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Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
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If you like my blog, and would like to help me continue to afford food and prescriptions, or simply enjoy my blogging and writing, and would like to support it --
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"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
THE RETURNS ON SUPERMAN. What's the single stupidest, biggest, least original cliche that can be found to say about Superman?
Yes, that's right, whatever it is, since it's a comic book movie, you can count on Anthony Lane to say it, dripping with condescension.
But we'll get to that.
As last time I looked over early reviews (of X3), I've not yet seen the film; maybe tomorrow or Friday afternoon, although right now even the $6.50 for a matinee is painful.
Let's start off on a positive note, with Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post:
The much ballyhooed movie, far from great and far from short (2 1/2 hours!), is still great fun. Best is its love for the traditions of the Big Guy: It reaches out to embrace all the previous iterations of the caped flyboy, even finding room for Jack Larson and Noel Neill to get giant close-ups and dramatic scenes of the sort they never got in previous TV cameos.
Right off, I have to quibble: first off, 99.999% of Superman's iterations are in comic book form. I realize this is out of the universe of movie critics, but, hey, your job is to not write ignorant sh*t; first, do no harm.
Superman started in the comics, and has lived as high a percentage as previously mentioned of his "life," in comic books; he's also inhabited comic strips, radio serials, movie serials, tv shows, toys, lunch-boxes, Halloween costumes, novels, short stories, dreams, imaginings, and, oh, yeah, pretty much never, with a handful of exceptions, movies.
So making the nonsensical claim Hunter does is like saying that if we discuss George W. Bush, we are discussing all the iterations of the U.S. President, ever (and obviously a few even quibble with that characterization, but never mind).
Of course, remarks like that from Hunter are typical of almost all movie critic responses to almost all films based on comic book characters, though at least he, like a smattering of occasional other reviewers as regards a handful of such movies, is positive, and not dripping with the usual personal superiority and contempt as predictably inevitable as from Lane.
In any case, in movie form, the Ur-Superman is the original: Max Fleischer's, made in 1941. (Another tic of dumb-ass movie reviewer comments as regards Superman is to -- incomprehensibly! -- refer to the Christopher Reeve/Richard Donner films of the late 1970s -- made nearly forty years after the original! -- as "the original.")
This can only be in the sense that "original" means "long after umpty other versions." (You can buy a DVD of the Fleischer cartoons, or another version here, by the way, and I'll get a few pennies, in theory; they're fun, in an extremely primitive way.)
A few years later came the various Kirk Alyn versions. We won't run through all the other history here, through George Reeves, the late Eighties Superboy, Dean Cain, and so on, because, again: Superman has had tens of thousands of appearances, in comics; the movie versions are a relatively trivial contribution, and none have really been remotely as interesting or well-written or characterized as any of hundreds of the better comics stories.
Back to Hunter.
[...] It's too bad George Reeves, the original TV tall-building leaper, isn't around to bask in a little afterglow.
Okay, I think I'm done making my point on that.
[...] More to the point, the young actor Brandon Routh seems chosen for the part not because he embodies Superman but because he specifically embodies Reeve's Superman, with dark good looks, a modest, even ego-less screen presence, a curiously muted sexuality and a sense of well-brought-up preppie's politeness and diffidence.
[...] Yet at the same time, it's not an impersonation, it's a performance. In certain ways the director, Bryan Singer (of "The Usual Suspects" and the first two "X-Men" movies), has found new stylings to enable his leading man to make the part his own.
Flying, for example; Reeve and even Reeves were coached to see flying as athletic, an expression of strength and speed. To get airborne they took off, building up a head of steam, then (oof!) bounding into the air with a diver's gymnastics as he launches off the high board. By contrast, Routh is a much less athletic, much less muscular flier. For him, flight almost seems Zen. He doesn't have to put any muscle into it and when he's flying, he's not penetrating the atmosphere (his hair hardly moves) but rather transcendentally meditating his way through it. His landings aren't controlled crashes softened by super-strong muscles and ligaments (oof! again) but a kind of delicate settling. He's a Supe who's made peace with the air. I kept expecting him to break into, "Look at me way up high, suddenly here am I, I'm flyyyyying!"
