A Christmas Carol – The Antiscribe Overview

Christmas Carol Illustration

Introduction

Few works in the history of popular culture have had as much pronounced effect as Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, first published in 1843.  While Christmas Day had always been a sacred, solemn feast day within the Christian faith (just as the Winter Solstice had been in many pagan cultures before it), it wasn’t until the middle part of the 1800s that many began to see it less as a site of religious devotion than as a holiday to be celebrated, and to be celebrated most specifically through the act of giving.  While A Christmas Carol didn’t spawn this tradition itself, it, more than any other force, popularized it throughout the western world.  Through its powerful, secular story of redemption through charity and love, Dickens imparted to all that Christmas was a time to celebrate all that was worthwhile about the human race, most specifically our love for one another, and our compassion for those less fortunate.

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From Arkham to Aurora: Thoughts on the “Batman” Massacre

By Jonathan J. Morris, Antiscribe.com

Over the last week I’ve been striving, with significant difficulty, to write a review, essay, analysis, what-have-you, of The Dark Knight Rises. Certainly, prior to the film’s release I crafted two overviews on the topic of Batman and his history in popular culture, and naturally I wanted to make my write-up of the movie the best, most comprehensive, most insightful piece that was in my ability to do. That plan hasn’t changed, but the world I expected to write about TDKR in has, and I can’t articulate my thoughts about this movie – nor likely any movie – before I address that which has been weighing most heavily on my thoughts. Therefore, before I can discuss Christopher Nolan’s epic on both its own terms and in terms of the cinema, I feel I must talk about the Aurora tragedy and, to a certain degree, about Batman.

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Batman: The Dark Knight’s Best and Worst – Live Action Edition!

By Jonathan Morris, Antiscribe.com

(Note: I had planned to have this up last week, but after learning about the terrible events in Colorado, I though it best to wait a few days.  Though it should go without saying, my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, who were not only members of our greater American community, but fellow moviegoers and Batman fans.  Though far, far, far from the most tragic aspect of this horror, it’s still somewhat unfortunate that it will forever be associated with Batman; as a figure in popular culture, the Dark Knight has always stood as a symbol against guns and gun violence, as well as an idealization that hope and light can someday arise from great tragedy and darkness.  Hopefully, as a nation and a society, once we’ve mourned and grieved these events – and learned from them – we will find our own way onward, toward hope and light.)

Though Batman used firearms in his first year of existence, he has since stood as a symbol against guns and gun violence.

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Batman: The Dark Knight’s Best and Worst – Animation Edition

By Jonathan Morris, Antiscribe.com

Introduction

Well, you just knew this was coming, right?

So yes, thanks to our ever more crowded summer movie season, it’s already time again for another survey of a famous character in popular culture…and they rarely come more popular than the one and only Batman.  Whether you think of him as the gritty, vengeful, and brooding Dark Knight, or the noble, altruistic, and exciting Caped Crusader, the Guardian of Gotham City is an indelibly ingrained part of our popular culture, an American icon (though not always in a positive way), and the definitive urban avenger. I also don’t think it’s unfair to say that Batman has long surpassed his contemporary Superman as the world’s most famous superhero, and he’s arguably the most consistently compelling and undeniably the most commercially successful superhero of all time.  For me, though, and I think for any observer of popular culture, Batman should also be considered among the most fascinating.

