Tag Archives: I09

Is Fox Mulder’s Life Work About To Get Vindicated?

Jason Kottke:

Here’s a curious press release from NASA:

NASA will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 2, to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe.

I did a little research on the news conference participants and found:

1. Pamela Conrad (a geobiologist) was the primary author of a 2009 paper on geology and life on Mars

2. Felisa Wolfe-Simon (an oceanographer) has written extensively on photosynthesis using arsenic recently (she worked on the team mentioned in this article)

3. Steven Benner (a biologist) is on the “Titan Team” at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory; they’re looking at Titan (Saturn’s largest moon) as an early-Earth-like chemical environment. This is likely related to the Cassini mission.

4. James Elser (an ecologist) is involved with a NASA-funded astrobiology program called Follow the Elements, which emphasizes looking at the chemistry of environments where life evolves (and not just looking at water or carbon or oxygen).

So, if I had to guess at what NASA is going to reveal on Thursday, I’d say that they’ve discovered arsenic on Titan and maybe even detected chemical evidence of bacteria utilizing it for photosynthesis (by following the elements). Or something like that.

Vlad Savov at Engadget:

So NASA seems to have made some hot new astrobiology discovery, but just like the tech companies we’re more used to dealing with, it’s holding the saucy details under embargo until 2PM on Thursday. That’s when it’s got a press conference scheduled to discuss its findings, which we’re only told “will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.” It’s unlikely, therefore, that little green (or brown, or red, or blue) men have been captured somewhere on the dark side of the moon, but there’ll definitely be some impactful news coming within only a couple of days. NASA promises a live online stream of the event, which we’ll naturally be glued to come Thursday.

Alessondra Springmann at PCWorld:

What does that mean? Judging by the researchinterests of the scientistsinvolved in the upcoming announcement, our guess is that this astrobiological discovery will have something to do with water, evolutionary biology, and aquatic bacteria.

We’ll be covering the press conference and the discovery that’ll be announced on Thursday after 11AM PST (2PM EST), so keep an eye on GeekTech, or watch the press conference on NASA’s site. NASA will also show a video broadcast of the press conference to journalists at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View.

Until then, what do you think this discovery will be? Has extraterrestrial bacterial been discovered preserved in a meteorite? Have we seen evidence of life on a ocean-covered exoplanet?

Alasdair Wilkins at IO9:

Considering NASA’s claim that this will impact our search for alien life, I’d have to figure this has something to do with expanding the definition of “life as we know it”, suggesting more elements than we previously thought possible can be used as the raw materials for life. All this, of course, is just speculation – we’ll be listening in to the press conference on Thursday and have the news for you as it breaks.

Mike Wall at Space.com

Max Read at Gawker:

Of course, the announcement could be something totally different! Or, it could be that NASA has been contacted by a warlike race of space aliens and a certain-to-fail mission carried out by a ragtag bunch of scientists is our only hope of survival.

Phil Plait at Discover Magazine:

So what’s the press conference about? I don’t know, to be honest, beyond what’s in the announcement. The scientists on the panel are interesting, including noted astrobiologists and geologists who work on solar system objects like Mars and Titan. So this is most likely going to be something about conditions on another moon or planet conducive for life.

Of course, the speculation is that NASA will announce the discovery for life. Maybe. I can’t rule that out, but it seems really unlikely; I don’t think they would announce it in this way. It would’ve been under tighter wraps, or one thing. It’s more likely they’ve found a new way life can exist and that evidence for these conditions exists on other worlds. But without more info, I won’t speculate any farther than that.

As for the public reaction, well, we’ve seen this type of thing before. Just last June, JPL had a press release about a surprising lack of acetylene in Titan’s atmosphere, with the title “What Is Consuming Hydrogen & Acetylene on Titan?” That sparked vast speculation, and even though the press release was clear enough it was misleadingly reported as NASA finding signs of life on Titan. It got so silly that I wound up writing a post about it, and a NASA scientist went so far as to write an article to clear up the rumors of life on Titan.

I can’t really blame NASA, the press outlets, or the public about this. When scientists have newsworthy findings that are published in a journal, there may be a press conference about them. But some journals have embargoes; they don’t want the news released until the issue is published. Fair enough. So NASA schedules a press conference for the time the issue publishes, and sends out a notice to the press about it. I got just such an email for this one, for example. They have to say something in the email so the press can decide whether to cover it or not, and NASA doesn’t want give too much away. So they give some minimal line about findings that’ll have an impact on the search for life, and those of us who’ve dealt with it before know what that means.

But the public is naturally more inclined to interpret that line as NASA having found life, or at least solid evidence of it. That’s not surprising at all. But it can lead to “news letdown”, where the reality is something less than the speculation. And that leads to news fatigue, which is worse. If people keep expecting really exciting news and don’t get it, well, there you go.

I don’t want to blame anyone, but I do sometimes wish the press folks at NASA were more aware of what kind of cascade a line like that provokes (like the one from a few weeks ago which said it was about “an exceptional object in our cosmic neighborhood” but it turned out to be a supernova/black hole 50 million light years away). When announcements like these go public, it’s bound to be disappointing when the actual news gets out and it’s not a black hole right next door or actual life on Mars. And that’s too bad, because the news is usually pretty interesting and scientifically exciting. As soon as I got this latest announcement, my first flood of thoughts literally were: “Sounds like cool news/I bet there will be tons of over-the-top speculation/I hope people aren’t disappointed when the real news comes out/I wonder if I’ll have to make a post a couple of days before to cool off rumors?”

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Maybe If They Hire Joss Whedon Or J.J. Abrams…

Squid314 (Scott):

But then there are some shows that go completely beyond the pale of enjoyability, until they become nothing more than overwritten collections of tropes impossible to watch without groaning.

I think the worst offender here is the History Channel and all their programs on the so-called “World War II”.

Let’s start with the bad guys. Battalions of stormtroopers dressed in all black, check. Secret police, check. Determination to brutally kill everyone who doesn’t look like them, check. Leader with a tiny villain mustache and a tendency to go into apopleptic rage when he doesn’t get his way, check. All this from a country that was ordinary, believable, and dare I say it sometimes even sympathetic in previous seasons.

I wouldn’t even mind the lack of originality if they weren’t so heavy-handed about it. Apparently we’re supposed to believe that in the middle of the war the Germans attacked their allies the Russians, starting an unwinnable conflict on two fronts, just to show how sneaky and untrustworthy they could be? And that they diverted all their resources to use in making ever bigger and scarier death camps, even in the middle of a huge war? Real people just aren’t that evil. And that’s not even counting the part where as soon as the plot requires it, they instantly forget about all the racism nonsense and become best buddies with the definitely non-Aryan Japanese.

Not that the good guys are much better. Their leader, Churchill, appeared in a grand total of one episode before, where he was a bumbling general who suffered an embarrassing defeat to the Ottomans of all people in the Battle of Gallipoli. Now, all of a sudden, he’s not only Prime Minister, he’s not only a brilliant military commander, he’s not only the greatest orator of the twentieth century who can convince the British to keep going against all odds, he’s also a natural wit who is able to pull out hilarious one-liners practically on demand. I know he’s supposed to be the hero, but it’s not realistic unless you keep the guy at least vaguely human.

