Cosmopolis: A Robert Pattinson vehicle, apparently

So… there are a lot of things about the film industry that really get me down. The fact that Battleship exists, for one. Michael Bay’s inordinate wealth and his continued propensity to put racist jokes in his films. Joseph Nicol McGinty insisting that his family have called him “McG” since he was a toddler and nobody calling him on it. McG being given a Terminator movie. People making excuses for McG’s Terminator movie, even though it was awful. McG existing.

McG. DIRECTING.

Today there is one thing in particular that bums me out. Casting of leads in movies that are otherwise interesting being driven by marketing and synergy and greed, collectively known as “buzz” rather than casting these actors being driven by the idea that the film could do with someone who can act. I will probably never watch In Time, because let’s be honest, who cares? Amanda Seyfried? Justin Timberlake? Dear God. Timberlake had me fooled actually, but he’s pretty limited. Like, they’ll probably start putting him in movies with Sam Worthington soon to make the Australian actor look talented by comparison. Whoa. I mean, even Cillian Murphy surely being great can’t get me interested in that film.

I’d like to rephrase that: the director who made Gattaca and The Truman Show, not classics but totally worthwhile and really interesting sci-fi films both, made a film that essentially functions as an homage to Logan’s Run and I don’t want to watch it. That’s how utterly dispiriting it is to me that they chose cardboard “star” actors as the leads. Pretty grim.

And now… I never thought I’d live to see the words Robert Pattinson and David Cronenberg in the same sentence, but here we are. I had been completely unaware of this film until today. Now maybe, just maybe, they are going to get away with this by actually taking advantage of Pattinson’s inability to act in any kind of convincing manner to go for an off-beat vibe. You know, challenging the audience with a story that won’t simply conform to standard genre expectations and a lead actor who is really terrible? But still… Robert Pattinson?

Let’s get something straight here; I am under no illusion that I know as much about film-making as David Cronenberg. I’m speaking as a layman here. I can’t stand this, though. Pattinson? It’s a joke. The whole thing reeks of the movie looking for funding, Pattinson’s agent working the “he needs something edgy after the pedophilic vampire series” angle and getting him into the film cheap and mucking up some publicity. It has nothing to do with the film being good. Cronenberg can make it work, I assume, but what if he can’t? Ok, it won’t be a tragedy or anything, but I’d rather have a Cronenberg movie I liked than one I thought was ok except for the 85% of the running time that featured a borderline unwatchable actor.

What’s next, taking a really interesting take on a classic faery tale that apparently features a knock-out performance from a talented actress and put Kristen Stewart in it?

 

Nuts.

Fair Weather Fans

So, I was watching the Texas Rangers this morning and the broadcast team was interviewing an 82 year old man who “got into the Rangers last year” and is now hooked. These crowd pieces are pretty much always awful, but this one was particularly odd for me. I still have trouble understanding the comfort with which Americans embrace the concept of the fair weather fan.

Clearly, this is different because the man is old, and therefore difficult to criticize. Lord knows when I’m 82 (knock on wood) I’m not going to give a damn what a blogger fifty years my junior thinks about anything I do. I’m happy that he’s a Texas Rangers fan, I am. I mean, I’ve only been a fan of the team since my early 20s. I admittedly had no connection to the state of Texas before that, but if I’d moved there last year I’d be a fair weather fan whether I liked it or not. It’s only through good fortune and timing that I followed the team during a rough patch, or to be more accurate, everything that happened to the ball club before Nolan Ryan took over.

Thing is, what choice do the Rangers have? As an organization, if they have any hope of having the kind of tradition and history in fifty years that teams like the Cubs and Yankees have now, they have to welcome these fans while they have the chance and hope to build up a significant fan base that will keep the club going through the rough patches that are sure to return (though hopefully as off-seasons and “rebuilding years” rather than another thirty plus years of little to write home about). Particularly in the metroplex, where the Cowboys attract religious devotion and shameless glory seeking fans in equal measure, the Rangers have to do what they can to get bums on seats.

But still… it’s always weird to me. I’ve heard sports radio guys in Dallas come right out and say they don’t pay attention to the Rangers until they’re over .500; that’s fine on one level (Lord knows it’s not fun watching a baseball team stink it up over 162 games) but you can’t then come out and be Captain Superfan when the team gets to the playoffs. It’s all a bit… unseemly.

Austin became a Rangers town last October. Funny, that. I’d met two Rangers fans in the entire city before the first ALCS appearance in this run. Now they’re everywhere. I know it’s different in Europe… who the heck doesn’t like football but suddenly decides to start following it as an adult? You can’t switch teams, it’s the ultimate stigma.* There are two types of fans, those whose family have followed the team for generations, or those (like me) who have a specific story about their first memory of the game or a visit to a stadium, and took the surprising step of following a team other than the team their dad followed. Craziest of all are those who switch to the rival of their dad’s favourite team. A Cubs fan whose dad is a White Sox Fan, or a Manchester United fan whose dad is a Manchester City fan.

Still, I have trouble with it, this comfort with welcoming people to join you in supporting a team, knowing deep down they’ll probably find something else to do when things go south. Just doesn’t feel right.

Obvious blog headline related to Battleship the board game.

Well, we get what we deserve.

