Amoeblog

Iron Deficiency: Iron Man 3 (2013)

Posted by Charles Reece, May 21, 2013 10:06am | Post a Comment

I decided not to see Iron Man 3 because it seems a return to old way of adapting superheroes to the screen: focus on the star, not the costume (e.g., Stallone's Judge Dredd); throw away most everything ever established in the comics about the character and/or his villains (e.g., just about any TV adaptation from the 70s on, such as Spider-Man); and those behind the adaptation are more interested in making the superhero more "believable," which is another way of saying they're not particularly interested in the character but in "telling their own story" (e.g., Ang Lee's exploring what went into Bruce Banner's rage in Hulk, or Superman giving up his powers in Superman II to live a boring bourgeois life with Lois for 30 minutes of screen time). That is, we get a Tony Stark pondering what makes him Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr., is tired of wearing the suit, basically), a funny kid sidekick for him while he's hanging out in Tennessee, and the Mandarin becomes just another white guy in a business suit. It's not that I'm some purist about the comics, which are often quite terrible, but these alterations tend to come from people who are less imaginative than the comics creators, believing they can improve upon the original by throwing out the more outrageous and fantastic qualities that served to make the comics distinct.

Before the influence of movie studios, the comics industry used to practice the Jack Kirby Rule: a ridiculous premise is always better if realized with a cosmic roundhouse from some brute in a colorful costume. There's nothing particularly interesting about Tony Stark questioning his status as a superhero. It would, at least, be weird if he were doing this in a soliloquy while wearing his armor in the middle of a space battle, though. Otherwise, it's just some normal looking dude worrying about a problem that has no relevance to anything in life. So why would anyone want to sit through that?

As for what was done to the Mandarin:

[Director and co-writer Shane] Black and co-writer Drew Pearce proposed this argument in favor of The Mandarin twist: “What if he’s sort of this all-things-to-all-people uber-terrorist? What if he is the myth, and in the end that is what we’re dealing with, a created myth that [a research group] has perpetuated and cobbled together using elements from popular consciousness,” Black says.

Instead of possibly making a terrorist of Chinese origin who has a point to his terrorism and who could've been played by a Chinese man in a non-racist manner, we get a media creation that is about nothing in particular, cobbled together from revolutionary and religious fundamentalist stereotypes to mask a mistake made by a Western for-profit scientific organization (the plot if needed). I guess this is a big metaphor for the type of conspiracy theory where wars are used by the US to mask a hidden agenda. Terrorists aren't really opposed to a liberal ideology -- who could be? -- but are just a state-driven media creation to distract us from the real threat ... whatever that might be, but it's internal. So the battle of wills takes place against the same ideological backdrop: a good scientist businessman versus an evil one. Questioning the backdrop would've been a worthwhile alteration to the simple-minded comic book. But leaving aside ideology in adapting one of the most ideological of all superheroes makes it easier to sympathize with Tony Stark, who is a fantasy of what Slavoj Zizek calls the liberal communist:

According to liberal communist ethics, the ruthless pursuit of profit is counteracted by charity: charity is part of the game, a humanitarian mask hiding the underlying economic exploitation. Developed countries are constantly ‘helping’ undeveloped ones (with aid, credits etc), and so avoiding the key issue: their complicity in and responsibility for the miserable situation of the Third World. As for the opposition between ‘smart’ and ‘non-smart’, outsourcing is the key notion. You export the (necessary) dark side of production – disciplined, hierarchical labour, ecological pollution – to ‘non-smart’ Third World locations (or invisible ones in the First World). The ultimate liberal communist dream is to export the entire working class to invisible Third World sweat shops.

That Tony built his arms dealing empire with a sociopathic disregard for its consequences, which was a feature of the first film, has been replaced by the question of whether he's really a superhero or not -- obviously he's heroic, but just how heroic is he really? The same question surely haunted Andrew Carnegie. A contrast here with a revolutionary, really Chinese Mandarin might've proven interesting. His terrorism could've equally served the opposition against capitalism and the way communism is being used to make tools of his people in the service of cheaper products for the global marketplace. Now, that would be an interesting topic for soul searching in Tony, the liberal communists, and the communists themselves. But it would've been critical of the Chinese regime, not passed their censors, thusly hurting the economic chances of the film there (which is an important market that Hollywood tries desperately to not offend). It's best to change Chinese characters to white occidentals. Like so much much crap culture, it's why this movie sounds so whitewashed that makes it worth thinking about at all.

Huge Vinyl Collection to Hit Amoeba Hollywood on 7/21. Eastern European Classical Gems Galore!

Posted by Rubin Meisel, June 28, 2012 12:40pm | Post a Comment

We were lucky enough to buy a huge collection of vinyl from a well-known collector who lived in Kew Gardens in the New York Borough of Queens and collected a bit of every thing. My task is to describe what, in my 39 years of experience, is the most eclectic collection of classical music I have ever seen.

Normally, when one sees a large collection of classical, you see Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, and so forth, performed by world renowned artists. But Ed (withholding his last name) collected mainly 20th-century composers from every European country and a lot of American music that has been unjustly forgotten.

I think I know my composers, but there were a number of them in this collection that I have never heard of and whose existence is scantly documented in reference books that are in the English language.

One of the few sanguine effects of Eastern European communism was that each country had it’s own state-run record label that methodically recorded the music of every prominent living composer.

Here are a few examples:

 

COUNTRY LABEL
 Soviet Union  Melodiya
Romania  Electrocord
Bulgaria Balkaton
Hungary Hungaroton
Czechoslovakia Supraphon
East Germany Nova












I could go on but, suffice to say, even Slovenia is represented

Continue reading...

THE LEGEND OF BAGGE'S RAND

Posted by Charles Reece, November 15, 2009 11:56pm | Post a Comment
Novelist, scenarist, actress, "objectivist" and basic propagandist for rapacious capitalism Ayn Rand is someone I've always tended to steer clear of. My aversion is due more to her muddy and hypocritical thinking, as well as a writing style that's about as accomplished as a cheap 1930s sci-fi magazine, than any sort of challenge one encounters reading Leo Strauss and other conservative thinkers. But the ironically named Reason Magazine tends to talk about her, and their chief cartoonist, Peter Bagge (of Hate fame) has a new strip about what the mention of her name elicits in the circles he frequents (over-caffeinated Seattleites, I guess). To any of my pals who might have an opinion on her, she's considered something like what American Idol winners are to music, namely for people who don't like philosophy. You know, Alan Greenspan. Since I can't speak for Bagge's choice of friends, I'm only going to take issue with his final (and I note hysterically rendered) panel:


 

...And, this being a movie blog, in particular how it's contradicted by Rand's role in the Hollywood Red-baiting of the late 40s and 50s. In 1944, to combat communist infiltration in Hollywood, Walt Disney and some other conservatives formed The Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. Some of its most prominent members were John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Ward Bond and Leo McCarey. The organization's statement of principles can be read here. Another associate was Rand, who wrote a manifesto for the group in 1950 titled "Screen Guide for Americans," which was a program for weeding out Red influence from the pictures with enumerated commandments: "Don't smear the free enterprise system," "don't smear industrialists," "don't smear wealth," "don't smear the profit motive," "don't smear success," etc. Her supposed probity against the use of "physical force to impose her ideas" can be read in the document's conclusion:


The principle of free speech requires that we do not use police force to forbid the Communists the expression of their ideas -- which means that we do not pass laws forbidding them to speak. But the principle of free speech does not require that we furnish the Communists with the means to preach their ideas, and does not imply that we owe them jobs and support to advocate our own destruction at our own expense.