So it’s pretty standard “shining amazing good guys who can do no wrong” versus “evil legions of darkness bent on torture and genocide” stuff, totally ignoring the nuances and realities of politics. The actual strategy of the war is barely any better. Just to give one example, in the Battle of the Bulge, a vastly larger force of Germans surround a small Allied battalion and demand they surrender or be killed. The Allied general sends back a single-word reply: “Nuts!”. The Germans attack, and, miraculously, the tiny Allied force holds them off long enough for reinforcements to arrive and turn the tide of battle. Whoever wrote this episode obviously had never been within a thousand miles of an actual military.

Probably the worst part was the ending. The British/German story arc gets boring, so they tie it up quickly, have the villain kill himself (on Walpurgisnacht of all days, not exactly subtle) and then totally switch gears to a battle between the Americans and the Japanese in the Pacific. Pretty much the same dichotomy – the Japanese kill, torture, perform medical experiments on prisoners, and frickin’ play football with the heads of murdered children, and the Americans are led by a kindly old man in a wheelchair.

Anyway, they spend the whole season building up how the Japanese home islands are a fortress, and the Japanese will never surrender, and there’s no way to take the Japanese home islands because they’re invincible…and then they realize they totally can’t have the Americans take the Japanese home islands so they have no way to wrap up the season.

So they invent a completely implausible superweapon that they’ve never mentioned until now. Apparently the Americans got some scientists together to invent it, only we never heard anything about it because it was “classified”. In two years, the scientists manage to invent a weapon a thousand times more powerful than anything anyone’s ever seen before – drawing from, of course, ancient mystical texts. Then they use the superweapon, blow up several Japanese cities easily, and the Japanese surrender. Convenient, isn’t it?

…and then, in the entire rest of the show, over five or six different big wars, they never use the superweapon again. Seriously. They have this whole thing about a war in Vietnam that lasts decades and kills tens of thousands of people, and they never wonder if maybe they should consider using the frickin’ unstoppable mystical superweapon that they won the last war with. At this point, you’re starting to wonder if any of the show’s writers have even watched the episodes the other writers made.

I’m not even going to get into the whole subplot about breaking a secret code (cleverly named “Enigma”, because the writers couldn’t spend more than two seconds thinking up a name for an enigmatic code), the giant superintelligent computer called Colossus (despite this being years before the transistor was even invented), the Soviet strongman whose name means “Man of Steel” in Russian (seriously, between calling the strongman “Man of Steel” and the Frenchman “de Gaulle”, whoever came up with the names for this thing ought to be shot).

So yeah. Stay away from the History Channel. Unlike most of the other networks, they don’t even try to make their stuff believable.

Noah Millman at The American Scene:

So I Guess Maeby Was Right To Pass On That History Text

H/T pretty much everybody in the universe, but yes, I, too thought this was pretty funny.

Eugene Volokh

Charlie Jane Anders at I09:

If you think your favorite science fiction TV show is full of nonsensical plot twists and lazy writing, you should check out the World War II documentaries, suggests Squid314 on Livejournal, in the funniest blog post you’re likely to read this week. Who on Earth would believe that the Allies could actually win the Battle of the Bulge? It’s total nonsense, and “Whoever wrote this episode obviously had never been within a thousand miles of an actual military


I’m convinced. We should start a write-in campaign to get the writers of the twentieth century fired. Who’s with me? More incredible brilliance at the link.

Joe Carter at First Things:

There have been some great television shows that have explored the theme of war and combat (M*A*S*H, Battlestar Galactica, F-Troop). But I have to agree with the brilliant TV critic Scott that the ongoing series that runs on The History Channel isn’t one of them


Read the rest. You won’t want to miss the part about the “unstoppable mystical superweapon” the never appears in the sequels.

Ed Driscoll at Pajamas Media:

Part of the problem is that in the 1970s, television writers were a crazed, psychedelic lot, a bunch of stoner sixties retreads more into scoring controlled substances than scripting controlled plotting.

Take this rock star wannabe who appeared in several segments of the World at War, and his seriously seventies mullet:

Don’t recognize him? I only knew who he was because his voice preceded his image, but I did a double take when he finally appeared:

Yes, it’s Stephen Ambrose in the early 1970s, back when he was in his mid-thirties, decades before the plagiarism scandals, and prior to that, his more sober C-SPAN and PBS-friendly look:

So yes kids, World War II was pretty cliched, but back in the 1970s, when it came time to watch TV, it was either that or Maude and Adam-12. We made do, somehow.

Robert Farley at Lawyers, Guns, And Money

Matthew Yglesias:

These are all fair points. In terms of gritty realism and morally complex drama, you can make mine the Napoleonic Wars. The anti-hero at the center of the action has a great plot arc, the horses look cool, and the whole metric system conceit is so clever I’m surprised people don’t use it in practice. Even the North American spinoff is pretty interesting. It’s just too bad they didn’t let well enough alone after Elba—the TV movie special felt pointless and tacked on.

Doug Mataconis:

Just goes to show you that reality rarely makes good television.

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Dad At Home, Mom At Work, Mom At Home, Dad At Work… And The Kids Play Wii All Night Long

Stan Guthrie interviews Brad Wilcox at Christianity Today on the future of families:

I think we’re going to see a continued growth of more egalitarian marriages in a large subset of the population. But we’re going to also continue to see what I call a neo-traditional model of family life. What I mean by neo-traditional is that it’s progressive in a sense that men, particularly religious men, are investing more and more—especially in the emotional arena—in their wives and children. But it’s traditional in that there’s still some kind of effort to, in a sense, mark off who is the primary breadwinner and who is the primary nurturer. That may mean that both the husband and wife are working in the outside labor force, but there’s still some effort to give the lead for breadwinning to the husband and the lead for nurturing to the wife. This kind of neo-traditional family model is here to stay. I think that prediction is somewhat at odds with what many of my colleagues in the academy would predict.

We have to think more seriously about family pluralism in the U.S. There are different models of family life in the United States, from single-parent families to more egalitarian married families to more neo-traditional married families. The first two tend to get most of the focus in the media. The third group gets less attention, but it makes up about a third of all families in the United States or more, depending upon how you describe neo-traditional. So they’re an important group. And what this research suggests is that the marriages in this neo-traditional group are happier and probably also more stable than the other forms of families in the U.S.

Annalee Newitz at IO9:

It’s unlikely that the female dominance of the working class will last very long. As Ann Friedman points out, the aspirations of job-seekers will shift with the market. Men who want a respectable working class income can certainly tackle nursing, child care, and food preparation with as much aplomb as women. What we’re likely to see over the next decade is a shift not only in how many women are part of the working class, but what kinds of jobs all working class people do.

Male nannies and nurses, in the minority now, are likely to become more common. The question is really whether female engineers will become more common too – especially since engineering jobs are among the most highly-valued in the market.

What will this mean for the future?

Jobs we think of as “pink collar” are going to become blue collar. Men will be working as nurses and housekeepers. This could be the moment when gender stereotypes really start to break down in the West. We’ve already seen images of professional women enter pop culture (and real life). Now we’re going to see images of men heroically supporting their families by working in child care. Nothing like turning child care into a source of cash to make it honorable and manly.

Perhaps a more interesting question is whether this shift will mean upward mobility for families once classified as “working class” based on their income. In 2005, 77 percent of people in the top quintile of US households had two or more incomes. That means most families in the lower quintiles have only one wage-earner – most likely, a man. With two wage-earners, many working class families will ascend into the middle or upper quintiles.

