Scottish Manes.

On our Star Wars podcast a few weeks ago, I was threatening that I was going to write a monograph about Ewan McGregor’s hair in films, and I’m sure Benjamin Light thought I was just joking. He probably – rightfully? – hoped that I was.

Scottish manes.I wasn’t. Thought Catalog was nice enough to publish a piece by me the other day: A Selection Of Films Rated On The Quality Of Ewan McGregor’s Hair In Them.”

Here’s the sad thing: I could have gone on and on, and in quite a big of greater detail than I did. Their might be a strange little e-book on this topic in the future so, you know, beware.

* * *

At some point, I feel like I could write another piece (though a much shorter one) on the hair of prominent comic book writers, especially those in the Marvel bullpen. In short: They’re all bald! Sometimes they have the wall of hair on the side, a power move that I’m sure is called “The Captain Picard” in barber college. Sometimes they just go for the shave and shine, electing to try to convince us that they chose to shave their head, not that they were losing a war with genetics. (“Make it SO!”)

I can see you!

Oh well. These are the people who decide who of our favorite four color heroes will die (like Peter Parker recently) or get raped and stuffed in a refrigerator.

FYI: TV Tropes informs me that it is actually referred to as “Bald Of Awesome.”

* * *

Benjamin Light informed me tonight that Ewan McGregor was rated as #5 on GQ‘s list of Most Stylish Men. I could tell you who was rated higher than him, but it’s bullshit. At least it wasn’t Michael Fassbender or Channing Tatum.

Men in suits.

Fucking Channing Tatum.

* * *

The blog is just days away from ending!

And, as always, I’m going to ask and suggest that you check out our podcasts…

Podcasts!

Time Travel Murder Mystery is on a very short hiatus currently, but I imagine that you can expect new episodes again in early January. Meanwhile, Greedo Shot First, our Star Wars podcast for people who hate Star Wars fans, is still going strong. I believe that the subject of our next episode will be a rewatching of The Empire Strikes Back. The haircuts in that movie were really just so so.

Greedo Shot First.

So I’ve done a lot of posts here hyping our podcast – Time Travel Murder Mystery – and this post won’t be any different, except I want to talk about how Benjie and I have another podcast that we’re doing, Greedo Shot First.

This is us getting out all of our hardcore old school Star Wars nerdery and kind of bullshitting around with it and looking at the hype and speculation and strangely shaped observances that come with the upcoming Episode VII. I can’t promise that this podcast is any less dorky than other Star Wars podcasts, but I can tell you that ours is far more mean spirited and foul mouthed.

Anyway, I’m especially excited to share with you some art we have for the podcast…

…provided for us by our good friend, Michael Manuel, whom you may or may not have heard of us talk about on the podcast sometimes, usually referred to as “Erotikus.” Mike has sometimes referred to our podcast as being “A Star Wars podcast for people who hate Star Wars fans,” and I think you could say that’s about half right. Anyway. Say hey to Mike and give him money to do art and check out our podcast in iTunes or keep track of it either here, or at the Time Travel Murder Mystery site. May the Force be with you.

(of Mars.)

I didn’t see John Carter, the long burning adaption of the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books, on its opening weekend.

But neither did you. And neither did a large chunk of the rest of North America.

I saw it today though, two weeks (perhaps?) or so into its run.

I’m going to wax ineloquently about its pros and cons, if you will, and I’ll do it as briefly as I can. I can already suspect that very little of what I’m going to say will be about the film itself.

PRO: The film is good. It is strong, and solid, and good. It is enjoyable, especially on a rainy Saturday afternoon, in the movie theater.

CON: It’s long. Not super long, no, but they could’ve cut about twenty minutes or so down and it would’ve felt like a sharper bullet fired at the audience (in the hopes of making a trilogy-sized wound?).

A somewhat similarly related CON: Another light breeze through the script could’ve helped. Michael Chabon does a decent job, definitely, but they should’ve brought in a seasoned script doctor (like Joss Whedon from the late 90s) and let them punch up the dialogue a little more, toss in a few more one liners.

Neither a PRO, nor a CON: It’s just funny to see McNulty in this movie. Does he only play incredibly sleazy bad dudes in his film work? I would’ve killed for a “What the fuck did I do?”

Also, neither a PRO, nor a CON: Ciarán Hinds and James Purefoy, reunited. Interesting. I wanted to scream, “CAESAR, LOOK OUT!” Purefoy’s only in the movie for about five and a half minutes, but he’s the only character really having a lot of fun, it seemed like. Which is weird because, at the same time, given the kind of characters that Purefoy usually plays, or doesn’t, I felt like he was ready and willing to take over Dominic West’s role in a heartbeat should he have felt ill or something.