That same glee seems to run through the movie's first half, when, since the story hasn't really started, there seems plenty of time to experience the sheer joy of Superman's return.
[...] Last seen larking about on the big screen in the 1987 dud "Superman IV," the Man of Steel has been resurrected in a leaden new film not only to fight for truth, justice and the American way, but also to give Mel Gibson's passion a run for his box-office money. Where once the superhero flew up, up and away, he now flies down, down, down, sent from above to save mankind from its sins and what looked like another bummer summer.
The super-size (more than two and a half hours) "Superman Returns" was written by Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, working off a story hatched by them and the director, Bryan Singer, after what appears to have been repeat viewings of Richard Donner's "Superman."
Mr. Singer's Superman, played by Brandon Routh, is a hero of rather different emotional colors, most muted.
The Daily Planet's star reporter is in turn played by Kate Bosworth, whose glum mien and curtain of brown hair suggests that blondes really do have more fun.
It's too bad that Mr. Singer and his colleagues don't really do anything substantial with the good-guy-bad-guy routine. Superman may be a super-creation, but it's his villains rather than his dual identity that have usually given him a kick. Unlike his brooding and angst-ridden rivals in the superhero game, his alter ego is only as interesting as the comic book artist or the actor adding shades of gray to Clark Kent's business suit.
Writers, apparently, in Ms. Dargis's universe, do not exist. I guess the artists just figure out what to draw on their own. (Needless to say, editors exist even less.)
[...] Given how securely Lois remains out of the romantic picture in "Superman Returns," now saddled with both a kid and a fiancé (James Marsden), it's no surprise that some have speculated that Superman is gay.
IJWTS that until the last couple of months, one pretty much, relatively speaking, never heard this. (Batman and Robin, sure -- ancient joke; Wonder Woman? -- absolutely; in the last fifteen years or so, Aquaman, too; Superman? Nope. I have to wonder if this is connected somehow to Bryan Singer's being well-known to be out, or what is the source, and why this trope suddenly started appearing so frequently only in the last few months.)
Anyway, Dargis disapproves, with the usual sneer at comic book movies:
[...] It's hard to see what the point is beyond the usual grandiosity that comes whenever B-movie material is pumped up with ambition and money. As he proved with his first two installments of "The X-Men" franchise, Mr. Singer likes to make important pop entertainments that trumpet their seriousness as loudly as they deploy their bangs. It's hard not to think that Superman isn't the only one here with a savior complex.
Simply put, Superman Returns is as elementally old-fashioned and splendid as any fan could hope.
I won't proclaim to be a Superman loyalist. I've never read any of the comics and I've never seen the fourth Christopher Reeve Superman film.
But for a brief crush on Dean Cain in my misguided youth, I haven't followed Smallville or any of the character's latter-day incarnations. And unlike my mindset going into Singer's 2000 X-Men, I had practically no expectations for the Man of Steel's return, so it was surprising and pleasant to watch a movie recreate something I'd half-forgotten; the familiar and the new blend together to create a pastiche of nostalgia and awakening.
But enough about the movie: let's talk more about you.
Nah, I'm just messing with her.
[...] The story, by Singer and his X-Men collaborators Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, is refreshingly straightforward. It's the kind of tale that doesn't rely on backtracking to find the double-cross or someone pulling off his face to reveal that actually, the Pope did it. Routh and Bosworth have a sweet and simple chemistry that's at its most poignant during a nighttime flight over Metropolis, even if Lois isn't the most convincing heroine (pouting and making idiotic blunders like wandering onto the villain's yacht might be a superhero-movie female lead's tradition, but that doesn't mean it's not annoying).