As times go by, many famous characters are reinterpreted and recreated for each new generation, inevitably drawing upon the various tastes and subtexts of that given moment in time. Bob Kane’s Batman, though, perhaps more than any other character I have ever seen anywhere in media, has demonstrated an astonishing ability to be readily transformed and transfigured to any given era without ever subsequently becoming an anachronism.  It’s not that Batman is timeless – though he is – it’s that he’s somehow always timely. It’s an amazing attribute, and one that makes the Dark Knight not only distinctive in the history of comics, but in world literature and media as well. Read the rest of this entry

Our Marty…

Ernest Borgnine (January 24, 1917 – July 8, 2012)

Today, sadly, we lost another link to the days of Classical Hollywood with the passing of Ernest Borgnine.  I don’t typically write obituary pieces here, because I’m honestly someone you’ll typically find disdaining the hoopla that often surrounds the death of major celebrities. However, Ernest Borgnine probably won’t have every detail of his funeral plastered all over 24 hour news channels, nor likely have his death and life fetishized beyond all boundaries of good taste by special commemorative issues of People or Entertainment Weekly, so I feel confident that eulogizing him in my own way will still fall firmly on the side of good taste. Read the rest of this entry

“The Amazing Spider-Man” – The Antiscribe Appraisal

While undeniably the least anticipated of this summer’s trio of big-time, tent-pole superhero movies, The Amazing Spider-Man, beyond any discussions about its quality or worth, has become the latest test case for an ongoing pop culture debate – how soon, exactly, is “too soon” to do a reboot?  Is there even such a thing as “too soon,” anymore?

Last week, while composing my epic-length overview of Spider-Man in various media I presented my argument that Sony was right to kill off their still nascent Spider-Man franchise after the debacle that was Spider-Man 3, even if that left me with the prospect of a new Spider-Man movie I felt more obligated to see than excited to.  Of course, I understand, from the corporate perspective, the reason for the shortened turn-around: if Sony hadn’t kept their license active, than the lucrative film rights to the character would have reverted to Marvel/Disney.  But still, a completely new version after only ten years and two months – to the day – since the first film, let alone only five years since the last film, even in our much more accelerated culture, surely seems a little hasty. Read the rest of this entry

Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man: The Best and Worst – The Antiscribe Overview

By Jonathan J. Morris, Antiscribe.com

Introduction

With the coming July 4 holiday bringing the anticipated (though not by everybody) reboot of the Spider-Man franchise, The Amazing Spider-Man, it seemed like an appropriate moment to once again trace the filmic and televisual history of another major figure in popular culture. Who? Why, your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, of course!

The core backstory of Spider-Man is well and widely known – Peter Parker, a socially awkward but brilliant young man from Forest Hills, Queens is bitten by a radioactive spider (or a genetically enhanced one, depending on the era) while on a school field trip and soon finds himself blessed (and cursed) with spider-like powers.  After a failure to use his “gifts” properly results in personal tragedy, he realizes the deeper meaning of the mantra “with great power, comes great responsibility.” Becoming the superhero Spider-Man, he protects the neighborhoods of his native New York City from both everyday criminals and monstrous super-villains; indeed, Spidey’s rogues’ gallery is second only to Batman’s in depth and popularity, boasting the Green Goblin, Venom, the Lizard, the Scorpion, the Kingpin, Carnage, the Sandman, Mysterio, Electro, and (my personal favorite) Doctor Octopus. Read the rest of this entry

Frankenstein: The Best and Worst – The Antiscribe Overview

“Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould me Man, did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me?”
-John Milton, Paradise Lost

By Jonathan Morris, Antiscribe.com

This past Sunday I attended, for the second time, a high definition screening of the Royal National Theatre’s production of Frankenstein, directed by Danny Boyle, which gave me an excuse (not that I ever really need one) to revisit the cinematic legacy of two of my favorite figures of popular culture, the brilliant but misguided Dr. Frankenstein and his tragic and terrifying Creation (much as I did with Sherlock Holmes last year). Read the rest of this entry

The Misanthropic Holmes: “House” and “Sherlock”

“”It’s a basic truth of the human condition that everybody lies. The only variable is about what. The weird thing about telling someone they’re dying is it tends to focus their priorities. You find out what matters to them. What they’re willing to die for. What they’re willing to lie for.” – Gregory House, “Three Stories.” House

“I may be on the side of the angels…but don’t think for one second that I am one of them.”
-Sherlock Holmes, “The Reichenbach Fall.”  Sherlock

By Jonathan Morris, Antiscribe.com

Widely regarded as the greatest, the most influential, and certainly the most popular detective in the history of world literature, Sherlock Holmes and his appeal may just transcend that of the mystery genre itself.