But what about families that remain in the lower quintiles, with their single income? If women are now over half the workforce, it stands to reason that many working-class families will have stay-at-home dads. Ironically, these men may be doing the very jobs for free that their wives are doing for money – child care, cooking, housekeeping, and elder care.

Reihan Salam:

I get the impression that Newitz is right. Her argument dovetails with persuasive arguments about the direction of change in U.S. marriage and childrearing patterns made by feminist historian Stephanie Coontz.

But while Newitz is definitely on to something, I tend to think that the changing shape of family pluralism in the U.S. is cause for concern. Family forms have always been diverse, Ozzie-and-Harriet was always an imperfect portrait of family life for many if not most Americans. Yet the fact that the balance is shifting even further away from two-parent households is going to stretch public resources to the limit. My guess is that intact neo-traditional families that Wilcox describes in his work will continue to yield the best outcomes with regards to educational attainment and household income and hard indicators of emotional well-being — e.g., levels of abuse, incarceration, institutionalization, etc. Of course, it is also possible that technological and cultural change will mitigate these effects.


One wonders about the mechanism we ought to use to increase financial stability. Cultural change is a delicate process. British experience suggests that increasing transfers to increase financial stability and thus promote hedonic marriage among the less affluent isn’t a terribly effective strategy. Robusteconomic growth and job growth would be vastly preferable, though that prospect has arguably dimmed — not just because of the downturn, but because of structural shifts that could lead to further reductions in overall labor force participation among prime age males, a phenomenon that long predates the downturn.

Annalee Newitz has given us much food for thought, and for that we should be grateful.

James Poulos at Ricochet:

Men without jobs find it especially hard to summon the power — and, more importantly, the authority — to lead households. Nowadays, the problem is compounded. Increasingly, we look down on menial jobs in both the labor economy and the ‘knowledge’ economy — both outside the cubicle and within it — as “jobs American’s won’t do” in the first case and as simply emasculating in the second. In poor enough economic times, that view will change. But as Reihan recognizes, the downturn isn’t the decisive issue.

I’d argue the decisive issue is cultural. If our culture or its elites instruct us that there’s nothing particularly honorable about being a father and a husband, many men will take an attitude toward work profoundly different from the one they’d take in a culture where families led by fathers and husbands are singled out for particular honors. Indeed, even in culture indifferent or hostile to bestowing that kind of special honor, men often take it upon themselves to view work differently when they work as a father and a husband, and not just as a guy.

But when theirs is a work environment hostile to the idea that the work of fathers and husbands has a special, privileged character, the cultural problem deepens. Today, many Human Resources departments — in theory and practice — strive to eliminate any rank order of honor among employees. If anything, the honored employee is the working mother. The identity of the working father and husband, by contrast, becomes something of an obstacle to the whole Human Resources program — which, by now, with its corporate retreats and group confessionals and team-building trust exercises, the whole toolkit of therapeutic maternalism, is the subject of resentful but sadly resigned ridicule.

The key to keeping families intact and keeping men at work is simple: make jobs manly again. The irony is that the key to making jobs manly again is simple, too: restore fatherhood and husbandhood to the place of cultural privilege it needs.

E.D. Kain at The League:

Newitz is making a very big leap between point A and point B – between a more empowered female population and an anti-male revolution – and I see very little to suggest that the trends she’s witnessing are anything but temporary. Sociological trends are, after all, still trends. For instance, if we had looked at divorce statistics in the 1960’s and 1970’s we might have concluded that marriage was on the way out altogether and that extremely high rates of divorce were here to stay. However, since 1990 divorce rates have steadily decreased.

There is certainly no reasons to suspect that more women will begin opting out of the workplace in the future, but nor is there any reason to believe that this will lead women to choose single-parenting families simply because they are economically capable of doing so. Modern single-mothers are often at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, so the futuristic single-income, single-parent mother Newitz describes is not of the same demographic, making comparisons difficult.

In this sense, it is hypothetically possible that women will choose to raise families without men, but only in the same way that it is possible that people will decide that not only is marriage an undesirable life decision but companionship itself is irrelevant. I find this much less plausible.

Indeed, even if we do see a future trend toward single-parenting and fatherless families by choice, I suspect we will see an even stronger social backlash to this as children who are raised without fathers grow up resistant to the idea, much as many children from divorced families grow up bitter at their parents decision to split. As divorce rates have come down, I imagine single-parenting rates will fall as well, even if marriage rates themselves do not necessarily recover.

If one considers the single-mothering trend a reaction to the traditional qua traditional family unit with the man as breadwinner and head of household and the woman as housekeeper and child-rearer, then one should also note that the neo-traditional family is a similar if less radical reaction. Neo-traditional families are also more sustainable than either very traditional or very non-traditional or single-parent families because they maintain much of what was good about traditional family roles, but couple them with higher family income, a better division of labor and more modern sexual and parenting roles.

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Spidey Sense Knows No Color

Marc Bernardin at Io9:

We just ran down the five bland white guys that are, reportedly, in the running to play Peter Parker in Sony’s Spider-Man reboot. Yawn. In this day and age, why does Spidey have to be a white guy?

Yes, I know: “Because that’s how Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created him.” There is no worse argument for anything than, “because that’s the way it’s always been.” Lee and Ditko created a wonderfully strong character, one full of complexity and depth, who happens to be white. In no way is Peter Parker defined by his whiteness in the same way that too many black characters are defined by their blackness. He’s defined by the people he cares for, by his career, by his identity as a New Yorker (incidentally, one of the most diverse cities in the world) — as too many good people died to prove, a man is defined by his choices, not by the color of his skin.

So why couldn’t Peter Parker be played by a black or a Hispanic actor? How does that invalidate who Peter Parker is? I’m not saying that the producers need to force the issue; that they need to cast a minority just for the sake of it — but in the face of such underwhelming options like Billy Elliot and the kid who played young Voldemort, why not broaden the search? It’s not like any of these blokes are lighting the world on fire like a young Johnny Depp or Leonardo DiCaprio.

And don’t tell me it’s because an actor of color would hurt the box office: Not only is Spider-Man one of the most recognizable fictional characters on the planet, and managed to do just fine with Tobey “Snoozeville” Maguire playing him, whoever they cast WILL BE IN A MASK FOR HALF THE DAMNED MOVIE. AND ON THE POSTER.

Jamelle at PostBourgie:

Bernardin is right on target; most superheroes aren’t defined by their race or ethnicity (indeed, as he points out, the only exceptions are black heroes), and you wouldn’t lose anything by mixing up the racial background of a character. Indeed, changing the racial background of a character isn’t exactly new; in the 1970s, DC passed the Green Lantern’s power-ring to John Stewart, an African-American architect and Marine veteran. And in 2002, Marvel introduced “Ultimate” Nick Fury, a black version of their long-standing character modeled after Samuel L. Jackson. And as Bernardin points out, Marvel went even further with the limited series Truth: Red, White & Black, which told the story of Isaiah Bradley, the sole survivor of a group of black soldiers forced to act as test subjects for the super-soldier serum that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America.