In a story this solidly retro and unironic, a healthy dash of snark might have lightened up some of the most canonical and unbelievable moments. Singer's X-Men films had the outsider Wolverine to comment on the action and remind viewers not to take all this too seriously; Superman lacks any sort of equalizing force. Maybe the movie doesn't need it, though—Singer's film takes period indicators spanning sixty years, like Lois's '40s fashions side-by-side with camera-phones and what look like 64-bit PCs, to create a setting that defies categorization. The whole effect is much like watching The Lord of the Rings: an entire world, created for the simple purpose of telling this story that at once feels huge and intimate.
That certainly sounds promising, though a) I find it difficult to believe the movie has one-fiftieth the depth of detail of Tolkien, and b) Premiere tends to be rather a suck-up to blockbusters, more than not.
David Edelstein, generally one of the more perceptive critics around, now at New York:
From the start, Superman Returns has a pall that it never shakes off: Even the superheroics seem like stopgap measures in a world slipping grimly into the abyss.
As it turns out, the new guy, Brandon Routh, isn’t very good at all, and when he is, it’s because he’s channeling Reeve’s dithering, butterfingers Clark Kent and his sheepishly grinning Man of Steel.
[...] There’s nothing wrong with tortured emotion in comic-book pictures. The genre’s writers and illustrators have kept their superheroes fresh by finding dark underbellies and kinky variations. (How about that gay Batgirl?)
I dunno. I'm thinking he's talking about the flurry of dopey news attention from non-comics sources about the revised Kathy Kane, Batwoman, but why bother getting such petty details right? (And the reason I ignored the story is because it was news a couple of decades ago when a comic super-hero was gay, but, you know, hey: not the mid-Eighties anymore; plenty of gay superheros since then.)
[...] No chance with this Lois, Kate Bosworth, the blonde surfer-queen of Blue Crush. She isn’t a bad actress, but she’s motorless, with guileless little eyes; and the hotshot investigative reporter is now an overprotective single mom with a frail boy and an earnest fiancé (James Marsden) whom she doesn’t have the wit to manipulate.
The bigger problem is that Singer’s weighty rhythms are disastrous for Superman, and the movie actually gets heavier in its last half-hour. Spacey’s Luthor—until now less a supervillain than a clammy businessman—mutilates Superman with sociopathic relish: The sequence is so ugly that Luthor’s lame, jokey comeuppance feels monstrously inadequate. But by then the audience has moved far ahead of Singer. A scene in which Lois tries to persuade her fiancé to turn his plane around and help the disabled superhero could have been compressed into ten seconds instead of dragged out to a minute, and the final scenes would make Wagner check his watch. It’s not that the movie is 157 minutes; it’s that it feels like 157 minutes.
[...] Superman also is a premise that has worked in virtually all media: comic books, comic strips, animation, the radio (where much of his back story was developed), four television series over 50 years and a big-budget movie cycle in the '70s and '80s.
Oh, look, someone who gets it right; be still, my beating heart.
He also works in "Superman Returns," an immensely satisfying revival and continuation of that Warner Bros. movie series [...]
It's not quite a runaway success, the casting is hit-and-miss and there's nothing hugely innovative in the story line or the effects. In an era full of superhero movies, it's not likely to have anything close to the impact of the '79 version with Christopher Reeve.
But the film is magnificently mounted, it moves like a speeding bullet and it's so respectful of Superman traditions that even the pickiest of die-hard fans should love it. After a lapse of two decades, it revitalizes the franchise and makes it seem fresh and alive.
It's a tough act to follow and Routh doesn't quite do it. Still, he's likable, he has charisma, he looks like a cross between Reeve and Tom Cruise, he mimics Reeve's charm well in several scenes and he's about the best we could expect in an impossible situation.
The same cannot be said for much of the rest of the casting, including Frank Langella, Parker Posey, James Marsden -- all surprisingly lackluster -- and Kate Bosworth, whose somber Lois has none of the spunky appeal Margot Kidder brought to the role.
Are we sensing a pattern about Bosworth? I've not seen a kind word yet.
