Tuesday, March 20, 2007

He Asks for Patience...

Happy Fourth Anniversary of the Iraq War, one and all. Four years ago this morning, I was arguing with trigger-happy fans on the now-defunct Kingdom/Swamp boards, furious over the war's launch. "You've got your fucking war," I posted, prompting mucho heat from those who wanted war, but didn't want to fess up to war mongering.

Everything those of us who opposed this war said would happen before it began has not only come to pass, but every reason we gave for not launching war has proven to be valid. The only lies that have been uncovered were the always-dubious reasons to go to war -- lies, lies, and more lies.

And on this anniversary,
  • sans irony, President Bush

  • asked for patience this week.

  • Four years since he ignored all calls for patience with the inspection process,

  • since he recklessly plunged our country and our allies and Iraq (and the world) into this maelstrom of violence,

  • since he ignored all calls, pleas, protests for patience, diplomacy, due process,

  • since ignoring reality to pursue his own insane agenda, heedless of the consequences (save the fantasy he and his compadres fabricated), he asks for patience.

  • In preparation for this momentous call for patience, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow patiently
  • told CCN's Ed Henry to "zip it,"

  • a demonstration of Snow's impeccable, Fox-News-cultivated tact you can see here for yourself.

  • Of course, the momentous occasion of the anniversary has resulted in this event being downplayed (CNN's own immediate followup, to Ed Henry: "Ed, if it weren’t such a solemn day we could do about five minutes on that whole zip it exchange, but because of the the anniversary, we will let it go at that..."), though it is the most succinct summary imaginable for the rampant arrogance, hubris and power abuse that led us down this bloody path.

    Fuck these clowns; their arrogance is at last being challenged by the inevitable toll of reality -- not their manufactured reality, but reality -- and time.

    May it all crash down around their ears without taking the rest of us out.

    Happy fucking anniversary, U.S. of A.

    U R Invited!

    I'd be remiss not to mention, after the attention I gave to Frank Miller's invite to yours truly to attend the NYC premiere of 300, the fact that Jeanine Atkins and Peter Laird invited Marge and I to this week's Massachusetts premiere/preview of the new CGI Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles feature. Alas, it's timing (late afternoon) didn't jive with Marge's or my work schedule -- especially given the additional hour the drive entails for us now, living further north up I-91 -- but the invitation is greatly appreciated!

    As with 300, reckon we'll (or I'll) see it with the rest of the country.

    Former Mirage Studio compadre, Cowboys of Moo Mesa and Bog creator, and all around sweet guy Ryan Brown also sent the invite, here, to a parallel TMNT event in Ohio; again, distance prevents our taking advantage of this, but such is life.

    [It was great to hear from Ryan, in part because of Bog -- I'm making some plans that (if Ryan approves) will bring some new life to Bog after a number of years laying fallow, as bog-beasts do at times. More on that later, after Ryan and I can talk...]

    It's been fun, too, seeing the anticipation among some of the Center for Cartoon Studies students for this new TMNT movie. I've no idea how it might be impacting on Peter, Kevin or the remaining Mirage crew, but a whole generation that grew up on the Turtles will soon get their shot at seeing this new take on the now-venerable heroes of their childhoods that played such a key role in their own lives. I hope to attend one of the opening night shows, if only to see what the audience is like, and how they react.

    It's fascinating to me, personally, how little of any substance has been written about the Turtles phenomenon and Mirage Studios in particular. It's the great untold story of comics in particular and the pop culture in general, and it's one well worth someone telling one day, in all its ups, downs and compelling human dimensions.

    "Frank Miller invites you to attend a screening of 300 IMAX on March 8, 2007 at 7:30 pm at Lincoln Square IMAX 1998 Broadway, NYC. Please see attached invitation..." (visible here, now that the event itself is safely past)

    By now, most of you will have seen 300, so I feel it's appropriate to post my own views on the film later this week. I caught 300 opening weekend locally with some of my CCS student/compadres; though it was a 4:45 matinee, the theater was packed.

    It's been somewhat amusing to see, too, the ripples, including the
  • expected backlash against the film's caricature of history, Persia and its implications given current strained US/Iranian relations (or non-relations) and the Bush-fomented nuclear standoff,

  • and this petition against (chuckle) Warner Bros. prompted by ire against the film and all its stands for in the minds of those infuriated by its existence.

  • In the opening volley of the Iranian outrage directed against 300 visible to us stateside,
  • Siamack Baniameri wrote, "300 depicts King Xerxes as a fat homosexual and Persians as deformed and stupid monsters similar to what the Orcs looked like in The Lord of the Rings. Spartans on the other hand are revealed as rocket scientists trapped in bodies of Greek gods with comic book bravery and constant worry of losing their beloved and hard-earned "freedom and democracy" to the damn Middle Easterners."