Also, Polly Walker’s in the mix too. What a weird Rome reunion.

Related, but neither a PRO or a CON: You really could’ve unleashed this story as an HBO show, especially in light of success with properties like A Song Of Ice And Fire on HBO and Spartacus on Starz. Everything seen here in this movie would’ve made for a very strong first season.

PRO (obviously): Andrew Stanton. The guy’s good.

I remember going into the theater to see the last Mission: Impossible film, humorously subtitled Ghost Protocol, with no real expectations at all, mostly because the trailers and advertising were so sub par. Obviously I liked The Incredibles and Brad Bird’s talent there was undeniable, but there was no real clear indication in the advertising for Ghost Protocol as to what that would look like in Bird’s live action debut.

Long story short, Ghost Protocol was good. A real solid, fun popcorn flick. Definitely worth watching. I walked out of that thinking that, rather than jerking us or themselves around, Tom Cruise and J. J. Abrams and their associates might as well just lock Brad Bird down for another Mission: Impossible film. Will they? Who knows. Probably not. He’ll probably return as a “producer,” but they should.

PRO (continued): A little of that though, that ambivalence, is why I just wasn’t jazzed to see John Carter. I read more good reviews than negative ones, but nothing in that trailer was making my cock stand up, you know what I mean? I mean, I’ll probably go and see The Hunger Games, and I’ll most likely hate it and curse Gary Ross’ name in the dark, but I’ll see it out of obligation. The flat out suck is more than apparent already in The Hunger Games‘ trailers. I’m going to go out on a limb and say right now that Gary Ross will probably have spent more time obsessing over weird costume designs and facial hair and shit than developing strong stories, interesting action sequences, or interesting characterizations.

The difference between that instance and the one I’m somewhat talking about here in this post is simple: Gary Ross is a fucking hack and Andrew Stanton is the real deal.

Spoiler for all The CONS listed in this post: The marketing and advertising for this movie is fucking terrible and all the blame for the film’s poor Box Office performance should reside squarely on their shoulders.

PRO: There’s about ten minutes of this film set in the Old West, and every bit of it was more exciting than the entirety of Cowboys And Aliens. I’m very glad that Jon Favreau got shown the door from this production.

PRO: You get the sense that Stanton gets film, gets how it should flow and feel, especially the big popcorn munching blockbuster, in a way that can only be viewed in another modern filmmaker in the likes of someone like the aforementioned J. J. Abrams. Their style is original, using the tools of today, but it also feels like a respectful homage to a 70s style as well, something from George Lucas or Spielberg. I don’t say that in a bad way though. They’re not like the average Tarantino beast, inserting 13% original creativity into a mutant wearing a t-shirt that says “BIG SLOPPY HOMAGE” on it. But I feel like Super 8 was just Abrams addressing the fact that he knew what he was doing, where his style was born. I feel like John Carter is doing that too, but in a much more quiet voice.

Thesis Statement of the PROs: About half way through the viewing of this movie I started to wonder if this film was the closet that I would get to watching the original Star Wars film as a kid.

Perhaps it was thinking that that completely kicked me into a higher gear of of enjoying this film. I mean, I have nitpicks, yeah.

Tons of them, in fact: Starting with cutting this film down a little bit, not in the editing room, but at the drawing board stage, just tightening some things up, some of the chases and what have you, and punching up some of the dialogue. Some diversification of the character designs, especially the warring civilizations, and primarily the “red people,” the humanoids from the warring city-states. There should’ve been a mindset in place for the fact that this movie should be for KIDS, and also adults who accompany them. And more of a mindset than just slapping the tiny little Disney logo on top of the posters.

I mean… Right?

PRO: Taylor Kitsch doesn’t seem like a very interesting entity to be pushing upon filmgoers, but I guess I like him better than Sam Worthington. That said, Kitsch (Sorry, that’s a terrible last name for an actor) does a fine job in this film, but the rest of its cast is fascinatingly seasoned:

Lynne Collins as Dejah Thoris, as well as Samantha Morton, Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church, Mark Strong, David Schwimmer, and Art Malik are in there with the aforementioned Hinds, Purefoy, Polly Walker, and Dominic West. And with a cameo by Jon Favreau. And thankfully no cameos whatsoever by Harry Knowles (taking the cheapest of shots here: we would’ve needed something a little bigger than IMAX for that).