You see, while the best of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories were excellent mysteries centered on intriguing and compelling deductions, so much of what makes Sherlock Holmes beloved to the point of devotion for so, so many really lies in the character of the man himself.  The world’s first, and only, consulting detective has been interpreted and reinterpreted time and time again, with presentations both vast and varied, but what truly makes him so undeniably interesting is that he’s so unlike any other main character you’ll find in the literature of his time, or even of most times since.  Holmes typically doesn’t strive to win the love of a girl. He’s not interested in wealth or fame or power. And only on rare occasions does he take a true interest in upholding or protecting the greater good.  He eschews relationships, despises romance, and views the righting of wrongs as less a moral imperative than a source of distraction from, at best, boredom, and, at worst, habitual drug abuse. Read the rest of this entry

Reconciling Lena Dunham’s GIRLS, for Both Critics and Fans

By Andrew Golledge, Antiscribe.com

After a nearly interminable amount of hype leading up to the premiere of HBO’s new sitcom, Girls, including various pieces in New Yorker, Time Out, Rolling Stone and endless blogs, we have finally seen its much heralded arrival come and go. Other episodes have followed and there is a rough consensus: it is a well-written, well-acted television show that dares to show young women as something less than glamorous fashion models who never use the bathroom.  What we’re left with now is not so much a TV show as a debate over its inherent cultural value, one predicated not on its content, but rather on its premise.

Set in New York City, the show follows four wealthy, white women in their early twenties as they navigate living, loving, etc. And based on just this short description, two camps of appreciation have emerged: First, the show is the next step forward in how the “fairer” sex is shown; it is a detailed portrayal of realistically characterized urbanite women behaving in realistic ways towards themselves, their friends, their families and their lovers. Second, the show is a regressive narrative, exclusively showcasing privileged whiteness in the world’s most diverse city, and is essentially another cog in a media-machine that continues to white-wash an increasingly multicultural society. Read the rest of this entry

MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS – The Antiscribe Analysis

By Jonathan Morris, Antiscribe.com

This past Saturday, thanks to a former classmate’s random act of kindness, I was granted the opportunity to see the much-anticipated Marvel’s The Avengers at its New York City première on the closing night of the Tribeca Film Festival.[i]  Now, as it happened, traveling to the Tribeca Performing Arts Center from my home in New Jersey took me through the PATH station at the World Trade Center.  Though I’ve wanted to go down there many, many times over the last few years, due to some deeply-held and overpowering emotions this was actually the first time I had visited the site since after September 11.  As I stepped out of the station, located at the foot of One World Trade Center, I gazed up at the still under construction Freedom Tower.  Though I expected to be slightly more overcome by emotion than I actually was, I nonetheless experienced a deep sense of poignancy that stayed with me as I headed over to the screening itself.

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A Desperate Nostalgia: Hollywood, the 2012 Oscars, and the Way We Watch Movies Now

By Jonathan Morris, Antiscribe.com

It has now been about three weeks since the 2012 Academy Awards telecast aka “the Oscars,” aired.  Generally speaking, the Oscars represent one of the biggest televised events of the year, typically second only to the Super Bowl here in the United States; unlike the Super Bowl, however, the Academy Awards have not been setting new ratings records each year, instead having struggled with trying to ebb an annual ratings decline.  This year saw the Oscars stem that decline, briefly, with the much-ballyhooed return of Billy Crystal to hosting duties; despite that, it still garnered lower ratings than this year’s Grammys (which were admittedly inflated by the death of Whitney Houston the day before), the demographics for the show in the key 18-49 demographic were unremarkably flat with earlier years, and the show received fairly poor reviews almost across the board. What bothered me most about this year’s Oscars, though, was just how depressing and disheartening they were about the movies themselves, and how uncertain they seemed about the very medium they were ostensibly celebrating. Read the rest of this entry