You could easily pen a non-white Peter Parker that retains essence of the character while reflecting the fact that he is African-American. Black Peter Parker, for instance, might not have grown up in Forest Hills or attended Empire State University, but he would still be a struggling photographer with a good head for science, and a huge crush on Mary Jane Watson. I would welcome the director who cast a non-white Peter Parker, in lieu of another twenty-something white guy. And if there’s anything I’d worry about, it’s that screenwriters might try to add non-white “signifiers” to this hypothetical Peter Parker, with horrible results.

Caroline Stanley at Flavorwire:

Community’s Donald Glover wants to be the next Spider-Man. And he’s hoping a Facebook petition (Donald Glover 4 Spiderman!!) and Twitter campaign (#donald4spiderman) will at least get his foot in the door. “Some people are mistaken,” he has said. “I don’t want to just be given the role. I want to be able to audition. I truly love Spider-Man.”

As io9 notes, there’s nothing about Peter Parker’s history that requires him to be played by a white actor — other than tradition. We love Glover in Community, and from what we’ve heard about his performance in Mystery Team, he has the chops to carry a big-screen part. And he’s certainly more interesting to us than any of the other actors currently in talks for the role (sorry, Billy Elliot and young Voldemort).

Stephanie at Informavore:

I once read an interview with one of the DC Comics executives where they discussed interpretations, legacy characters, and the immutable elements of their mythologies.  He argued there are three elements in defining the way a character is represented: 1) the absolutes; 2) the negotiables; and 3) the things up for grabs.


As such, I feel it’s best to refer back to our three-tier system for understanding the mythology.

1.  The Absolutes
Teenage Peter Parker is raised by Aunt May and Uncle Ben after the death of his parents.  On a field trip, he gets bitten by a radioactive spider and gains superpowers.   To make money, he participates in underground wrestling matches.  When the owner cheats him, he lets a robber get away.  That robber later murders Uncle Ben.  Feeling responsible for his uncle’s death, he realizes “with great power comes great responsibility.”   Red and blue suit (though sometimes black), New York City, Daily Bugle, Mary Jane Watson, J. Jonah, Jameson, etc. are all part of the mythology.  You can’t replace these parts of the story.
Though Peter Parker has always been represented as white in the comics, I think it is fully reasonable to change the character’s ethnicity without destroying the core elements of the mythos.  Here’s why:
Peter grows up in the outer borough of New York City and becomes from an economically-disadvantaged background.  Family is an important part of his upbringing.  He works hard in school and hopes for a better life.  Due to short-sightedness, he takes the easy way out and makes the quick buck.  He suffers great loss due to senseless urban violence.  He deals with the mistrust of society because of his identity (Spider-Man, vigilante, masked hero).  Each of these elements are plausible within the context of an African-American character.  They are also plausible for a white or Latino character as well.   Superman might not work in the same way due to the Jewish overtropes and middle-America upbringing that are a part of the character’s creation.   Spider-Man could easily be an African-American teen.
For too long, comic scholars–both professional and casual–have lamented the white, homogeneous make-up of our superheroes.   Storm, Black Panther, Steel, and Green Lantern (Jon Stewart) are some of the most recognized heroes of color.  I was encouraged when WB decided to use Blue Beetle Jaime Reyes as a central character in the Batman: Brave and the Bold cartoon series.  For every Great Ten, Super Young Team, and Global Guardians that comics produces, you have the senseless killing of Ryan Choi (The Atom) in order to return Ray Palmer to the spotlight.
Could Spider-Man be black?  Sure.  Why not.  There’s lot of great discourse that come from it.  Is Donald Glover the right person to take up the mantle?  Maybe.  I’m a big fan of his comedic talents on Community.  He plays a character that is confident, cocky, goofy, and at ease with himself.  I think those are important things that fall under The Negotiables label.  Race, in turn, could very well be Up for Grabs.

Erin Polgreen at Spencer Ackerman’s place:

As of last night, the campaign #donald4spiderman was a trending topic on Twitter, and a slew of comics bigwigs and other industry luminaries are hopping on board.

I think it’s a good thing. More diversity in casting of stories from the comic book canon means more interpretations and layers to the character. Look at what Brian Michael Bendis did for Nick Fury in Marvel’s Ultimates line. Samuel L. Jackson plays the historically white character in Marvel’s Iron Man franchise.

Jeff Sneider at The Wrap:

Meanwhile, Brooklyn resident Michelle Vargas has created a Facebook group, “Donald Glover 4 Spiderman!!,” which has amassed 5,060 fans at last count.

And another Twitter attack is planned for Tuesday night — this time orchestrated by Glover himself, who plans to have his fans tweet the hashtag at 6:30 p.m. The plan is to make himself a trending topic again, since retweeting doesn’t count for trending.

Said Glover in a tweet over the weekend about the campaign: “Some people are mistaken. I don’t want to just be given the role. I want to be able to audition. I truly love Spider-Man.” Neither Glover’s represenatives nor Sony would agree to comment for TheWrap.

Talk show host Craig Ferguson (who, keep in mind, works for a rival network) endorsed the potential casting by retweeting Glover.

So who is Glover, other than Troy on NBC’s “Community”?

The 26 year-old, NYU-educated comedian won an Emmy as a writer on NBC’s “30 Rock,” and his comedy troupe, Derrick Comedy, recently released its first feature, “Mystery Team,” on DVD and On Demand. More crucially, his comedy videos have become a YouTube sensation, amassing millions of views.

While it’s unlikely that Sony and director Marc Webb would take such a huge creative risk by reinventing the beloved character since they each have a lot riding on this 3D reboot, Glover does have a devoted fanbase that’s roughly the same age as the audience that Sony wants to attract with this teen-centric project.

And Peter Parker is from the ethnically diverse neighborhood of Queens, New York. In fact, there’s nothing in Marvel’s “Spider-Man” comics that dictates that the character must be white.

Indeed, if Facebook earned Betty White a gig hosting “Saturday Night Live” and Twitter made Justin Bieber a household name, why couldn’t their combined powers help Glover land an audition for Sony execs?

It couldn’t be worse than Brandon Routh as Superman.

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David Bianculli at NPR:

The smartest thing the producers of ABC’s Lost did, other than generating such an interesting show and series pilot in the first place, was to decide, a few years ago, to end the series in May 2010. That simple yet bold decision allowed the writers to pace, to focus on what was important, to make the most meaningful use of the time they had left.

On the one hand, all that did was turn Lost from an ambitious weekly TV series into an even more ambitious mega-TV miniseries. On the other hand, it also turned the TV series into a metaphor for its central message, and for the journey of its Lost protagonist. For the show’s writers, for us viewers, and for Jack Shephard, the lesson was the same: It’s a temporary journey, so enjoy the ride — and embrace each other.

Instead of giving us one ending — if you haven’t watched the finale yet, you should stop reading here — writer-producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse gave us two, one for each alternate storyline. This is where, if you weren’t following the show, or even if you were, you could easily get lost with Lost. But basically, this past season had us watching two stories at once.

In one, our heroes were on the island, fighting to return home and also fighting the island’s evil force, who had taken the shape of one of their own. In the other storyline, seemingly triggered by a nuclear event on the island, the ill-fated Oceanic passenger jet had never crashed on the island, and we saw what the passengers’ lives would have been like without the crash, or the island. Except that their lives were different somehow, and so were the details.

