Archive for March 31, 2007

As always

March 31, 2007

If you’d like to know what I thought of this week’s issues of Daredevil, Green Lantern, Guy Ritchie’s The Gamekeeper, Action Comics, Batman, Superman Confidential, and Ultimate Spider-Man, then Thusrday Morning Quarterback is the place for you!

Insert “All Along the Watchtower” quote here

March 30, 2007

Behold! my massive interview with Battlestar Galactica co-executive producer and writer of the Season Three finale, Mark Verheiden, over at Wizard. It was a struggle to pull out a sample quote that isn’t loaded with spoilers, but I think this does the trick:

I was wondering if you went into it sighing, wondering how you

Desert Island Director

March 27, 2007

Over at Wizard, my pal Kiel Phegley has conducted a massive, informative, surprisingly candid interview with Jack Bender, executive producer and lead director of Lost.

With so much emphasis on the plotlines and characters and mysteries and other writerly aspects of the show, the fact that it’s the best-looking network television program since Twin Peaks almost always gets overlooked, and pretty much no one on the show has more of a role in that visual look than Bender. Sample quote:

So what we did is that we saved all the camera moves and all the moving shots and handheld and longer lenses and all of that stuff for the island story, and we made the flashbacks closer angles, wider lenses so that all of the background would be in focus.

I never even noticed that, for crying out loud.

Read the whole thing.

Quote of the day, real world version

March 26, 2007

Passengers who resisted the smugglers were stabbed or beaten with wooden and steel clubs, then thrown overboard where some were attacked by sharks, the agency said it learned from survivors.

“Several recovered bodies showed signs of severe mutilation,” UNHCR said.

“Smugglers toss hundreds of refugees to sharks,” CNN/AP

Quote of the day

March 26, 2007

“Battlestar Galactica” is a bit like “Lost” in that it’s what’s called a highly serialized drama, with a long continuing plotline. If someone misses a few episodes, they may stop watching entirely, thinking they’ll never be able to catch up. At the same time, once you get past the first season, new viewers can be put off by how much they don’t know about what’s going on. So you can lose the viewers you already have much more easily than you can acquire new ones, and both shows have suffered dips in their ratings. Yet this also seems to be one of the most fertile and exciting formats in the medium. How do you deal with those challenges?

I don’t. It’s a genuine problem I have no solution for. We have long conversations with the network about the extent of the serialized nature of the show. It’s certainly not something they’re in love with. We the writers are always pushing to make it more serialized because it makes for better storytelling. We’ve done a few stand-alone episodes here and there, and they’re almost never very successful for our particular series. They’re not what the audience tunes in for. But the network’s legitimate concern is just what you were saying: The audience tends to attenuate over time. It’s hard to bring new people on board. There’s the hurdle of them having to catch up on all the old episodes, and any hurdle you put in front of the audience is just a bad thing. I don’t know what to say. This is the kind of show I like to do, and we’re just going to keep doing it. Hopefully, we can persuade people to buy the DVDs and catch up at home and keep watching the show, but the show is what it is.

The availability of DVD sets seems to have made it more possible to do this kind of series.

I think it has. It’s really changed the landscape. People are much more comfortable getting on to shows like this because they can pick up a boxed set and catch up.

–Ronald D. Moore, quoted in “The Man Behind ‘Battlestar Galactica,'” Laura Miller, Salon

I latched right on to this portion of the interview because it confirmed something I postulated two years ago:

I wonder if new technologies like TiVo and DVDs aren’t also playing a major role in how narrative fiction is developing on the tube, insofar as they’re making complex series economically feasible in ways they didn’t used to be. Back in 1990, a show like Twin Peaks could make a huge splash, but if it demanded too much week-in week-out attention from its viewership, network pressure to make the show accessible (in Peaks’s case by revealing whodunit) would quickly kill what was special in the show, if not kill the show outright. Nowadays viewers, and more importantly executives and producers, know that it’s easy enough to “catch up” by hitting a few buttons on your DVR or renting the first season through Netflix. Perhaps we can expect the complexity of televised fiction, even on the benighted networks, to expand accordingly.


March 25, 2007

A nice, easy-to-navigate gallery of those America’s Next Top Model death photos I mentioned earlier can be found here.

(via Andrew Sullivan, who wants us to be outraged. But doesn’t he always, as long as it’s not South Park?)