The (Broken) Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (aka Män Som Älskar Brutet Flickor)

"The World's Coolest Heroine"

By Jonathan J. Morris, Antiscribe.com

Released about two months ago into the crowded glut of holiday awards season, David Fincher’s movie version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has clearly already had its moment in the Scandinavian sun. Arriving with a heavy dose of critical praise and entering theaters with a snarl of assumed feminist defiance, the film left them with surprising rapidity and an almost audible whimper over how little money it made, at least compared to somewhat over-elevated expectations. Based on the first of the late Stieg Larssen’s bestselling “Millennium” novels, which, like many bestsellers, falls firmly into the category of “overrated,” the film will nonetheless likely prove to be the first of a cinematic trilogy, in spite of its modest success.  Of course, though it hardly needs to be restated, this was not the first movie version of Larssen’s novel, nor even the first in recent memory. The 2009 Swedish language adaptation, by the standards of foreign films, had a fairly significant cultural footprint in the United States and earned about $100 million dollars worldwide.  As films go, the Swedish version wasn’t bad for a straight-forward mystery movie; elevated, if that’s the right word for it, by its unflinching portrayal of explicit sexual violence and the characterization of its singular heroine, Lisbeth Salander.  Indeed, the most memorable aspect of that film was Salander, dynamically portrayed by Noomi Rapace, who deservedly has been parlaying that part into international stardom.  No doubt Rooney Mara, who plays the character in the American version, has herself already been doing the same.

The Two Lisbeths: The American Rooney Mara and the Swedish Noomi Rapace.

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The Academy Award Nominees for Best Picture of 2011 – The Antiscribe Appraisals

Introduction

Of course, herein lies precisely what the Interwebs didn’t need: another write up of the Academy Award contenders for Best Picture of 2011. To which I say: fair point.  This, however, was one of the first years in a while that I can actually say that I saw ALL of the Best Picture nominees (which I think is pretty impressive…since there’s now NINE of them), and I did so expressly for the purpose of being able to discuss them here on the site.  Unfortunately, given the fact my schedule and personal commitments haven’t allowed me to do the full reviews I’m usually partial to doing, penning this overview is essentially my way of doing the next best thing.

Two caveats:  First, this is not me handicapping the Oscars. I generally only watch them out of obligation, and after last year’s Hathaway/Franco debacle I have absolutely no desire to watch them this year (and those personal commitments will forbid it, anyway). I will comment on whether they deserved consideration, and I’ll make my pick of what I think should win and what I think will (since they’re not the same), but that’s pretty much it. Secondly, I myself won’t be doing any particular kind of ranking of this list (it’s presented in alphabetical order, as is standard) or otherwise doing my personal ranking of my favorite films of the year or anything like that. I’m personally not one for that kind of thing, and I generally feel such lists are defined almost as much by genre biases and false perceptions of import (the always ludicrous “movies” vs. “films” comparison) as anything else. In the end, this is basically my way of doing a bunch of my “Antiscribe Appraisals” in short form since I don’t really have the chance to do them in long (though the one for The Artist: pretty long).  Of course, in some cases, I already did full reviews of those films, and will link to them where appropriate.

And with that, the nominees are… Read the rest of this entry

The Antiscribe on Abortion

(Hi! Sorry for the unintended hiatus…no drama involved this time, I’ve just been annoyingly swamped with stuff, leaving me little to no time for personal writing.  I will be back with two movie-related blogs this week, but in the interim, I’m posting this, which I wrote the other day after the entire Komen/Planned Parenthood debacle caused this unending debate to rear its ugly, polarizing head one more time.)

Here’s my thing:  I hate abortion.  I hate that it exists.  I think it’s cruel, I think it’s sad, and that every potential life ended before it begins represents another example of our global society having failed just a little bit more.