Enough of that. You either buy into it or you don’t. In the expanded 2 1/2-hour finale, all the people in that alternate existence eventually found one another, giving viewers the satisfaction of one mini-reunion after another. Off the island, without the island, these people touched each other — often literally — and their memories of the island came flooding back to them. So did a feeling of peace.

The last person it happened to was Jack, who got that rush of memory when he touched his father’s coffin — the coffin he had transported back from Australia. Jack, played by Matthew Fox, opened the lid, and the coffin was empty. But suddenly, next to him, stood his father, played by John Terry, and the biggest question posed by Lost was answered.

And then we got those two endings, played out simultaneously.

One ending — the one back on the island, where Jack had restored the life force to the island but was losing his own — was purely visual. It echoed, in reverse, the powerful opening of the series, returning Jack to the bamboo field where he had first regained consciousness after the plane crash. Lost the series had begun with a close-up shot of Jack’s eyeball opening. Its final image, last night, was of that same eye closing as Jack died, having accomplished his mission and found his purpose.

But the other ending of Lost was purely verbal, returning to one of the show’s most resonant and recurrent themes — father-son issues. When Jack’s dead dad emerged from that coffin, he explained that it wasn’t an alternate timeline at all, but a timeless line, a limbo, a gathering place. And Jack’s death in the “real” world, on the island, enabled the eventual happy reunion of everyone off the island.

Max Read at Defamer:

For years, the show’s creators and actors have been running the same bullshit line about how Lost is a character-driven show. Here is the thing, though: It is not a character-driven show. It is a show, that has characters! But the characters do not “drive” the show, except in the sense that they do things that help advance the plot. Because it is a “plot-driven” show! Lost is a show that is interesting because it has an interesting plot. Frankly, most of the characters suck! Especially Kate. And Jack. And Sawyer. And, really, all of them, except for Ben.

So what we got was a show with an engaging, mysterious plot, that was constantly being sabotaged by fool writers who thought that what the audience really wanted was, like, a love triangle. A love square! “Yes, Mr. Cuse, I don’t give a shit about the donkey wheel. What I really am after is the answer behind the mystery of Jack’s hideous tattoo.”

And yet, somehow, we all kept coming back. I’m not going to use the “abusive relationship” metaphor, because that’s hacky and offensive, but I’ll say this: Those guys know how to write a finale. Season after season, it was the same thing: The first five or six episodes were great. The middle ten were terrible—just lazy, premise-stretching garbage—and then they’d pull it together for the finale.

Do you remember the hatch lighting up? Or Jack blasting In Utero and realizing that you were witnessing—I still shit my pants thinking about this years later—a flash-forward? That was why we kept watching the show: The amazing, game-changing, cliffhanger finales.

And so it stood to reason that maybe they would pull together this pitiful excuse for a season with some kind of halfway-coherent, tightly-paced, tightly-plotted finale that would answer some of our lingering questions and wash the taste of C.J. Cragg as Hypatia out of our mouths. Ha, ha! Why did I think that?

What we got instead was another two hours of running around the goddamn island with everyone having feelings and stuff—which wasn’t even that bad, honestly!—and then, and I have to type this in caps because it’s the only way to really let my rage out, IT TURNED OUT THAT THEY HAD ALL DIED. All of them! And not even all together, simultaneously, in some awesome disaster/explosion. They had all died, at various times, throughout history. (Except for Michael and Walt, apparently!) And then they, like, remembered that they were dead, in this terrible, unfortunate excuse for Heaven they had created, and the Church went to white, and Jack was lying there, dying, with the dog.

The dog. I swear to God, Abrams, Super 8 better be a fucking masterpiece.

Charlie Jane Anders at I09:

In the end, it’s hard not to see Lost as the longest con of them all. Not because we didn’t get enough answers – it’s really true that after this episode, I don’t need any more answers than what we got. But because all along, Lost seemed to be a story. Until the end, when it wasn’t. In the end, it was just a bunch of stuff that happened.

It’s way too early to tell, but I have a feeling that this will go down in history with the “Patrick Duffy stepping out of the shower” thing on Dallas. It just felt like a cheap, cop-out ending. In a sense, nothing that happened in the “flash-sideways” universe mattered because they were all already dead, and they were going to “move on” eventually one way or another. And nothing on the island mattered, because… well, it just didn’t seem to matter very much.

We’ll have to wait a bit to see how the zeitgeist as a whole decides to think of this episode – maybe it’ll wind up getting a free pass, because the show as a whole was so good. Maybe it’ll wind up getting damned. But let’s hope that people do remember how great Lost was at its best, since Lost was such an influential, successful show, and I hope somebody else eventually tries to duplicate all of its achievements.

As for me, I think I’m going to wind up thinking of Lost as an anthology show, another Twilight Zone or Outer Limits. It served up some wonderfully weird, allusive stories. It gave us some brilliant mind-benders. There were individual episodes and story arcs that stand out as among the best hours of television ever created. You just can’t think of Lost as one unified story any more, because then you realize it all leads up to this utter flatness. This zone of apathy and new-age “walk into the light” catharsis.

Ross Douthat:

There were three reasons to watch “Lost” — or to stick with it, more aptly, across six immensely engrossing and immensely frustrating seasons. You could watch for the characters, who were two-dimensional and archetypal in a way, but rich and relatable and even lovable in the way that great pulp casts can sometimes be. You could watch for the thrill of it — the endless cliffhangers, the constant narrative whiplash, the mobius-strip plotting, and the way the show could blithely disassemble and reassemble its narrative architecture (flashbacks followed by flashforwards! flashforwards followed by time travel!) and somehow have the whole thing work. And of course, you could watch for the macro-plot — the mythology of a mysterious island, which layered puzzle atop riddle atop intrigue like no show since “The X-Files,” promising all the while (or seeming to promise, at least) to be building up to a revelatory denouement.

Last night’s series finale was a great success if you watched the show for the first reason, intermittently interesting if you watched it for the second, and a great crescendo of failure if you watched it for the third. I watched it for all three, so I was by turns moved, engrossed, and deeply irritated. But mainly I was irritated, because in the end I’m a plot-centric person, and “Lost” was a densely plotted show, and the macro-plot turned out to be … well, a big nothing seems like an awfully strong way of putting it, but it was certainly close to that.

To be clear, I have no inherent objection to a finale that emphasizes teary romantic reunions over detailed, Hercule Poirot-style exposition of What We’ve Just Seen, and as a Christian I certainly have no objection to a story that ends by saying, quite literally, “and then they all died and went to heaven.” But in the end, the show didn’t just discard, ignore or leave unresolved far too many mysteries that once seemed essential to the plot. (I could sit here all day listing them, I’m sorry to say …) It also refused to really answer the most fundamental questions of all: What was this mysterious island where its characters found themselves marooned? Where did it come from, what were the roots of its magical properties, what was the nature of secret power that it kept? Why did this power, this shining golden energy, need so desperately to be protected? What were the stakes, for the characters and for the world as whole, if that power fell into the wrong hands (the threat, seemingly, for most of the show’s running time) or if the island were simply destroyed outright (the threat in the final episode)? In other words, why should we care?