[...] Effects junkies also may reasonably complain that, for all its mega-budget, the visuals of the first CGI-enhanced Superman do not exactly boggle the senses, advance the art form or seem that much more impressive that the non-digital work in "Superman" I and II.
But, while hardly groundbreaking, the visual effect of a man convincingly soaring through the air still imparts quite a thrill, and director Bryan Singer skillfully uses it to carry the movie and anchor several exhilarating action sequences.
And some of the film's weaker casting choices are made up for by Kevin Spacey, whose Lex Luthor strikes just the right chord of cheeky demented genius and gives the film an agreeable touch of comedy and anarchy. It's his best movie performance since "American Beauty."
Golly; quite a contradiction to those who think such words are incomprehensible about a "comic book movie."
Above all, the film works off the dedication of writer-director Singer ("X-Men" I and II), whose love of Superman tradition and the Superman movies is legendary[....]
[...] At the same time, the film has a life and pull of its own that comes from Singer's unique vision and desire to revitalize the character and make him relevant. It's a nice blend, and it gives "Superman Returns" a spark that few action blockbusters of its class can match.
"Superman Returns" is a hummingbird in reverse. The tiny beast shouldn't be able to fly but does, while the massive movie should soar but only sporadically gets off the ground.
The studio made a number of smart moves that should have led to something better than this unwieldy sprawl of a movie....
There are far too many situations, however, in this two-hour and 40-minute epic, when the big guy is not in the air, and, unfortunately, this cumbersome, overly long film doesn't quite know what to do with itself the rest of the time.
It's not that "Superman Returns" doesn't have any ideas, it's got too many; this is a film that tries too hard and wants too much. Absent the acting or the script resources to do all it would like, the picture's multiple agendas conflict with each other instead of cohering. And a rolling series of miscalculations cripple even its best intentions.
The wrench of having an emotionally important person coming back into your changed life is one of the things "Superman Returns" would like to deal with, but the film can't manage it convincingly. Bosworth is a game actress (as the surfing movie "Blue Crush" proved) but not noticeably more, and even superhero movies need performers with depth if they are to make emotional connections.
The Bosworth curse continues. If she reads reviews, she can't be feeling good today.
[...] The film's good-versus-evil subplot also lacks conviction. The nefarious scheme Lex Luthor has in the works is a long time coming into focus and is not particularly interesting once it does. "Superman Returns'" biggest miscalculation, it turns out, is having Spacey play the nominal villain. The actor and the director have an illustrious history (Spacey won his first Oscar for Singer's superb "The Usual Suspects") but giving him this role was simply a bad idea, especially when the results are compared with "Spider-Man 2's" Doc Ock or how brilliantly Ian McKellen created the villain in the "X-Men" films.
Unable to decide if Luthor is an amusing character (à la Gene Hackman, who played him in the 1978 "Superman") or one we should take seriously, Spacey tries to split the difference, with unhappy results.
So much for "his best movie performance since 'American Beauty.'"
Incidentally, my personal nomination for Worst Performance By An Excellent Actor In a Superhero Film is Tommy Lee Jones in That Film We Won't Acknowledge Exists, in which he was apparently directed to play Two-Face as if he were a bad clone (Bizarro?) of Jack Nicholson's Joker. "Just cackle like mad, Tommy Lee -- your character is CRAZY" seems to have been the operative instruction. (And, of course, the entire point of Two-Face, the thing that makes him interesting, and not the Joker is that he's one-half, and one-half of the time, sane, good old virtuous DA Harvey Dent, who will help Batman -- when the coin flip turns up the unmarred side; but you'd never know from That Movie.)
But back to Turan:
[...] That choice also makes it difficult to take Luthor seriously in the film's late stages when the story line insists we do. It's not till that point that "Superman Returns" works up any real tension or jeopardy for its title character, and even then the situation is so sadistic in tone its hard to take any pleasure in it.