With that said, I am, and always shall be, pro-choice, because a woman has the right to choose whether or not she wants or can handle the responsibility for bringing life into the world.  That she had sex, for whatever reason, should not cause her to bear the burdens and experience the joys of childbirth and/or motherhood if she doesn’t choose to. This is especially true since she bears it, physically and perhaps even emotionally, in far greater proportion than the father of that child.  Sexual responsibility should never be discouraged, but no woman should face a life-altering experience for showing questionable sexual judgment; that’s simply not commiserate with being a member of a fair, balanced, and just society.

What personally gets to me is that on many areas of the anti-abortion side we have very hardcore conservatives fighting against the kind of social welfare plans that are at least trying to solve many of the problems that in some cases cause abortions, because they find it easier and more direct to outlaw them.  I’d rather see us all strive for a world where abortions aren’t necessary, as hard as it would be, rather than a world where abortions are outlawed but with all the problems that still cause them prevalent and everlasting.

And yet, it also annoys me when people who are ostensibly on my side argue and debate about what qualifies as a life and what doesn’t.  If it is conceived, whether it be by technicality a life or not, it will forever after have held that potential to be a life.  Trying to argue otherwise dehumanizes the argument, the lost potential, and arguer him- or herself; it changes the nature of the discussion, as well as causes the other side to assume that we don’t care.  Too many of us do, and too well.  Everything else, in a world where once we’re born we’re all essentially reduced to statistics, is little more than a pointless exercise in biological semantics.

I am pro choice, who if it were my choice to make would always choose life, but I’ll never be pro-life, because that would take from me the right to choose life at all.

New York City’s Cinema Sex: An Exploration of SHAME and the SHORTBUS

By Andrew Golledge, Antiscribe.com

In Steve McQueen’s Shame we see a moment play out that we’ve seen in many films before it: the protagonist hitting rock bottom. For Shame, the protagonist is a wealthy, gorgeous white man whose rock bottom is having beautifully lit sex with two gorgeous women at the same time. It’s a testament to McQueen’s direction, Harry Escott’s score and Michael Fassbender’s performance that the scene isn’t laughable, but instead a moment of pained surrender that seems to punctuate a lifetime’s worth of addiction.

It is a sex addiction, one with which Brandon has seemingly lived without incident for years as he pursued some anonymous corporate career in midtown Manhattan. There is certainly little for it to distract from outside his work; when he’s not paying for high-end sex or picking up girls from bars and clubs, he’s enjoying mid-day masturbatory bathroom trips and late nights with left over Chinese take-out, beer and porn. Yet as appealing as all that sounds, it’s upon the unexpected moving-in of his significantly more extroverted sister, Sissy, that we begin to see how deeply rooted his need for sexual release is. Not only does her presence prevent him from engaging in his usual escapades at home, but he’s also confronted with what is most likely the cause of his addiction: their sexual relationship. Read the rest of this entry

“The Adventures of Tintin” – The Antiscribe Appraisal

By Jonathan Morris, Antiscribe.com

As a scholar who is always interested in popular culture, and especially the ways in which it can be interpreted and reinterpreted across cultural boundaries, I found the idea of seeing The Adventures of Tintin to be an  intriguing prospect.  On the one hand, intellectually it was interesting to see how an internationally popular character would be interpreted for American audiences, and on the other, given the pedigree of its filmmakers, I assumed it would at least be a fun watch.    First illustrated by the Belgian artist Hergé over seventy years ago, the world-travelling kid reporter Tintin has long been a popular icon to many European, and especially French-speaking, countries, but otherwise has never really crossed the Atlantic’s cultural divide, standing as largely an unknown quantity to American audiences. And to be fair, outside of my own reading on the history of comic books and comic art, the character represents something of an unknown quantity to me as well.  However, now that I have seen director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson’s long in development film version, the appeal of the character remains unknown to me, and I’m assuming it will to others. Whether it’s truly a faithful version of the character and his universe, I’m not one to say, but what I can say, is that as a film, and perhaps more accurately, as a film going experience, The Adventures of Tintin just isn’t very good. Read the rest of this entry