Taking a smart note from the original Star Wars there is that you have a unique mixture of British pedigree there, all chewing on that Martian scenery.

CON: The shortened title. I get Stanton’s reasoning, that this film is about John Carter becoming of Mars. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Blah, blah blah. But still. I don’t know how many Tarzan and/or John Carter and/or lovers of old pulpy sci fi were out there, horny with desire at the thought of this finally coming to the big screen, but still. The OF MARS at the end of the title would’ve really clued you into something going on there. Something different. Simply titling the film John Carter tells me one thing about this movie: I don’t know what this is. Is it a film about a high school basketball coach who applies tough love to his students? Is it about a guy who starts his own company and starts a relationship with a receptionist and also has cancer? Is this a lawyer and/or a doctor flick?

CON, continuing: Leaving the “Of Mars” at the end of the title should’ve lit a fire under the advertising people’s asses too. And perhaps the production design as well. No one on this production should’ve been afraid to go weird here. Obviously they weren’t too precious about the original source material (who is these days?)(other than the people adapting Game Of Thrones), which is fine, because there was nothing too precious in Burroughs’ source material, but there should’ve been some steps outside of the box.

Interlude to this CON: An example of them not being terribly, painfully faithful to the source material: the (would be titular) princess of Mars, Dejah Thoris.

from here.

I like Lynn Collins, and I’m glad with how they reinvented her character for this story. The original idea of Dejah Thoris in the books seems like a castoff wet dream from Robert E. Howard’s Conan tales, and can rightfully belong in the wet dream and basement apartments of fan boys. This is the real world. “Tits” and “Ridiculous nudity” are not character qualities.

The princess of Mars, by Bruce Timm, from here.

Sorry, CON, continued: There should’ve been more steps outside the box in every aspect of this film’s production, really.

There’s no denying that filmmaking has gotten so much lazier since the late 90s, but that goes hand in hand with how much lazier advertising these films has gotten since then. And yet, the advertising budgets for studios is getting bigger and bigger, going through the roof, even when they’re seemingly returning less and less profits. The budget for John Carter is supposedly $250 million dollars, which really means that it’s total budget with the marketing is, what, a minimum of $350 million? Ugh. I’m sure they’ll make that back, but not quickly enough.

But I guess you could say that the film was doomed by the time its first teaser was released.

CON, still continuing, becoming more and more of a bitch session about modern movie marketing and more of a circle jerk over the original Star Wars: The beauty of the original Star Wars as that, to then modern cinema-going audience, it was new. Sure, all that Joseph Campbell shit was old, but they didn’t know that, not consciously. All the fat little nerds weren’t sitting in movie theater lines in 1977 waxing poetic over the hero’s journey. No, they wanted to see a good story and some cool shit, and the film fucking delivered. George Lucas took stuff from primal storytelling archetypes and he took a little from classic pulpy sci fi and he managed to remix it into a very new style.

I’m guess I’m telling you that John Carter has a little of that (but not enough). I guess I’m telling you that we desperately need more of that. We need that potential and we need marketing that delivers the suggestion of a little of that to audiences.

PRO: Again, the movie just solid, and fun. Not perfect. Not a home run, but better than a lot of the shit that you could end up seeing in theaters these days. I’m going on and on about the sins of films these days and how they’re slaves to the advertising departments, but the thing I really want you to take from this is that John Carter is a pretty good movie, even if the trailer would’ve lead you to that assumption, or to any kind of assumption of what kind of movie it is.

One last CON: The ending. It ends somewhat ambiguously, but in a happy way. It wraps this story up in a way that works, even if it means that there will never be a sequel, which could very well be the case. I was somewhat reminded of the adaptation of The Golden Compass from a few years ago, which was not great. I’m a huge lover of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, of which The Golden Compass was the first entry, and I was ready to forgive a lot of the sins of that film adaptation, of which there were so fucking many, but the one I could never forgive was that they cut off the last thirty pages’ worth of the story’s ending, which they had filmed, with the intention of moving it to the beginning of the proposed sequel, which never happened.

Similar to what they did with the ending of The Two Towers, and how they moved its ending to the start of The Return Of The King.

And they did that because I guess they were afraid to end the film on a slightly downer of a cliffhanger. The fools. They needed that cliffhanger so badly. And The Golden Compass was edited like they weren’t expecting to be filming the follow up any time ever, so why not go for broke?