Quote of the day

March 24, 2007

For example, a clear sign of progress in Western society is that one does not need to argue against rape: it is

Music video nasties

March 24, 2007

I have a phobia about skin growths, so this video by Grizzly Bear for their song “Knife” pretty much paralyzed me. But it’s eerie enough that I think you’ll find it scary, too.

America’s Next Top Cadaver

March 23, 2007

I watch Tyra Banks’s America’s Next Top Model, but only for the photo shoots in which they’re all made up to look like the victims of brutal murders. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

More here. The relevant photos are #5 in any given model’s gallery.

UPDATE: An easier-to-navigate gallery of the pics can be found here.

You have her face and her eyes but you are not her

March 23, 2007

This week’s Horror Roundtable asks its participants about their favorite horror-related song. Mine is, I think, an unusual choice, but an appropriate one.

We get letters

March 23, 2007

The other day, partially in response to a post by Jon Hastings on The Host and Land of the Dead, I brought up the way that mainstream film critics will latch onto political allegory (real or perceived) in horror films, frequently to the exclusion of other, more interesting aspects of those films.

Blogger Bruce Baugh wrote to me in response:

I have a theory that the critics’ urge to find political allegory in Romero’s movies in particular is their way of staving off dealing with what always seemed to me the obvious point in his work: nihilism. It’s much easier to say “yeah, those guys over there suck” than it is to think “but maybe none of my good intentions or noble efforts matter one bit, either.” It’s not that Romero makes no distinctions between good people and bad, it’s just that he goes on to say that it doesn’t matter in the end whether you were good or bad: it won’t affect your chances of survival when things come munching. And even though I don’t think that’s the moral truth of the universe, it’s for sure an _emotional_ truth of part of our experience, if we acknowledge it rather than hide it.

As something of nihilist myself, at least in my approach to horror, that makes a lot of sense to me. Now, to be fair to the folks who come at Romero looking for the purely political message, I do think it’s there, not least because interviews I’ve read from Romero himself seem to back it up. But it seems reductive to take the complexity of, say, the shifting nature of who’s right and wrong in Night of the Living Dead and boil it down to a campaign commercial. Nihilism works a lot better as an explanation. And it is truer.

Bruce continues:

Hmm. In its way, the Romero-verse illustrates one of the classic existentialist points Camus was on about: whatever you’re trying to hold onto won’t last. You’re stuck. You have to start something new. I wonder what a zombie story would be like if I had a community of survivors who accepted that philosophical/religious despair and then went on to try to do something meaningful in the next context. Damn, like I don’t already have enough on my plate….

Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s ongoing zombie comic The Walking Dead looked, for one brief shining moment, like it was headed in that direction, but that was a year or so ago now and that hasn’t happened and doesn’t look like it will happen. DIY, Bruce!

Meanwhile, Jon Hastings himself wrote in regarding the other half of that post of mine, my surprise at the rape scene in 300:

As for the rape scene in 300, what I thought was interesting is that it wasn’t presented as something for a guy to avenge or get angsty about (a la Identity Crisis) but as the Queen making a sacrifice for the good of Sparta (just like her hubby and his men!). Still very “problematic”, of course, but I’m not sure that I’ve seen a movie that’s taken that particular POV before.

That’s a good point. She even doles out the comeuppance herself, and the whole business occurs with no expectation from either her or the rapist that her husband will ever find out about it, even. Very different than the old “women in refrigerators” approach.

On a completely unrelated note, The Horror Blog’s Steven Wintle, who knows me well, writes the following:

I’ve been watching the British sci-fi series Primeval recently. It’s about a group of scientists investigating holes in time that are releasing prehistoric creatures into the modern world. The third episode looks like it’s chock full of scary aquatic dinosaurs.

Just thought you should know.

PS: I found out about it from Bill Cunningham.

Oh boy! I gotta check this thing out–it seems kind of like The Mist with no mist and tonier accents.

Finally, I write letters too. Or at the very least I post comments. Andrew Dignan’s review of the latest episode of Lost over at The House Next Door (SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!) saw him throw his hands up in despair over the introduction of the so-called “magic box,” from which the residents of the mysterious Island known as the Others claim to be able to produce their hearts’ innermost desires. “I give up” is the direct quote. I myself did not:

I think you’re taking the “magic box” concept a bit too literally. I assumed that Ben was speaking, if not metaphorically, then at least, er, poetically, and never got the impression that the room where Locke’s father was being held was an actual Magic Box that they opened up to find him in that morning. Rather, I interpreted Ben’s statement as a more explicit assertion of the already established ability of the island, and apparently some of the people on it, to make manifest their fears and desires. From Jack’s dad to Eko’s brother to Kate’s horse to Charlie’s guitar to Locke’s ability to walk to Juliet’s ex getting run over to Charlie’s plane full of heroin to (perhaps) Claire’s mother getting into a car wreck immediately following Claire wishing she were dead, the entire show has involved one character after another opening the magic box, if you take my meaning.