“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” – The Antiscribe Appraisal

By Jonathan Morris, Antiscribe.com

When I went to see Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows at my local theater recently I found myself quite irritated as I gazed up at the theater marquis, which advertised the film as “Homes 2.”  Come now, I thought, I know not everyone is a Sherlock Holmes fan like me, but certainly the character is mainstream enough that even the teenage part-timers working at this theater would know the correct spelling of his name.  As I walked out of the theater about two hours later, I looked at the marquis again, and I found that now the spelling error bothered me much, much less.  Whoever this “Homes” guy was, if he wanted this movie, he could have it.

Sadly, though, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is technically now and forever a Sherlock Holmes movie: the generically subtitled sequel to Warner Brothers’ initial, game attempt to make a viable mainstream film franchise out of one of popular culture’s most enduring creations.  For the record, I enjoyed the first film two years ago despite some initial consternation, because besides being enjoyable, if not especially great, it remained tethered to most of what Sherlock Holmes was fundamentally about. It may have had chase scenes, fight scenes, explosions, and computer generated effects, but in the end it was still about the master detective, with all of his unique personality quirks and with his friend and ally Dr. Watson in tow, figuring out a complex and inexplicable mystery (if one that had significantly more at stake than the manor house murders that were the literary Holmes’s part and parcel).  Granted, there was never any doubt whodunit (it was a villainous Mark Strong, in fine glower), but how he-done-it was nevertheless intriguing enough to string the action along.  Now, on the other hand, with Game of Shadows, this burgeoning series has completely untethered itself from the identity of Sherlock Holmes, instead turning their version of the character into a kind of bizarre, steampunk James Bond. And rather literally, at that. Read the rest of this entry

The Doctor Who Christmas Special 2011: “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe” – The Antiscribe Appraisal

By Jonathan Morris, Antiscribe.com

Well, now that we’ve put to bed another Christmas holiday, it’s important to look back on things that are most important:  which, if you’re a fan of Doctor Who, means the yearly Doctor Who Christmas Special.

Since 2005, no December 25 has gone by without the BBC airing a new Who episode (though they’ve only aired on Christmas here in the States since 2008); typically, the Christmas specials have served as something of transition between seasons for the series, and sometimes as a thematic preview of the season that is to come.  Under Russell Davies’s tenure as show runner, the Christmas specials were generally “event” episodes that were arguably the most high-profile of their year.  The original 2005 episode, “The Christmas Invasion,” for instance, served as the beginning of David Tennant’s acclaimed run as the Tenth Doctor, while 2009’s “The End of Time, Part 1,” marked the beginning of the Tenth Doctor’s end (the second part aired on New Year’s a week later).  2006 saw “The Runaway Bride,” a rather comedic episode that guest-starred popular British comedienne Catherine Tate, offering a transition between the Doctor saying goodbye to his former companion and soul mate, Rose Tyler, and his next companion, Martha Jones.  “The Voyage of the Damned” in 2007 represented the most publicized and highest rated episode of Doctor Who since its relaunch, as the producers scored the coup of getting pop star Kylie Minogue to play the Doctor’s companion for the episode, which was an incredibly fun outer space pastiche of Titanic and The Poseidon Adventure.  Minogue, if you’re not aware, is something of the British Commonwealth’s equivalent of Madonna, if Madonna, like Minogue, had just come back from a very high-profile and successful battle with breast cancer.   2008 was a standalone special, the first of five straight holiday themed specials that built to Tennant’s farewell from the series in the next year’s special.  Called “The Next Doctor,” it starred David Morrissey (a name who had been bantered about by Whovians as a potential future Doctor) as someone claiming to be “the Doctor,” whom the audience is intended to believe could be the Doctor’s next incarnation (spoiler – he wasn’t).  Other than playing off of the audience knowing that Tennant’s tenure as the Doctor would be ending, this had actually been the weakest of all the specials to date.  Basically just a Doctor fights the Cybermen episode with a nice little mystery wrapped around it, “The Next Doctor” also featured a somewhat controversial finale, by Who standards, with a raging, 100 foot Cyberking marching across Victorian London.  Traditionally, you have to understand, that whenever a Who episode took place somewhere in Earth’s past, history would remain largely unchanged; with Davies’s creative tenure coming to an end, this episode broke that rule with gusto, leaving it to Stephen Moffat, as the next show runner, to essentially write it out of existence.