Tyler Cowen:

Most of all, it reminded me of Jacob’s Ladder and especially Michael Powell’s Stairway to Heaven (A Matter of Life and Death), two movies worth rewatching in any case.  The final scene, while the credits roll, is simply that of a plane crash with no survivors.  I view the show’s cosmology as reflecting the existence of all possible universes and we get to see, and live with, a few of them.  That includes the universe where they all die in the initial crash, the universe where they all die in the hydrogen bomb explosion, the universe where the hydrogen bomb creates an alternative reality, the universe where there really is a miraculously surviving “Oceanic Six,” the universe where the main island narrative happens, the universe where it is all a dream of Jack’s, and bits of others as well.  This Leibnizian move “explains” the show’s numerous unanswered questions, such as those about the lottery numbers and many more.  It was possible, so it happened, toss in the anthropic principles as well.

The most striking moment of the final episode was when Locke tells Jack, quite sincerely, that he does not in fact have a son.  The question remains how the different universes fit together or interact and in some manner it seems they do.  The final episode is extremely effective in bringing out the dreamy and speculative tones of many of the previous episodes.

Most of all I viewed the ending as tragic.  It was not mainly about any particular account of the metaphysics of the island.  It was about how few couples had the chance to actually live together, love together, and stay together.  The perfect reunions of the couples in the “we’re all dead” scenario only drove this point home.  I found this contrast moving.

At the end, the door is left open for Jack (the body of Jack?) to become the next smoke monster on the island and you can spot some clues to this effect, such as Jack’s body being strewn on the stones in the same manner as it was for The Man in Black.

I saw two major weaknesses in the denouement.  First, Widmore is dispatched too summarily in the penultimate episode.  That thread of the story is not so much hanging (which would have been OK), but rendered irrelevant.  Years of dramatic gravitas were swept away in a single, hastily executed murder scene.  Second, Ben is a weak and poorly defined character in the final episode and runs around like a puppy dog, with no clear moral stance.  Since he usually dominates any scene he is in, this is strikingly incongruous.

Noel Murray at The Onion AV Club:

I respect the position of the dissenters, but I wish they’d respect the position of the defenders, which is that for all of Lost’s imperfections—and they are myriad, I’ll grant—the show still offered an experience like no other in the history of television. I stayed out of the commenting fray last week, largely due to Lost fatigue, though also because many of you were articulating what I would’ve said. It should come as no surprise that I’m squarely in the “MayorVaughn” camp. I like that Lost has dropped enough clues to its minor mysteries—just about anything to do with DHARMA, for example—that viewers can interpret them however they’d like. Why couldn’t women give birth? What was the deal with the statue? Those kind of questions are answerable, with a little viewer imagination and the details already provided. When the show spelled out its answers, it became painfully prosaic. When it was focused on keeping viewers stimulated and disoriented, it worked much better. (Even though, as I noted last week, what made for an entertaining hour often worked against telling a cohesive six-year story.)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes television unlike any other medium, and what responsibilities we people who write about TV have to those unique qualities. I’ll save most of those thoughts for some future non-Lost blog post, since I know you all have other things on your mind right now, but where that topic is germane is in the way opinions about Lost have evolved over the years—and even over the weeks. Myles McNutt wrote a spot-on blog post over the weekend about how difficult it is to register an opinion about a serialized show with a story more in flux than most. McNutt’s attitude has been the same as mine: the best you can do is treat recaps as reports from the field, recording immediate impressions. There’s value in that; down the road, interested parties can read all the reviews in succession and they’ll tell a little story about the show and the people who covered it.

Then they can look down in the comments, and that’ll a story too. Much of what’s been fun about the show these past three years has been bouncing theories and observations around with you guys. Heaven knows we’ve disagreed plenty about what makes a good Lost episode, but by and large we’ve been enthusiasts together—laughing at the parts of the show that don’t work, marveling at the parts that do, and considering what it all might mean, both literally and philosophically. And we’ve had time between episodes to venture guesses and anticipate outcomes—perhaps not always to our benefit. Often Lost hasn’t gone the way we thought it might, or—as I mentioned last week—its payoffs haven’t matched what we’d built them up to be over the years.

Writing about Lost has undoubtedly aided in my appreciation of the show. Often I’ve started out writing a mixed-to-negative recap, and have found that in the process of describing the action and considering its thematic implications, I’ve changed my own mind. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that this season has been a bit of a grind—not so much to watch but to write about and defend. A big part of me wishes I could’ve enjoyed these last few episodes the way so many Lost fans have—throwing parties, raising a toast, whatnot. Instead I’ve been picking through disapproving think pieces and gleefully snide dismissals, while trying to explain why I still love this show without sounding too much like a sucker.

In the end, I’d point to Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Marvel Comics… all the popular serialized entertainments that have sought to divert and provoke on the installment plan. Lost brought back the thrill of big stories told in tiny pieces. Like I said, it’s too soon to say what Lost’s legacy will be, but I have a strong feeling that people will still be watching it years from now, and introducing it to newcomers, and starting arguments all over again. And I think the images of Hurley, hatches, Smoke Monsters and Sawyer will be pop-culture touchstones for a long time to come. These are the new myths. Now it’s up to us to misinterpret them.

Megan McArdle:

I’m told that the finale of “Lost” had the third highest ad rates of this season, behind only the Superbowl and the Oscars.  How many people watched those ads?  According to Bloomberg News, about 13.5 million.

Compare that to the finale of MASH, which was watched by almost 106 million viewers (including me, up late by very special dispensation).

Now, MASH was the most watched finale of all time.  But the stark difference between its numbers and those of the most-heralded finale of the year illustrate why no series is ever going to surpass MASH’s record.  (The superbowl finally did this year, as people tuned in to watch the Saints.)  We live in a different world, one where there’s something for almost everyone–but not the same thing.

UPDATE: Will Wilkinson

Peter Suderman at The American Scene


Filed under TV

C. Gatti And Special Sauce

Discover Magazine:

A rare but potentially life-threatening tropical fungus is spreading through the Pacific Northwest, researchers have reported.

The culprit is a new strain of the Cryptococcus gatti fungus, and is known to have been lethal in 25 percent of the reported human infections. C. gatti usually only infects transplant and AIDS patients and people with otherwise compromised immune systems, but the new strain is genetically different, the researchers said. “This novel fungus is worrisome because it appears to be a threat to otherwise healthy people” [Reuters], says lead researcher Edmond Byrnes.

However, scientists aren’t sounding a public health alert because the death toll is still very small–in the United States, five of the 21 people who contracted the fungus in the have died.

Kathleen Doheny at WebMD:

We wouldn’t recommend that people change their habits in any way,” Julie Harris, PhD, MPH, a staff epidemiologist with the CDC, tells WebMD. “We wouldn’t recommend people stay indoors or don’t go hiking or don’t go outdoors.”

The fungus species triggering the infection is Cryptococcus gattii, which can cause pneumonia or meningitis. But the infection ”simply is not common enough for people to warrant changing behavior,” Harris says. “It’s still very rare. People should be concerned but not alarmed.”

At a news briefing Friday, Katrina Hedberg, MD, MPH, interim state epidemiologist for the Oregon Department of Health Services Public Health Division, told reporters that it’s also rare that people exposed to the fungus end up getting sick.

While the CDC wouldn’t specify the number of deaths, citing incomplete data, Hedberg says that ”of the 50-plus cases, around 10 of them have died.”

Twelve of those 50 cases, including three deaths, have been in the state of Washington, according to Nicola Marsden-Haug, MPH, an epidemiologist with the Washington State Department of Health, Shoreline.