Insufficient acting is a weakness throughout the film; when the ghost of Marlon Brando (as father Jor-El in a vintage hologram) gives one of your most memorable performances, you're in trouble. With so many agendas and the lack of a consistent tone, scenes of Superman actually rescuing people is a smaller part of this movie than it should be. Star Routh's presence and the joys of flight keep "Superman Returns" alive, but all those missteps dog its heels, holding it back like little touches of Kryptonite in the night.
Ooh. Little shiv of Kryptonite there, too, though at least not red or gold.
Peter Travers, well, I think this is a positive review, but it's so rambly and ambivalent that it's a bit hard to be sure.
Mostly he talks about how he prefers Batman. Which is very nice. Again, enough about the film, let's talk more about you, Peter. But I won't bother to quote. Also, was a law passed mandating that every reviewer compare Eva Marie Saint to the Virgin Mary, and Superman to the Big J? Apparently. Though at least only a few descend to The Biggest Superman Cliche Of All (you can guess it -- yes, Travers uses it).
[...] Singer's passion for the DC Comics superhero is never in doubt. And that passion extends to the 1978 Superman movie, directed by Richard Donner and starring Christopher Reeve, who made a humane Man of Steel and played his alter ego Clark Kent with a bumbling, bespectacled charm.
Here we see "extends to" in its little-known meaning of "is limited to." But we've already established that.
[...] But enough of the plot spoilers.
Too late; most critics seem to feel their job consists of describing all the twists of the plot at length. Once again, I feel like I've already seen a movie I've not yet seen. Thanks, guys! I realize it's a heck of a lot easier than actually having insight, and something to say, let alone saying it well, but, really, you're too kind. Meanwhile, on the character front, which way will the Spacey coin-flip go?
[...] Tossing his wig at a disappointed heir, baldy boy Lex snaps, "You keep this, the rest is mine." Spacey powers the movie with ripe, nasty fun. Parker Posey pushes too hard as Kitty, the chatty handmaiden to Lex's Satanic Majesty. And Bosworth (newly brunette and bland) underdoes it as Lois.
And it's a plus for the Space-man, and, well, will anyone say anything kind about Bosworth? How bad can she be?
Which is how Bryan Singer treats him in "Superman Returns," the fine pop resurrection opening in theaters tonight. Unlike last year's "Batman Begins," this isn't a reinvention of a beloved franchise. It's a renewal, a continuation of what has come before.
The upshot of all this veneration is a generally thrilling entertainment that's not quite the grand slam you want it to be. "Superman Returns" travels from Metropolis to the North Pole, from outer space to the ocean's depths, but in the end it feels just a little Smallville . You don't mind terribly, but you're conscious of the missed chance.
The story line in "Superman Returns" never convincingly gels -- something about Luthor getting hold of magic crystals from the Fortress of Solitude and using them to seed a new continent off the Eastern Seaboard, with a bit of green Kryptonite to keep any stray superheroes at bay.
Incidentally, every single reviewer who has mentioned this -- which is all of them, save one, that I've read -- has used the precise phrase "magic crystals." Since last I looked, Kryptonian science isn't "magic" -- "magic" is, in fact, an entirely different, and extremely elaborate, if somewhat malleable, thing in the DC Universe, and the other major thing Superman has always been vulnerable to -- I have to wonder if there's something in a press release using that phrase, or whether everyone simply Magically uses the same cliche?
[...] What's missing from the film is the popcorn exhilaration you get from action scenes that build dynamically throughout a narrative. Mayhem junkies will be happy with an early sequence where Superman....
In general, though, the film never quite establishes the necessary momentum. Singer tends to his main characters while stranding gifted talents like Parker Posey (as Luthor's moll) and Kal Penn (as a henchman) on the sidelines, and he springs exactly one big plot surprise and doesn't do much with it. Presumably there'll be a payoff in the next film, but that leaves this one in the lurch.
So it's a good film but not a great one; at the very least, you can tell the people behind "Superman Returns" have an abiding fondness for this 70-year-old pop myth.
Sole mention of Bosworth here?
Kate Bosworth with dyed brown tresses and not enough edge....
It's the kindest thing yet.