You really can't celebrate the birth of Jesus without a two-hearted immortal alien time traveler in a bow tie. Or, for the record, nutmeg.

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My Favorite Christmas Story of the Year

By Jonathan Morris, Antiscribe.com

I have to be honest; I’m just not a huge fan of Christmas anymore.  Sure, I know, there are a lot of people like me who decide to use every December as a chance to get snide, snarky, and cynical, to bemoan the commercialism or the often overly-manufactured good cheer that accompanies every Christmas season (or something like that).  But I have no problem with Christmas, or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or Ramadan, or even the rampant consumerism that centers on all of them.  Well, maybe not on Ramadan, but you get the idea.  It’s just that Christmas, for people like me, is always a stark reminder of those in our lives who are missing.  For me and my family, that person is my Dad.

My father passed away over eight years ago, but as anyone who has ever lost a parent can tell you, when all the grieving is done, there’s still a void left behind that’s never really filled.  And at Christmas, when my admittedly somewhat dysfunctional family gets together to acknowledge, if not necessarily celebrate, the holiday, that void just seems ever more obvious.

So every holiday I’m given the choice: get depressed, or find some way to cheer myself up.  Needless to say, I choose the latter, and the way I choose to alleviate my sadness is the same way I choose every year: a mini-movie marathon of two singular 1980s comedies, the seasonally-appropriate A Christmas Story and the significantly less seasonal My Favorite Year.
Read the rest of this entry

“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” – The Antiscribe Appraisal

By Jonathan Morris, Antiscribe.com

“A plague on both your houses!
‘Zounds, a dog, a rat, a mouse, a cat, to scratch a man to death!
A braggart, a rogue, a villain, that fights by the book of
arithmetic!
Why the devil came you between us?”
– William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act 3,  Scene 1

It’s fair to say, I think, that we’ve all been trained by popular culture to think that there’s something thrilling, even sexy, about being a spy.  Foreign intrigues, exotic locales, elegant luxuries, strength of purpose, national pride, and beautiful women and/or men who represent the exemplars of their countries’ breeding; all these noble elements are what many of us of would think of when we hear the word “spy.”  But these things are not the trappings of a real spy, but a secret agent.  Secret agents are works of fictional fun and fantasy; engines of pleasure that assuage us with the notion that the conflicts of nations are just a game played out in the landscapes of someone’s imagination.  Spies, though, have always been a sordid, painful reality of the international sphere, and there’s very little that’s sexy about being a spy.  Real spies live in a world of pressure and paranoia that can be ugly, dark, and merciless, yet also technocratic, bureaucratic, and banal.  A spy who is especially good, especially lucky, or most often, especially ineffectual, might easily make it through their career with their life. It’s unlikely, though, that that life could ever be a happy one. Read the rest of this entry

I Will Miss Christopher Hitchens


By Andrew Golledge, Antiscribe.com

I do not believe in God. This is partially due to the manner in which my parents raised me. Although my father identifies as Baptist and my mother as Catholic, the one institution they always held in higher regard than religion was education, so I was always sent to whichever school they felt would give me the best advantage in learning. I attended parochial, secular and Jewish schools, and while my mother was very generous with sharing her faith, I never received marching orders from home about what to believe or not believe.