Marcia Goldoft, MD, a medical epidemiologist with the department, urges people to keep the threat in perspective. “The benefits of outdoor activity and exercise far outweigh the risks of a rare disease such as C. gattii.”

Alice Park at Time Magazine:

Huh? So I should be very, very afraid — just not really?

To be fair, it was a scientist — Edmond Byrnes, a graduate student in microbiology and molecular genetics at Duke University — who triggered the fungus frenzy. His paper, published Thursday in PLoS Pathogens, reported that detailed genetic analyses had revealed that two strains of C. gattii, a fungus that typically lives in trees and soil, had become hypervirulent. Byrnes’ paper looked at six deaths and 15 other infections in people, and 21 cases in animals that had occurred in the U.S. between 2005 and 2009.

Combine the words “hypervirulent” and “infection” in the age of SARS, bird flu and H1N1, and it’s a news story. (See how not to get the H1N1 flu.)

But here’s what you really need to know: “These infections are still rare, and from an overall health perspective, I don’t think anyone should be concerned, but should just be aware that it is increasing geographically and incidence-wise in [the Pacific Northwest],” says Byrnes. “For the average person, I don’t think this is anything to be too worried about.”

C. gatti is normally found in tropical climates in South America, Australia and Papua New Guinea. In these endemic regions, it tends to favor eucalyptus trees and, according to Julie Harris, an epidemiologist in the mycotic diseases branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rates of infection among people are relatively low.

The fungus was somehow carried from the southern hemisphere to North America, where it was found on Vancouver Island in 1999. (It was rare — at its peak, between 2002 and 2005, there were 36 cases per million population per year in the region reported to health officials.) One of the new strains of highly virulent C. gattii was determined to have originated on Vancouver Island; the other is thought to have emerged in Oregon, possibly from a strain that had spread south from British Columbia. In lab animals, Byrnes reports, these two strains are 100% lethal, causing death within three weeks. That’s reason for concern from a scientific standpoint, he says, since other known strains of the fungus are not as deadly. But, again, the fungus is so rare in the real-world, that from a public-health perspective, there’s no need for alarm.

One of the lingering questions the researchers were left with was whether the fungus is becoming more virulent as it spreads. The answer hinges in part on how the fungi reproduce (since fungi can do it in a number of ways). It looks as if the new strains of C. gattii are getting it on with opposite sex and same sex partners. These matings appear to result in spores that are even more deadly to living creatures.

If C. gattii keeps having sex and spreading, its next victims will mostly likely be in Northern California, where the weather is very similar to Oregon. It’s unlikely to expand eastward, due to the freezing winters.

Rod Dreher:

This stuff sounds horrible. What’s particularly troubling is that the fungus appears to have very recently mutated. If you go to the Oregon state government health page on C. gattii, it says that the mortality rate for the stuff is only five percent. The just-released study, though, finds the mortality rate has shot up to 25 percent. Excerpt:

The mutation “is causing major illness in the region, and it’s different from what’s causing disease on Vancouver Island,” says Christina Hull, PhD, an assistant professor of medical microbiology and immunology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, in Madison. “It supports the idea that this is a recent change in the organism,” she adds. “That’s a little more unnerving than what people had thought before.”

Scientists don’t know what risk factors there are for the disease. The good news, though, is that it’s unlikely to travel outside the region, and even then its virulence will likely decline over time.

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Filed under Public Health

Kraken Released, In More Than Two Dimensions

Graphic a reader submission at The Atlantic Wire

John Nolte at Big Hollywood:

“Release the Kraken!”

If those three words don’t stir up all kinds of nostalgia for the summer of ’82 when HBO aired the original “Clash of the Titans” 9 times a day (in ’83 it was “Beastmaster,” in ’84, “Eddie and the Cruisers”), you probably shouldn’t plunk down the price of admission. What we bring to the movies plays a big role in what we get from the movies (which is why critics are absolutely useless). And if cheese and nostalgia don’t play an important role in this particular film-going choice you might find yourself a little disappointed.

Sam Worthington is Perseus, a demigod and bastard son of Zeus (Liam Neeson). He just doesn’t yet know this because as a baby a whole lot of mythology occurred that resulted in him being found by a kind fisherman and his family and raised as such. It’s only after man declares war on the gods of Olympus and his family is killed that Perseus unknowingly starts down the road towards his own destiny as he sets out for revenge against Hades (Ralph Fiennes), the god of the Underworld responsible for his family’s demise.

Hades and Zeus are estranged brothers but man’s insolence drives them to form an uneasy alliance. Zeus just wants some appreciation. Hades wants to betray Zeus and rule over everything in order to spread evil throughout humanity. The endgame involves a huge sea monster known as the Kraken. A fierce beast that we’re told can’t be killed. Man doesn’t have a chance in this war. But driven by rage, Perseus doesn’t much care.

The weakest part of the story is in trying to figure out exactly what Zeus wants. His motivation makes no sense (actually, it’s all over the place) and that he would be dumb enough to get mixed up with Hades is even more confusing. What is interesting is seeing how these two fine actors found themselves together again 17 years after “Schindler’s List.”

The best way to describe the story would be as a quest; which is a polite way of saying “episodic.” What do you expect? This is “Clash of the Titans.”  We’re here to see creatures and swords and sandals and the head of Medusa. And in that respect, the film delivers. This is one of those movies where for the most part you feel you wasted your money until a big thrilling sequence comes along that un-numbs your butt and finally does make it worth the price of that admission.

Dana Stevens at Slate:

Clash actually starts strong, with a few imaginative set pieces that promise more than the movie as a whole delivers. As a newborn, Perseus is hurled into the sea by his father, Acrisius (Jason Flemyng), who disbelieves his wife’s claim that she was impregnated by Zeus. The baby is discovered by a kind fisherman played by Pete Postlethwaite, who packs a memorable performance into a tiny wedge of screen time. After a series of misfortunes, Perseus finds himself conscripted to save the city of Argos from an assault by the gods, who have been angered by the growing hubris of mortals. (A scene at the decadent court of Argos in which we witness this hubris hints pleasantly at an I, Claudius-style orgy that, sadly, never materializes.) To show the gods what’s what, Perseus must battle a succession of tennis balls suspended in front of green screens—I mean, fearsome mythological beasts.


In a movie this dependent on effects and big action sequences, the actors serve mostly as connective tissue. Ralph Fiennes does bring a haunting saturnine quality to the character of Hades, who’s written as a bitter outcast a la Milton’s Satan. But Neeson is a bit stiff as Zeus, and Worthington’s Perseus is stalwart to the point of inexpressivity. As Io, Gemma Arterton, last seen covered in crude oil in the James Bond film Quantum of Solace, struggles with both the film’s worst dialogue—pinned to the ground by an ardent Perseus, she murmurs, “Calm your storm”—and its worst costumes: Only Björk could pull off a poncho that seems to have been fashioned from a used mop.

