Friday, June 27, 2008

This has actually been bothering me for a long time...

I saw a bit on the news today where the designer of WALL-E claimed that he was inspired by a pair of binoculars. But I can't be the only person who immediately sees Johnny 5 of Short Circuit fame, right? Aren't these designs unbelievably similar?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Juno and the making cool of teen pregnancy

From an article in the Toronto Star:

"After 'Juno,' an Oscar-winning 2007 movie about a regular high-school student who becomes pregnant, came out, Weston received lots of letters from teens who wanted to have babies, she said."

In light of the many stories about the 17 Massachusetts teenaged friends who decided to all have babies together, Juno's been getting crucified for making pregnancy look 'cool' - this quote being yet another example. My question, though - have any of these writers or experts actually watched the movie or did we just see different movies? Because unless this teen pregnancy crisis is paired with an explosion in closed adoptions arranged with wealthy, childless women or couples, I don't see the connection. Juno may be a 'cool' movie and Ellen Page may herself be cool, but the film does nothing to make teen parenthood seem desirable. Juno may give birth, but she doesn't actually become a parent, nor does she want to become a parent. But that distinction appears to have been lost on a lot of people.

Neil = Reality TV star?

I've been too busy to find the time for some good, thoughtful blogging - so instead I'll post a mysterious and too brief report about my ever so short experience on reality tv. (Which will air on a particular cable channel in the fall - but which i can only name closer to the date. It's killing you, I know.)

The set-up: I was recruited on the street some time ago to participate in what sounded like a rather serious reality tv show, asked to invite a friend, etc. But it was a scam - I was actually recruited for a different show, the name and format of which they wanted to keep a secret so that we (I brought my friend Arthur) would be a) unprepared and b) they could record our shocked reactions. (Note: No, it wasn't porn. But I know that's the first thing that occurred to you.)

The pay-off: So without revealing anything about the show at all, I'll simply say, without reservation, that we pulled it off beautifully. How we'll look to an audience is beyond me, as I don't know that even the host knew exactly what to do with us: we're grad students but we're not stereotypically nerdy or aloof; we're straight guys who wore coordinating, brightly-colored outfits and almost certainly act in an ambiguously gay way; we high-five and boast like dudes but scream in falsetto and slap each other when we get excited. Naturally, we were also afraid that we sounded far stupider than we intended. Though we'll forgive ourselves for that if we're entertaining, since we had determined earlier that we had to avoid being boring at all costs.

And that's all you'll get out of me, internets. For now, at least.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Indie rock and TV commercials: The weird continues

I'm a month or so late in getting to this, but I have a new entry to my earlier post about bizarre/inappropriate/disappointing marriages of indie rock and TV advertising. This latest features the Moldy Peaches' "Anyone Else But You", the song that most people probably know from Ellen Page and Michael Cera's duet at the end of Juno. And which we will now know as that-song-on-the-Atlantis-commercial. I can't find it on Youtube and so I can't embed it, but you can see the commercial in this Rolling Stone article.

What likely makes this song the most egregious misappropriation of any of the four songs that i've collected is that it's the first to actually change the lyrics. Silly but affecting lines like "You're a part-time lover and a full-time friend/The monkey on your back is the latest trend" is changed to "Let’s go ride a couple of dolphins/Or maybe play tennis or do some golfing", which is naturally accompanied by images of these attractions at the resort. It's been drained of its cute homey-ness, made painfully unclever, and so is entirely awful.

On another note, is the use of this song by Atlantis and the Weezer song by Beaches signaling some marketing shift by major resorts? Those early Weezer fans are now pushing or into their 30s, and the Moldy Peaches have new capital due to their association with Juno, which appeals to largely the same people. Is this a deliberate attempt to target the aging (and now working) hipster demographic, or is it just a coincidence that these two songs have popped up in very similar contexts and nearly the same time?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Giant Sized Astonishing X-Men and the completion of Whedon's X-Men

I suppose that Whedon's goal was to write a moving, tragic close to his run. Kitty appears to be gone for good, Colossus is sad and also gets a great angry moment, and it was e/affective in that way. There's a lyrical quality to the art, especially in these final pages. And, at least on the first read-through, it works.

And then you reach the end and realize that it barely holds together. Virtually everything else ranges from mildly to massively disappointing. We don't know how it is that the bullet Kitty's in is magic and disrupts her power (it just is; it just does); we still aren't totally clear on how the prophecy that Colossus would destroy Breakworld was planted; we don't know what happened to the Cure that Beast had, we don't know whether Cassandra Nova actually managed to implant herself in Armor in the previous arc; we don't know what's going to happen to Danger. (I could also list flaws in the storytelling as it pertains to this issue alone. I'll let Omar Karindu do that instead.)

These aren't inconsequential details. Each arc left us with questions, and what passes for closure in this final issue is incredibly wanting. Unless I missed something, we don't even know what the status of the Breakworld is after Colossus kills the rebel leader and Wolverine slices the arm off of the big angry dude. (I'd go back and check his name, but honestly... I just don't care.) Geoff Klock notes in his audio-review that it isn't enough to say that he's given subsequent writers options to play with. This has been a self-contained vanity project from the start (that Cyclops' blasts return inexplicably at the end of this issue would seem to indicate that Whedon knows that he has to put some things back in the sandbox) and it's very nearly unforgivable that he can't follow-through on what he started.

I imagine that I'll keep a certain fondness for this run. The pacing was a mess - like Battlestar Galactica, it's better consumed all at once so that you aren't conscious of how little content there is to each individual episode - and Whedon either forgets or inadequately explains a dozen or so plot-points from throughout the series, (Thanks to skullfire for this list!) but Whedon has made his name on his character work, not his plots. I suppose I could resent him for doing such a great job with Kitty only to kill her off (well, not really, but you know...), but he also gave me a reason to like Cyclops, made Emma sympathetic, and tried to make Colossus likable too.

So is the whole project a failure, in the end? I think I'd have to qualify my answer: a "yes" with a "but".