Thursday, March 28, 2013
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Depression is an illness which makes normal routine a struggle and baseline competence an achievement. I guess that makes Hollywood a college graduate with depression and the moviegoing public its patient, supportive parent, given the fawning reception for Ben Affleck's Argo for its incredible accomplishments in not being awful. Argo combines the familiar true story of a well-circulated Wired article with familiar thriller tropes to become a bowl of plain vanilla ice cream, but helpfully lacking the insects and metal shavings we the audience have come to tolerate in our frozen treats.
I got that Argo was only just okay, but the reviews portrayed a film that was almost magical in its ability to be perfectly fine, elevating my expectations above the low bar that Argo realistically sets for itself and clears with respectable but unimpressive skill. My father tells me that movies are his ultimate escape. "You sit down in the dark for two hours and forget about everything else." I don't know if a movie can numb my pain, but I do know that I'll at least need a stronger prescription than Argo.
Rating: Your friends with defensively say, "Yeah, well, I liked it," but you won't feel any better about that time and money you sunk into seeing Argo, or anything else for that matter.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
On Monday I visited Rivergate, a crumbling monument to a bygone age of middle-class decadence. They have the biggest Party City I've ever seen, but the paint is chipping off the whimsically-colored spotlights on the outside of the building, the whites of the sign are yellow, and the store has looked that way for years.
The stock inside tells a similar tale. This is my favorite example: A Power Rangers treat bucket that is so old that the sticker on its front has begun peeling off of it. The store has taken longer to sell this product than it was built to last.
This costume accessory at least had the decency not to fall apart on the rack, but it's actually much older than the treat bucket with the peeling sticker. This little number had me flashing back to the beginning of middle school.
"Yu-Gi-Oh!" just means "King of Games" in Japanese. It was a cartoon about teenagers playing in elaborate card game tournaments organized by eccentric millionaires. This gauntlet was worn by all the contestants of the first such tournament storyline. The stars are Star Chips, which in the show were pulled off, won and lost by the players. Contestants who had filled every slot on their gauntlet with a Star Chip were allowed entrance into a castle to compete in the final rounds of the tournament.
It's cute that drawings of the brass knuckle tips are printed straight onto the glove. I'd wish that they had made actual tips out of brass-colored plastic, but then the treat bucket taught me that glue cannot be trusted and they surely would have fallen off by now.
I had no idea what I was getting into with this issue of The Night Man, but it had me pleasantly surprised.
By day, the Night Man is Johnny Domino, a hilarious 90s stereotype sporting a ponytail, a tough guy earring, and Natural Born Killers sunglasses. In this issue he visits his grandfather in the hospital, who is very upset that Johnny changed his last name from "Domingo" for his unspecified career in show business. (I was left wondering, is he an actor? Stuntman? What? They never say). Johnny is sad because he only changed his name to make it sound cooler, rather than out of shame for his ethnic heritage that his grandfather accuses him of.
Like his day job, Johnny's heroic persona is similarly vague. This issue provides not the faintest suggestion as to why Johnny became a costumed vigilante. It was surprising to realize what an unusual decision it really is considering how often I see it being made in superhero media. I found myself craving a reason for Night Man's brand of caped street justice, even if it could only make sense to him, like Peter Parker's creative interpretation of his late uncle's will. I guess this was because Night Man's angst over his grandfather's disappointment in him was so adorable that I wanted to learn what kind of angst makes him put on a cape and trespass on rooftops at night.
Johnny's grandfather is aware of and deeply respects the Night Man. Johnny is forgiven for changing his name after revealing his secret identity to the old man, who conveniently dies moments after completely forgiving his grandson.
Fortunately, the good folks at The Night Man know that we didn't come just for disappointed grandfathers. Interrupting the grandpa drama are two action scenes involving the Night Man. In the first, presented in the story as curiously well-blocked TV news footage, Night Man beats up an aggressive junkie. In the second, Night Man breaks up some gang warfare and uses his cape as a tourniquet to save the life of an innocent child caught in the crossfire.
The gang scene is far and away my favorite part of the issue. At times it seems like it's trying to be serious, but mostly comes off like an action movie that merrily invites you to play along with its exciting but absurd imitation of real life.
Night Man seems to think teenagers only join gangs "to prove their manhood with guns... and blood," that these "gang-bangers" are just one loving lecture from a father figure away from coming to their senses and giving up the gangsta way. That appears to be what the writer wants us to take away, since Night Man's attitude isn't rebutted by a narrator or later circumstances of the plot. In reality, I'm sure there's more to youth gang membership than that, but this kind of sentimental wishful thinking is right at home in The Night Man. That the ailments of civilization can be cured by big, strong men patting kids on the shoulder is the perfect pitch for a superhero comic to sell.