I’m not saying that John Carter needed to do that. They could’ve though. Rather than tying up the one last lingering plot point, such as they did, they could’ve thrown a mystery into your face. That’s another lesson Star Wars that a lot of the so called modern myth makers seem to not see: If you want to have a nice, large tapestry, it better have a lot of complex threads in it, any one of which could produce an interesting story. You walked out of A New Hope not quite sure of what was going on with that Darth Vader dude, or Luke’s dad, but you knew there would be an interesting story there if someone ever brought the story back to the movie theater near you…

Mad leakage.

Slightly out of context, if there is such a thing as “context” with us, this gave me a good chuckle:

via The Huffington Post (who really just embedded a video, but whateva).

Vector Prime.

This:

from here.

“Hipper than Taebo, sexier than Pilates.”

Man, those Lost withdrawals are killer, aren’t they? Thank God there’s a new episode tonight

And, so, like yesterday, I had limited internet time today and was just browsing around, trying to get my semi-intellectual whistle just a touch wet when I ended up here and noticed this:

That’s The S Factor: Strip Workouts For Every Woman by Sheila Kelley, an actor and dancer who is currently appearing on Lost in it’s final season as Zoe, the geophysicist/black ops operative…

…and huge fucking nerd.

from here.

Gotta say: Didn’t see that one coming. But good for her. Diversity is never a bad thing, especially when it’s sexy, right?

Says Wikipedia:

Following her role as a stripper in the film Dancing at the Blue Iguana, in which she performed a seductive strip routine, she became a fan of pole dancing. Kelley has since become noted for her ‘S Factor’ national exercise studios and her book S Factor: Strip Workouts for Every Woman and DVDs.

Says Amazon:

Hipper than Taebo, sexier than Pilates, The S Factor–stripping–is the hottest new fitness trend. Created by actress Sheila Kelley (LA Law, Sisters, and a host of film and Broadway roles), S-Factor classes are wildly popular and generating an avalanche of attention from Extra, Entertainment Tonight, The Los Angeles Times, Allure, Us magazine, Fox News, and CBS’s 48 Hours, which proclaimed: “Women don’t even know they’re working out until two months later when they say, ‘I’ve never had a better body in my life. I’m strong, I’m limber, I feel great.'” Sheila even convinced Barbara Walters to try a pole dance on The View.

Kelley is also married to Richard Schiff…

…who played Toby on The West Wing. Don’t forget, people, there’s a new episode of Lost tonight!

Also, speaking of nerdy shit, apparently today is “Star Wars Day.” As in, “May the Fourth be with you.” Jesus. Though, and it’s sad that I know this, but May 25 should probably be the day to celebrate since that was the day that the original film (later re-titled A New Hope) came out. Coincidentally, the finale of Lost airs on May 25 this year. Just saying…

Goodnight, Moon.

When you were a kid, because it was the simplest of all possible answers, they told you that God was up in the sky.

As you got older, when you wanted more complex answers, they told you that God was somewhere within.

As a kid my mother always told me that she knew I’d grow up to be smart. She just knew, she’d assure me. That’s nice to hear, for a boy from his mother, but you have to press on and ask why? Without quantification, that kind of praise can be dangerous. So I pressed on. Why, why, why?

The answer, she told me, was because as a kid I understood about the moon and the sun and space. “Huh?” I’d ask. And she told me that she was always amazed that even before kindergarten I understood that the moon orbited the Earth, the Earth orbited the sun, and the Sol solar system orbited around the giant black hole at the middle of the milky way galaxy, and the galaxy was just a string of other galaxies, probably in a snowflake shape, rotating around something else. “You even knew the name of the sun!” she’d tell me, her eyes beaming with motherly pride.

Of course, when I was a kid my mother explained to me what black holes were, as best as she could, as best as I could understand it then, and that’s probably had more effect on me than the memetic concept of God.

The moon, too.

There’s just something beautiful about the our gray satellite up there, isn’t there? “Magnificent desolation,” Buzz Aldrin called it. And he’s right. It looks so much to me like the physical manifestation of an actual human soul: bleak, sad, barren, empty, but with beautiful patterns within the dust and craters if you want to see them.

When I was a kid, we constantly would hear things like, “Tonight the sky will be clear and the planets will be aligned enough that you’ll be able to see Pluto!” Of course, this is back when Pluto was still a planet, because it was neutered by classifications. But I kept looking up in the sky and not seeing it.