Battleship, a film allegedly based on a board game, is being pushed and pushed hard as a major “summer blockbuster” as we’re now supposed to describe lazy, vapid and cynical films made mostly by computers that happen to be released between May and September. Battleship has nothing to do with the board game at all. Battleship is a Transformers spin-off.

Of course, the Michael Bay Transformers movies made such little effort to actually develop characters beyond basic tropes of wise leader, adventurous youngster and racist (oh, the racism of those films is truly terrifying) so there’s really no reason at all for them to have to bother with a genuine Transformers spin-off. They just went and grabbed the Transformers sound for their bad guy, made them transforming robots, hired Rihanna for some reason and then, I can only assume, promised to put all members of the Neeson family through college until the twenty-fifth century.

Neeson could just reprise his Rob Roy character throughout the film. It wouldn’t make any difference.

Let’s stop for a second and pretend we don’t live in a world that sucks. These cretins who make decisions regarding “summer blockbusters” aren’t stupid. They’re lazy. Listen, trust me, I am no art house snob, at all. My favourite films are decidedly low brow in the main. I liked the last Die Hard film (though, again: it could have been a lot better). I have no problem with big, fun films. This is pushing it. The whole logic for pushing Battleship is that there is a market already there and so the marketing will have a head-start and the film will thus make tons and tons of money. Setting aside for a moment the rather questionable appeal of a “brand” based on a boardgame most people associate with a rainy weekend in the 1970s, let’s assume these people are right. Let’s assume that the Transformers movies had a huge head-start thanks to their brand.

It begs the question: Why didn’t they make good movies, then? If the audience was there, wasn’t it a golden opportunity to make good action films that would also make money? Might not the films have made MORE money if they didn’t suck? Don’t these people, as artists, have any kind of personal obligation to actually trying to entertain, rather than just fooling us to walk in the door and spend a couple of hours of our lives sitting in the dark. I know there are people who just need “something to do” on a Saturday evening but the vast majority of people would like that “something” to actually be entertaining.

I’m not talking about the bankers here, I’m talking about people like Michael Bay. Bad Boys was a bit of fun. Not Shakespeare, but nowhere near the horrifying depths of Transformers 3, where nothing much happens except that Michael Bay’s avatar gets worried about Patrick Dempsey shagging his impossible-looking girlfriend while things nearby explode. I suppose he does elbow in weird and highly insensitive Arab-bashing scenarios, so there’s that. He’s political, I guess. In a racist sort of way.

What about John Turturro? Frances McDormand? I’d like to see you try and argue that John Malkovich has any kind of credibility now. I’m sorry, you can say “hey, it’s a pay cheque” but let’s get serious about this: they’re selling their dignity for cash. I don’t think we should be okay with that because they’re actors.

Imagine, just for a moment, Transformers movies that don’t suck. Live action films with Transformers that don’t like weird creepy insects and aren’t defined by that sound effect. Imagine Optimus Prime and Bumblebee with actual personalities and not just broad stereotypes that the film-makers are too lazy to flesh out beyond “you should respect this character because he is wise” and “feel bad now that this character got hurt because… just do!” Imagine storylines that weren’t crap, that didn’t suddenly follow that untalented fool Shiny Beef through college or through his rather intensely chauvinist sexual panic. Imagine a REAL science fiction story that was interesting and compelling.

Then imagine, a couple of years after the main story finished, a spin-off sequel. The Marvel films have been handling this fairly well, so far. It can be done.

I guess they don’t make as much money though. Prometheus should be wonderful, will probably be my favourite film I see in the cinema this year (I hope). It won’t make anywhere near the coin of some of the crap on offer though. Well, maybe Battleship will flop. We can only hope.

Hammering of War.

 

I’m playing a role-playing game tomorrow.

Not a role-playing video game. A role-playing game. Involving dice. Possibly involving miniatures, and perhaps even a wipe-away grid mat.

I’m pretty excited. It’s been far too long. Truth be told, I don’t have a lot of experience, but the last time I was in a role-playing group, it was a lot of fun. Beer, rock music and some very light-hearted encounters involving a demon called Alan.

That was D&D 4.0, though. We’re going for something a little different this weekend.

 I am unclear as to whether there will be fire-breathing winged horses involved.
I’ve never played any tabletop wargame, and I probably never will. It’s too expensive in terms of time and money. I love the overall setting for the Warhammer universes though. I am particularly partial to the 40k setting, but our GM is familiar with Warhammer role-playing and that’s what we’re going to do.

I’m looking forward to it. Warming up the percentile dice. Warhammer 1.0/2.0 seems to have a pretty nifty career system. I’m going to miss the video-game style action of D&D 4.0, but this should be a lot of fun.

Also, wizards.

It lives! (And writes)

I also want to point out that this blog continues to hold on, much like Chuck Heston to a particularly emotionally supportive firearm, to life and all that entails.

A lot of my writing right now is

a) not happening

b) academic (i.e. not really appropriate for a blog)

c) aimed at publication

d) not happening; this is worth mentioning twice

It’s time to kick-start it back a bit, and Wednesday afternoons MIGHT just be the time to do that, but in the meantime, if anyone still has this on their RSS feed, I apologize that it just comes up as “Blog” in Google Reader. I need to look into that.

Wait! That wasn’t my announcement at all. I wrote another post for Forever Young Adult, and if you’ve wandered to this blog and don’t know what that site is, you should check it out. It’s good. I wrote a review of the recent film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games. So go there and read it, and then come back here.