Alright, I'm having trouble this afternoon getting to some sites I'd normally check (Village Voice, San Francisco papers, a few others), and we don't want this to run on forever. The big gun: Ebert hates it.
It's no fun being Superman. Your life is a lie, there's nobody you can confide in, you're in love but can't express it, and you're on call 24 hours a day. But it can be fun being in a Superman movie. The original "Superman" (1978) was an exuberance of action and humor, because Christopher Reeve could play the character straight and let us know he was kidding.
I seem to be the only person who thinks that, in fact, he hammed it up like mad, and was completely unconvincing, though not without a certain getting-the-character-all-wrong verve. Well, maybe me and David Edelstein.
[...] Now the Man of Steel is back in Bryan Singer's "Superman Returns," which, like its hero, spends a lot of time dead in the water.
This is a glum, lackluster movie in which even the big effects sequences seem dutiful instead of exhilarating. The newsroom of the Daily Planet, filled with eccentricity and life in the earlier movies, now seems populated by corporate drones. Jimmy Olsen, the copy boy, such a brash kid, seems tamed and clueless. Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has lost her dash and pizzazz, and her fiance, Richard White (James Marsden), regards her like a deer caught in the headlights. Even the editor, Perry White (Frank Langella), comes across less like a curmudgeon, more like an efficient manager.
One problem is with the casting.
Gee, Rog, I'd never have gotten that idea from what you already said.
[...] It's strange how little dialogue the title character has in the movie. Clark Kent is monosyllabic, and Superman is microsyllabic.
Superman is vulnerable to one, and only one, substance: kryptonite. He knows this. We know this. Lex Luthor knows this.
Here's a typical example of how Roger pretty much always makes major errors when talking about comics, a form he's mentioned many times that he never read as either child or adult. As I previously noted, Superman is, in fact, completely vulnerable to magic.
And, in fact, he's been vulnerable to all sorts of energies and forces over the years, from technology from Apokolips to Phantom Zone projectors, to red sun energy, to being whaled on by guys like Mongul, to Black Mercy plants, to the Parasite, to, well, the list goes on through hundreds of items. Superman would be really boring if he weren't vulnerable to lots of stuff.
Yeah, that's what lots of people say he actually is. They're not impaired by actually knowing what the eff they're talking about. Like Roger.
[...] There is I suppose a certain bottom line of competence in "Superman Returns," and superhero fans will want to see the movie just for its effects, its plot outrages and its moments of humor. But when the hero, his alter ego, his girlfriend and the villain all seem to lack any joy in being themselves, why should we feel joy at watching them?
But, then, only on rare occasion does Roger like or get a superhero film.
So, we finish with the writer with the greatest contempt for comics and science fiction of all, ladies and gentlemen, Anthony Lane.
[...] Dotted here and there will be Supermaniacs—some of them sporting red underpants, others in panty hose of royal blue, none of them happily married.
I've known a lot of happily married Superman fans over the years, but let's not miss a chance to dismiss as childish fools anyone who doesn't share Mr. Lane's taste, shall we? And rumor has it that Alex Ross, about as big a "Supermaniac" as there is, is very happily married (if maybe, granted, a bit of a goof over superheros -- but, hey, he's made how many hundreds of thousands of dollars [or more?] out of that interest, so who gets to laugh?).
[...] Last, and quite alone, will be a weary cinéaste, submitting himself to two and a half hours of blockbuster because, and only because, it represents a final chance to witness the union of Eva Marie Saint and Marlon Brando.
Lane has to give some excuse for seeing the movie; hard to explain that he'd otherwise lower himself.
[...] Brando resumes the role of Jor-El, which sounds to me like a failed airline but is in fact the Kryptonish name of our hero’s father.
What a card. Hilarious, eh?
[...] ...moviegoers will be asking why, if the director, Bryan Singer, was hellbent on resurrecting a Brando performance, he had to pick this one.