Same with comets. Supposedly we could certain comets up in the night sky. I never saw them. And I kept looking. I kept wanting to see them. I was like Fox Mulder and John Locke. I wanted to believe. That there was something up there in the sky, that maybe there was something resembling a God-like thing in our universe, and, worst of all and most devastating of all, you know what? I wanted to believe I was special and somehow seeing these things up there would confirm that for me.

But I never saw them.

But there was the moon. You could see the moon. You knew mankind had gone there and come up and could, theoretically, go back again whenever we felt like it. It’s up there, whenever we want to visit it, that first step on a greater journey. No matter how bad life is Earthside, there’s something up there for us. There’s tangible proof just within grasp that we can escape Earthly troubles and change our whole view of the universe, for good or for worse.

A few days ago my mother was telling me about the day of the actual moon landing, when she was a little girl. She had been playing in a friend’s yard when both her and the friend’s mother came out and told them they had to come inside and watch something. “What is it?” they ask. “Something important,” they were told. “The future.” So inside they went and watched as man set foot on the moon.

My mother described the friend’s mother’s grave reaction to the event, her still face as she watched the grainy television images with cold eyes. “God is dead,” the woman kept whispering. Mind you, this is two years before The New York Times announced it.

My mother is somebody who still firmly believes in the idea of a God, if not a specific religion, not out of a firm belief, a strong faith, but a strong hope. She tells me that’s all there is. “All human beliefs, at their core,” she tells me, “have that hope at their center. When you fall in love, you hope it’s with the right person, and you hope they won’t be a shithead or damage your heart or your sense of the world.”

It’s from my mother that I get a lot of my sense of the world, those beliefs and hopes that you get before you actually enter the world and see how bad/wonderful things are for yourself. She’s also the first person to walk me out into our garden at night as a kid and point up at the sky and say, “Look at that thing.” She’s also the person who first put on Star Wars for me as a kid and said, “You’re going to love this.” And I’ll never forget her walking in during the scene and saying along with Obi Wan Kenobi, “That’s no moon. It’s a space station.”

But I said this is would be the end of me howling at the moon. So as I get to the end of this, I’ll say this one last thing about my mother, besides the fact that I love her, that she read Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon to me as a child…

The moon isn’t a real thing to us. Just a symbol. It stands for something different – probably several different somethings – for everyone. Even in the art it inspires. But we don’t really think of it as a real place we can go to. Just somewhere we dream about going.

So this is about me. About childhood, and about symbols. So here’s something that’s not a shock, something I’m pretty sure I’ve said before: Batman is my favorite “super hero.” My favorite comic book character, if you will. My obsession with him starts where a lot of comic book fancies start: he’s just cool, right?  But to me, he was always cool because he was real. That could be you under the cape and cowl, fighting crime and fighting a hopeless battle to make the world a better place. That could be me.

How sad that I don’t believe in God, at least not God the way others do, but I do believe in Batman?

But Batman is dead now. At least the Bruce Wayne version of him. I believe I linked to it before, but I talked a little about the passing of the Dark Knight in a post at This Recording a week or two ago.

Whenever it came up to write that piece, the editor at TR, Alex, who’s a really nice guy, suggested something about comics. Not a tough subject for me since I’m a bit of a dork, but I’d also say a bit of an amateur expert in the field. And there’s a billion things that I could’ve written about then, but the biggest, most current thing at the time and the thing most prevalent comics-wise in my thoughts: Batman was dead.

Shortly after that piece was written, a story by Neil Gaiman came out, entitled “Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader?” It was written to be in the similar vein as Alan Moore’s classic “Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?” and seen as the last Batman story.

The gist of the story is simple: Batman, recently deceased, is watching his own funeral from the cusp of the afterlife. The attendees of the funeral are all his friends, loved ones, and the criminals he spent his entire life fighting. And everyone has a eulogy, telling a story of how Batman died, all of them starring a different iteration of the caped crusader and depicting a different death.

But when the stories run out and it’s time to move on, Batman is ushered into the sweet hereafter by his mother. He’s fought the good fight, she tells him, and he’s to be rewarded. And the reward for being the Batman? To continue being the Batman.

And we learn that young Bruce Wayne’s mother read Goodnight Moon to him as a child and it was his favorite book growing up.

And as he fades away, in the style of the book, he says goodnight to the things that mattered. His friends. The Batcave. The Bat signal.

And then he’s reborn.

And the story continues anew.

The same here, mostly. No more talking about the moon, I promise. Unless something really, really, really interesting comes up. The story up there has been done for a while, but at some point we’re going back. At some point, everything starts over again.

Keep looking up at the sky and wondering, okay?

See you out there, space cowboys and cowgirls.