I initially believed in God because it was convenient, a socially acceptable invisible friend who listened to me when adults couldn’t understand, and sat with me whenever I felt alone. Later, as I began attending Catholic schools, belief became a reflexive survival trait. There were certain motions to be made in order to meet the standards imposed by my religious environment. 

The subtlety of faith: note the shoebox nativity behind me, complete with three kings en route to deliver their gifts to baby Jesus

Then belief became a necessity outside of school. Familial hardship, no worse than what many go through, turned us all to prayer, prayer for guidance, for money, for jobs and for a sense of love to return to our home. Every time there was a respite from the hardship, there was much laughter and back slapping; God had answered our prayers. Read the rest of this entry

Sherlock Holmes: His Best and Worst – The Antiscribe Overview

By Jonathan Morris, Antiscribe.com

With the sequel Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows being released on December 16, I thought I would take an always welcome trip down memory lane and look back at some the best and worst interpretations from cinema and television of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed creation, the world’s first and only consulting detective, Mr. Sherlock Holmes  If you’ve read my earlier post (written two years ago), you’d know that I’ve been a huge fan of the detective for my entire life; there are very few versions of the character that I haven’t seen, along with some I wish I hadn’t seen at all…

This list isn’t meant to be a complete overview of all things Sherlockian; the character is the most reprised in film history, and entire books have been written that have tried to provide an adequate survey of all the various popular incarnations of the character throughout its long history.  This list is simply an overview of my favorite adaptations, interpretations, and variations, represented as individual films, film series, and television shows, combined with similar productions that should perhaps otherwise be forgotten… Read the rest of this entry

On Sherlock Holmes

(Author’s note: This was written about two years ago as a sample blog that I never took past my Facebook page; I always thought it was pretty good, though, and with the sequel coming out next week, I thought I’d share it here now.)

Earlier this week, with some trepidation, I went out to see the new Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movie. Said trepidation generally sprung from all the usual sources, though mainly from the concern that I was going to see yet another of my favorite pop culture icons torn asunder because of studio greed (see Van Helsing and The Mummy films for examples of what I mean. Or on second thought, don’t. Don’t EVER.). For I am a lifelong Holmes fan; my father would read me the Conan Doyle stories, and he and I would often spend Saturday nights watching the Jeremy Brett (still the best Holmes ever) series on Mystery! together. I myself read most of the stories before I was ten, and I even chose to name my first dog Toby, after the tracking dog Holmes used in The Sign of Four.🙂 Read the rest of this entry

I am The Bat: One Fan’s Pilgrimage to Arkham City

For me, Batman began with Adam West.  As an aggressively physical boy of eight, each half hour installment of that venerated 60’s TV show was a smack dose of all the things an aggressively physical boy of eight needs: bright colors, capes and at least two massive fistfights for every twenty minutes of story. When Batman Returns came out in theaters around this time, I very desperately wanted to go but my parents deemed the film inappropriate due to its violence and menacing atmosphere.  They hadn’t even let me watch the first one, but they teased, they teased me by buying me those damn movie-version action figures that only built up the mythology of the Bat-man in my impressionable little head. This hurts-so-good trend peaked with a Halloween costume:

Yes, that's me.

Fortunately it was also around this time that Batman: The Animated Series began broadcasting, and if my love for Adam West’s Batman was analogous to being hooked on smack, then its animated cousin had me whoring myself out on the street for my next hit.

Pictured: fluffy children’s entertainment.

Though I may have been too young to fully appreciate it, Batman TAS showed me how the character could be interesting in manner way beyond fisticuffs. There was emotion, sinister character pathos, gorgeous art deco art direction and, of course, Shirley Walker and company’s stunning live orchestra scores for every episode. I was finally allowed to watch the Tim Burton movies, and although I loved them both and even developed a mild obsession with Returns[1], by that point Batman TAS was my main fix, the definitive version. Read the rest of this entry

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