    Well, almost.

    is in fact presented as power-body-sculpted as the Spartans, except he's got all kinds of "shit in this face" (Tarantino Pulp Fiction speak for facial adornment) and moves and speaks with the narcissistic bisexual/homoeroticism Mel Gibson assigned to the gliding devil of his Passion (of the Christ) (which, by the way, was staged with techniques stolen from Mario Bava's '60s horror films). This is especially funny in the context of the Greek/Spartan homosexuality that history proper designates as part and parcel of their culture (and warrior classes); as Bob already pointed out in his comments to this blog, the macho elements of 300 are as homoerotic as anything mainstream American cinema has yielded since -- uh, Alexander, which was just over a year or so ago.

    And the Spartans hardly come across as "rocket scientists", though those bods are clearly Greek classical in their perfect pec-and-ab (CGI-enhanced) refinements: the Spartans, in fact, come across as reckless warriors. In his graphic novel, Frank Miller made a point of adhering to the Spartan mode of warfare he made key to his narrative (the reason for the rejection of the hunchback as fit warrior material); for the film, director Zach Snyder adheres to Frank's stated reason for said hunchback's rejection -- then shows his Spartans time and time again dispensing with any reasonable strategic advantage to indulge more vain-glorious onscreen posing and mayhem, however vulnerable it might leave them. It's stupid, really, resulting at one point in a supposedly tragic death (a decapitation that looks as patently phoney as any seen in the post-CGI revolution; Snyder should have called in Tom Savini or the KNB crew) that is risible, neutering the consequences of any conviction. So, if I may be so un-PC blunt, from fag-boy Xerxes to dumbo Spartans, it's all a CGI cartoon, as so many action films are today.

    Let's face it, we're in a pepla revival -- pepla being the Italian Hercules-inspired wave of muscle-man movies that flooded international movie screens and TV screens in the late '50s and the '60s [PS: see Tim Lucas's comment on this post, below -- and note his correcting my initial post misspelling of pepla, which I indeed, off the top of my head, misspelled pebla first time around; oops!]. And 300, the movie, is a fucking great peplum, and as ridiculous as any of 'em. Instead of Carlo Rambaldi rubber monsters, we get CGI orcs (and yes, they do come across as orcs in the film, and have no corresponding source in Frank Miller's graphic novel); instead of paper mache rocks and fog and Spanish beaches, we get CGI-created fake cliffs and oceans.

    But "history proper" has little, if anything, to do with the kind of full-blown pepla -- a permutation of the fantastique more than historical epics per se -- imagery and kinetics 300 the movie revels in, any more than it informed Ridley Scott's Gladiator (which was and remains a much better film, but more on that later). For that matter, the ignorance most critics betrayed last week about 300's source material says a great deal: compared to director Zach Snyder's slow-mo celebration of machismo, violence and war, Frank Miller's 300 is a model of cunning storytelling economy and restraint -- and by far the more focused, successful creation.

  • Here's the most insightful and pragmatic analysis of the international 300 situation I've read to date,
  • from the online Payvand's Iran News (posted March 9th, "The Persian Empire Strikes Back"), in which Iranian author Darius Kadivar places the pre-release anger in its proper contexts.

    This is essential reading; Kadivar ultimately poses the core questions, "What is more shocking: To be depicted as Villains in a film that is supposed to be anything but a history lesson about an event that took place 25 centuries ago? Or, To be associated to an entity that exists no more that is the Persian Empire itself ever since its removal by a widely popular Islamic Revolution that put an end for ever to what its supporters considered as an evil and corrupt institution?"

    He continues, "What the controversy about this film reveals as in the case of Oliver Stone’s movie Alexander is that the Persian Empire, with or without its King or legitimate heir, still exists in the minds of all Iranians and probably transcends even political convictions. It probably has more to do with our own Ego ( justified or not ) or is it a Freudian sense of self preservation and of our role as a nation in the History of Mankind?"

    More to the point, Kadivar asks, "Do we as viewers have [to] adopt a partisan attitude towards a film we have not even seen?"

    This places the initial controversy, in Islamic terms, within the realm of the overreaction to the pro-Islamic Mohammed: Messenger of God (which, despite it's being pro-Islamic and a film by a devout Islamist, prompted violence in mere anticipation of its premiere), and in Christian terms in the arena of the pre-release outrage fomented by Monty Python's The Life of Brian, Jean-Luc Godard's Mary, and Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ.

    And that, my friends, is meat for another post, later in the week.

    Now, given the fact the film has been widely seen, the outrage has only escalated, as the boxoffice for the film soars. So it goes with such controversies, by and large, though 300 had its own exceptional pre-release buzz (triggered in part by those ravishing trailers, the most effective in recent memory).

    I gotta run --

    Have a great Tuesday!

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