French armies. While the various labor parties had some success with drawing factory workers and miners to theri cause, they frequently failed to entice the peasants working the land, whether they owned a small plot wich barely sustained them, or if they were essentially hired help of the large estate owners. When the army and the other insurgents rose up against the government, those people eagerly came to the Government's aid. But that faded over time, in part because the Republic failed to do anything to demonstrate how it was better to have them in charge than the old guard.

There's a lot of talk of collectivization of farm land, mostly by the Anarchists, but they can't get it implemented across the board. So in some places the large estates have been expropriated (which means the owner was probably killed) and all the peasants of the village work it together. In other places, though, that land is held by some committee, and the peasants work it for the same wage they did under the old owners. In some cases the land isn't being used at all. From the peasant perspective, nothing has changed, and while they have no love for Franco, the army, or the Church* and won't rush to join their side, they also aren't as eager to volunteer to fight for the Republic, either. They go to a passive state, where they'll do as commanded, but there's no eagerness. The moment to harness their energy has been lost.

Of the two authors, Brenan is probably the more informative overall, as he'll devote entire chapters to the history of one party, while Borkenau has the easier style to read. Which makes a a certain amount of sense, as he went to Spain as a journalist, and his first trip is repeated as a series of diary entries. Even though it was a disappointing to reach the end of Spanish labyrinth and realize he would discuss the war at all, the amount of information he provided about the back-and-forth leading up to it over the decades made up for that. I was especially interested in the idea of the Anarchists as an organized political movement that eschews involvement in politics (until it's do that or be crushed, of course). The idea that there different sections of the group would meet, and each one would decide whether it was in their group's best interest to get involved in a particular strike or not. As Brenan points out, whhile it meant they'd never be organized enough to actual bring about total social revolution as they wanted, is also made it exceedingly difficult to destroy them entirely, since they would never all come out at once.

Both authors do engage in some generalizations about Spaniards, which I'm leery of accepting. Brenan suggests the Spanish have a belief that all it will take is one big event and viola! communismo libertario, when naturally that will be only the first step. Doesn't sound all that different from a lot of present day Americans, who don't have the patience for long, drawn-out solutions, and except things to be fixed in one stroke. It seems more likely that belief is derived from a sort of youthful exuberance, or ignorance of history, rather than any inherent Spanish trait. Borkenau tries to make a point that Spain lacks the nationalism of the rest of Europe, which he describes as a modern, 20th century sort. Except he says the core of that nationalism is the desire to be more powerful politcally and economically than one's neighbors. I was under the impression that had been a standard facet of Europe since at least the 1500s, when countries like England and, oh yes, Spain, where running around trying to claim half the world as theirs in a rush for money and power. It's certainly not something excllusive to the 1900s.

* Both authors point out that in much of the country the Church lost the lower classes long ago, by deciding they'd best pander to the wealthy. There were exceptions (Catholic churches in the Basque region seemed to retain the connection with their community), but by and large the people realized the Spanish church didn't give a damn about them, moreover, that it sided with those who wanted to keep the people down, and responded accordingly.