Monthly Archives: December 2011
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
(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
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:
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.
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, by that point Batman TAS was my main fix, the definitive version. Read the rest of this entry
Even before the release of the original Batman: Year One almost twenty-five years ago, there were probably few origins in popular culture better known than the one for its eponymous character: a young boy and his parents go down the wrong alley one dark night, and after a chance encounter with a trigger happy mugger, the parents lay dead and the young boy is scarred forever. Decades later, that boy, after spending his life training to be the world’s greatest crime-fighter, grows to become the Batman: protector of Gotham City and arguably the greatest superhero of all time (and certainly the most culturally versatile). If the origin was well known 25 years ago, it’s positively burned into the popular imagination now, with the beginnings of Batman having been reiterated in different ways, through two major blockbuster films, three (or arguably four or five) animated series, a major video game release, and numerous other comic book reinterpretations. Yet through all of it, Batman: Year One, written by the legendary Frank Miller and illustrated by David Mazzucchelli, though not the first and hardly the last of Batman’s origin stories, still stands as perhaps the best and most resonant. Therefore it’s not surprising that DC Animated films and Warner Premiere would produce an animated adaptation of Batman: Year One; besides being entirely in keeping with their stated intention of reproducing and reinterpreting classic works of the DC Comics canon, the project would seem to be an almost commercial and creative slam dunk. Unfortunately, DC Animated’s Batman: Year One proves to be a fitting illustration of the difficulties that can sometimes transpire in transposing one medium to another; even two mediums that seem as inherently similar as comic books and animated film.
Recently, on our trip down to Philadelphia for an academic conference, my good friend and respected (if decidedly rakish) colleague Andrew Golledge and I visited the Philadelphia site of the Occupy Wall Street movement and came away with varied impressions and strong opinions over what we had seen there. With Andrew having agreed to come aboard Antiscribe.com as a full-time contributor, we decided that a very cool introductory project would be for each of us to write our own thought piece about OWS and, in keeping with the intellectual focus of this website, channel our impressions of it through some facet of popular culture. The two articles below, “#OWS for Vendetta” and “Radical Failure,” represent the culmination of this project. I must say, as owner of this website, I’m damn proud of both our efforts and I’m honored to be able to present them each to you here.
I also want to take this opportunity to welcome Andrew to Antiscribe.com! Andrew Golledge, whose site nickname is Don Manifesto, has been my trusted compadre and colleague for a few years now. He’s also a brilliant scholar, terrific writer, and now budding amateur filmmaker with a distinctive, passionate perspective that equally compliments and contrasts my own. If his work on this project is any indication, we’re all in for some excellent reading in the weeks and months to come. (Just don’t tell him I said that…I have enough trouble with my own ego…)
“The truth is: there’s something terribly wrong in this country, isn’t there?”
Early last month, my friend and colleague Andrew Golledge and I took a trip down to Philadelphia, PA to take part in the yearly academic conference hosted by the Mid Atlantic Popular and American Culture Association (MAPACA). In addition to serving as a panel chair, I presented a paper on American film comedies released in the aftermath of the Great Recession, in which I discussed how certain comedies captured the zeitgeist of our current era, one defined by widespread frustrations with both our society’s class inequality and class immobility. In essence, I spoke about how these comedies, though meant to be funny, really expressed how most of the middle and working classes, because of the economic climate and the growing income gap with the wealthiest citizens, have come to see the once closely held belief in the American Dream as something of a delusion. The next day, with our presentations out of the way, Andrew and I explored the city, and made a specific point of visiting the settlement for “Occupy Philly,” the Philadelphia branch of the Occupy Wall Street (#OWS) movement established just outside the City Hall. Having yet to see the original New York version, I wanted to witness the movement firsthand, and see the kind of people who were actively protesting the same issues that I myself had only written about.
While I was there helping Andrew take photographs and generally soaking in the ambience of the information booths, placards, live musicians, and ad hoc lending libraries, I happened to look skyward to the uppermost spire of Philadelphia’s City Hall, upon which stands the statue of Benjamin Franklin, the man whose stature in the Eighteenth century was such that his mere affiliation with both the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution gave them instant international credibility. At that time I wondered how Franklin, the man who so famously said, “we must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately,” would think and feel about what these people were doing at the foot of this grand memorial. Would he have approved of the new “Occupation” movement, and seen it as reflecting the spirit of the ‘76, or would he dismiss it as the actions of a group of misguided malcontents? I don’t know the answer, but I couldn’t help but feel a certain visceral symbolism going on around me, as an icon of US history was forced to gaze down upon what the fading of the American Dream had wrought. Read the rest of this entry
It’s not difficult for me to remember my first impression of Occupy Wall Street. Like many a New Yorker, mine was one of curiosity and cautious, yet hard to repress delight. For all the criticism regarding a lack of central message, the truth is that there was and continues to be one key point of agreement among all the protesters: things as they are are not good enough, and that’s a hard message to deny from any side of the political spectrum.
Happily I went, and quickly I was disappointed. It was a weekday afternoon, which meant that it was down to the most dedicated, most permanent protesters, maybe two hundred, and every negative stereotype regarding their appearance and attitude was given comical and exaggerated life. The crowd was almost entirely young, white, and, despite the mildly reassuring presence of showers and well-used trash receptacles, diseased looking. Every worthwhile message was cheerfully conveyed on the shittiest looking pissed-on cardboard to be found, and the one activity that drew the most energy, most participation, and most observation was the drum circle. I fucking hate drum circles.
It was time to take a breath. I stopped and read the literature. I listened to conversations, and spoke to a few of the many helpful, intelligent participants. For the time being, my fears had been eased. The package wasn’t perfect, I thought, but it was the right message for the right time. Better to have them there than not.
Weeks later, my now editor Jon Morris and I traveled to Philadelphia and explored the Occupy Philly protests taking place in front of City Hall. There we found a group of similar size to Occupy Wall Street, but with more space and a more visibly organized appearance far more welcoming to newcomers. And aside from goals particular to the state of Pennsylvania, the message and presentation was essentially the same. The theme for that day had been how to dump your big bank and switch to a smaller name or credit union. Read the rest of this entry