Because, clearly, that's why Singer chose to do the film. The director of The Usual Suspects, and Apt Pupil couldn't otherwise want to work with sh*t, right?
Why not bring back Terry Malloy, from “On the Waterfront,” mumbling reassurance from a bloodied mouth? Who wouldn’t take advice from Stanley Kowalski? Or Colonel Kurtz? One scene with him and even the Man of Steel would snap.
Slightly amusing, that, I'll grant. It doesn't make any sense, but it is slightly amusing.
[...] Superman, we learn, has been AWOL for five years. He claims to have been visiting his native planet, now a ruinous wasteland.
Claims? Does Lane know something we don't know?
[...] Hell hath no fury like an earthling scorned.
One of the many things that annoys me about Lane is that I'm completely convinced that he sits in his seat, thinking how bored he is, and how brilliant everyone will think he is for writing such lines.
[...] With his band of merry thugs, he grabs magic crystals from Superman’s arctic hideout, which is wondrously framed as a kind of frozen cathedral. What these are I never really gathered....
Apparently there's a consensus that they're magic crystals. (Although Ebert claims they're made out of Krytonite; I suspect neither is correct, and that they're part of the crystalline growth of the Fortress of Solitude we saw in the two Donner pictures, which is to say, Kryptonian technology; obviously Superman's Fortress is Kryptonian in origin (in modern incarnations; in earlier versions he just built it), and obviously not made out of Kryptonite, but, hey, maybe I'm wrong. And maybe Superman can shoot forcebeams out of his hands and give kisses that induce amnesia; who the hell knows?)
[...] Picture my disappointment as I realized that, for all the pizzazz of “Superman Returns,” its global weapon of choice would not be terrorism, or nuclear piracy, or dirty bombs. It would be real estate. What does Warner Bros. have in mind for the next installment? Superman overhauls corporate pension plans? Luthor screws Medicare?
Well, sure, after all, we've never seen a film in which the threat is terrorism, or nuclear warheads, or dirty bombs; if the movie went that way, we'd be awe-struck by the originality, and what a mighty threat it would present to Superman, wouldn't we? Clear thinking, fer sure.
The actor may toy with his lines, but you feel a glazing of ennui as he realizes that the whole movie is stuck in toytown, where depth is against the law.
As is you showing any in your reviews of comic book or sf movies.
And get this:
The fact is that the only first-rate work to have fed off comic books was done by Roy Lichtenstein forty years ago....
Makes me want to haul about the dialogue about "tracers" from one of my favorite films, Chasing Amy. (My guess: Lane is not a big Kevin Smith fan.)
Let's cut to the chase: Bosworth critique?
The new Lois Lane, Kate Bosworth, is not a patch on Margot Kidder...
Man, I'm so surprised.
But wait, what's the rest of that sentence?
...or, for that matter, on Teri Hatcher, in the TV series....
Okay, caught: Anthony Lane watched The Adventures of Lois And Clark.
Oh, Anthony! How could you?
Oh, and the Biggest Superman Cliche Remark Of All Time?
Yes, you guessed it:
[...] Mind you, if Superman is such a paragon, how come he wants to save a species so universally dumb that not a single member of it recognizes him when he puts on a pair of glasses?
Some people prefer Roy Lichtenstein to Jack Kirby. It happens.
Still, I think Anthony Lane is a wonderful writer, witty and perceptive, with a real gift for turning a phrase. He's often more entertaining than the movies he reviews. I read every paragraph of his I can get my eyeballs on.
"Last, and quite alone, will be a weary cinéaste, submitting himself to two and a half hours of blockbuster because, and only because, it represents a final chance to witness the union of Eva Marie Saint and Marlon Brando."
Fun sentence, but it screams "I'm a douchebag!"
anonymousgf: was anonymous99 already taken? i prefer a pseudonymous identity myself, once you are picking one you might as well go for it!
What can I say. I liked it. It's not the Superman I remember from the comics, but it's not a bad continuation of the earlier WB films (I'd say it's the best of them, but that isn't a particularly high hurdle to cross).