Later, Andrew replied, in part:

Guys, come on now. I say outright that the box is likely a metaphor, and not literally a cardboard box sitting in a corner somewhere.

Granted, but I think what all of us who accused Andrew of literalism were picking up on was that he was acting as if this aspect of the show debuted, or at the very least reached some completely unprecedented level, this week. The point I was trying to make with my list of “where there’s a will, there’s a way” moments is that this has been a part of the show for a long time, and that this ability of the Island and some of its residents was already apparent.

Hooray for interaction!

Those gentle voices I hear explain it all with a sigh

March 22, 2007

Thursday afternoon is here, and with it my opinions on 52, Justice Society of America, Amazing Spider-Man, Battlestar Galactica: Zarek, Detective Comics, Girls, Runaways Saga, The Walking Dead, and X-Men in this week’s Thursday Morning Quarterback.

Vinnie Jones talks Midnight Meat Train

March 20, 2007

“It’s one hell of a movie,” he said. “It’s just in your face, raw as they come.”

Let’s hope so. A bunch more at SciFi Wire.

Quote of the day

March 20, 2007

Taliban militants have hacked off the ears and noses of three Afghan drivers captured helping American forces.

“Taliban mutilate Afghans for helping US,” Tom Coghlan, The Daily Telegraph

(via Andrew Sullivan)


March 19, 2007

Jon Hastings at The Forager offers his take on two recent, controversial genre films: first 300, then The Host.

Several interesting points are raised in the 300 review, from a likening of the movie to a sort of Western wuxia picture to a (favorable) comparison of the way this movie translated the comics imagery of Frank Miller to the screen versus the way Sin City did it (for the record, since I’ve seen a lot of people make the same comparison, I actually liked them both a lot).

Jon also kicks off the review by saying “The teenage goth girl who sold me and my brother tickets for this told us that it was the best movie she had seen since The Matrix.” As you can probably tell from the grosses alone, even aside from anecdotes like this and several I’ve experienced on my own, this film is playing awfully well with females. After seeing the movie, I’ll admit I was surprised at this–more so than I was going in, at which point I figured the oceans of beefcake would win women over. The thing that really threw me here was the rape scene, to be honest. After one Identity Crisis too many, I’m sort of at the point where if a given work of fiction isn’t more or less about rape, I’d prefer it not tackle the topic at all; I feel as though far too many writers don’t realize just how completely rape overpowers a story if it’s handled in a perfunctory fashion.

On the Host front, Jon shares my skepticism about mainstream critics’ penchant for political allegory in their genre films, but says that in The Host‘s case, you barely notice it, seeing as how it’s just one of a myriad of different tones and themes chucked into the mix willy-nilly in what is apparently the predominant mode of Korean cinematic storytelling. As a bonus, he also points out how reductive a reading of the original Dawn of the Dead as an anti-consumerist parable really is, and claims that the reason Land of the Dead feels flat is that Romero (perhaps buying into his own press) set it up so it’s difficult to read any other way. (Again, for the record, I like Land, and don’t think it’s as allegorical as all that.)

Day job follies

March 19, 2007

My buddy Ben Morse interviews Veronica Mars star Kristen Bell live on-screen. Hot YouTube action at the link!

All the difference

March 18, 2007

Robert’s is a horror film, because it’s very fantastical and couldn’t happen. Mine is a terror film, because it could happen.

–Quentin Tarantino on the two halves of Grindhouse (Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror and his own Death Proof), during an “Inside the Grindhouse” commercial segment on the SciFi Channel tonight.

How do we feel about this distinction?

Quote of the day

March 18, 2007

The critics, however, were mostly hostile, and frequently venomous. Many reviews made the same points:

Listen to them–the children of the night. What music they make!

March 18, 2007

This week’s Horror Roundtable asks the musical question: What is your favorite horror-movie theme music?

Worst St. Patrick’s Day EVER

March 17, 2007

I found out last night that due to the use of a fish-bladder-based filtering element called isinglass, Guinness is not vegetarian.

I just died a little inside.