The post-production 3-D looks you’ve-got-to-be-kidding bad. The actors seem surrounded at all times by hovering nimbuses that don’t suggest divine radiance so much as they do the effects of a recent concussion. There’s one digital effect—Perseus’ winged horse, Pegasus—that works wonderfully, maybe because the animal seems to have been created by filming a real running horse and then adding CG wings. And the gods’ palace on Olympus is furnished with a beautifully imagined semitransparent floor of clouds, below which the surface of the earth is occasionally visible. But everyone in the Greek pantheon, with the exception of Zeus, Hades, and, very briefly, Poseidon (Danny Huston) just stands around silently on that fabulous floor. The gods and goddesses are never even introduced by name, in a formal catalog like the one Laurence Olivier ticks off in the original’s opening scene. We’re reduced to scanning them at a distance for identifying details—anybody got a trident? An owl? At moments like these, Clash seems to be deliberately steering clear of camp, when in fact it should have steered straight into camp and stepped on the gas.

Neil Miller at Film School Rejects:

It does answer for itself as an action movie. In fact, if it succeeds anywhere it is within the action scenes. While they feel haphazardly strung together by paper-thin character development, the action scenes are larger than life. They are also intensified by Ramin Djawadi’s sometimes brilliant, other times awful score. From giant crabs to Jason Fleming’s dirty performance as Calibos, the dangers along the way are the most interesting. The scene in which Perseus and his squad of seemingly forgettable travel companions face off against the giant crabs is the film’s shining moment, a sequence in which our heroes are faced with real, fast-moving danger. They do it, as Perseus continues to explain throughout the film, “as men!”

Wajahat Ali at Huffington Post:

The movie’s pulse and its brains are on auto-pilot. The story follows Zeus’s demi-god son, Perseus [Worthington], who was abandoned in the sea and found and raised by a humble fisherman. As a boy, he questions his existence and you know he is seeking his “purpose” because there are scenes of him staring at the sea and the stars asking, “Why am I here? What’s my purpose?”

All is well until arrogant men decide they don’t need the Gods and instead become radical monotheists by destroying the Gods’ statutes. This is a perfect time for Hades, God of the underworld, to outmaneuver his brother Zeus for power. He decides to unleash havoc and terror on men because their fear makes him more powerful…or something. Anyway, Perseus’s poor surrogate family dies in the wake of Hades’ temper tantrum. This makes Perseus angry. He vows revenge on Hades even though he is but a simple fisherman who miraculously transforms into a skilled warrior and horseman within the course of 20 minutes – due to his dope, half-God status we are later told.

Somehow, the people find out Perseus is a badass and decide that only he can stop the Gods’ wraith, which culminates with the release of the underwater leviathan known as the Kraken. The beast will destroy the people unless the beautiful princess Andromeda is sacrificed to satiate the hungry monster within 10 days. Got it? Great.

The movie gives Perseus a multicultural “Fellowship” of skilled warriors to help him in his Grecian Dirty Dozen mission but refuses to color them with personality or memorable dialogue. The audience is barely able to differentiate between any of them by the time they are eliminated by computer generated creatures. I think I spotted the young boy from the Huge Grant movie “About a Boy” and wondered, “Hey, is that the young boy from “About a Boy”? He got old.” That was the extent of my involvement with these characters.

In order to conveniently explain any missing plot points and provide exposition, the movie introduces a new character named Io, an ageless beauty with vast amounts of knowledge who fortuitously appears to help Perseus whenever the filmmakers demand it. She also inexplicably falls in love with him over the course of one scene. This was most likely done to desperately ensure that female audience members were still emotionally invested in the hero’s journey.

Why not stick with the original’s plot in which Perseus is fated to marry the beautiful princess Andromeda, who is about to be sacrificed to the Kraken? Wouldn’t that be motivation for Perseus to battle Medusa, chop off her head, and race back on his flying Pegasus in the knick of time to fight the Kraken?

Megan McArdle:

I am a huge fan of Liam Neeson, so when I was told that I could be a “plus one” to see him in Clash of the Titans…in 3D!!!—I was instantly sold. On Tuesday night, I trundled into a Georgetown theater, where I watched one of the worst movies I’ve seen in years.

I gather that the idea was to do a sort of homage to eighties movies—indeed, to possibly the last of the great stop-motion monster movies. It was the kind of homage that is usually delivered by drunk wedding guests with a latent crush on the bride and a too-accurate grasp of the couples’ worst qualities. The sets were designed with a nod to the old epics of yore, but without their skill, so that they looked like they had been produced by crack team of Christmas pageant directors. The plot exposition was done through dialogue so stilted and out-of-place that it made me long for the days of fake-english-voice-overs. And the acting…

Well, the acting deserves its own paragraph. This is a script and a director so outrageously inept that they managed to make Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes look ridiculous. (Though to be fair, it’s not clear whether Fiennes or the director decided that the way to convey the darkness of Hades was to play him in a sort of extended hiss). And yet, Fiennes and Neeson were the highlights of the movie. Sam Worthington, fresh from a turn as the star of Avatar, displays less facial emotion than he did as an animated character. As I remarked upon leaving the theater, he makes Keanu Reeves look positively Shakespearean. At least Reeves knows how to widen his eyes occasionally. Worthington’s main acting talent seems to be grunting and flexing his biceps. His acting range consists of sometimes speaking in an Australian accent, and sometimes overlaying that with a bad imitation of John Wayne.

In fact, the movie’s accents also deserve their own paragraph, because they are hilarious. The French-born director either couldn’t hear the different accents of his cast, or didn’t care. This gave them creative license to each decide on their own “foreign” accent in which to deliver their lines. There are Ancient Greeks speaking Greek with an English accent, Ancient Greeks speaking Greek with French, German and Russian accents, even two ersatz Arabs who are supposed to be the comic relief.

Daniel Engber at Slate:

Clash of the Titans is a washed-out, dimly lit, cardboard-looking mess of a motion picture. But don’t take my word for it: The film has so far earned a mushy score of 34 percent on RottenTomatoes.com, and just about everyone who’s seen it—including the few who actually liked it—have decried its chintzy stereo-vision effects. “It’s an odd sort of 3-D that serves mostly to blur images in the background,” says a critic for the Arizona Republic. The film “redefines 3-D but in the wrong way,” reports the St. Petersburg Times. “As far as 3-D goes,” concludes the Boston Phoenix, “this might be the worst your $16 can buy.” (As usual, Roger Ebert gets the final say: “One word of consumer advice … I saw it in 2-D, and let me tell you, it looked terrific.”)

So what happened? Most viewers blame the fact that Clash of the Titans was never intended to be a three-dimensional movie and that it was converted from a flat-image format at the last second. It’s clear that Warner Bros. invested millions in the upgrade to capture the stupendous success of Avatar and Alice in Wonderland—giga-blockbusters that rode high on premium ticket prices and the promise of awesome spectacle. But the new film has critics grumbling over studio greed: It’s been “3-D-ized on the cheap,” they say, with a ” ‘quickie’ conversion” that “few moviegoers will think [is] worth the extra bucks.”

Now would certainly be an awkward time for a 3-D backlash. Plans are hatching to release the newest installments of Narnia and Lord of the Rings in 3-D, and we’ve heard talk of stereo reissues for Titanic, Harry Potter, and Star Wars. Meanwhile, the national theater chains are about to make their own bid to cash in: Ticket prices for 3-D movies will go up by an average of 8.3 percent on Friday, just in time for the Clash of the Titans opening. (Some theaters are raising prices by as much as 26 percent.) It’s enough to leave industry-watchers wondering if the golden goose will be strangled in its nest.

Marc Bernardin at I09:

Clash of the Titans boasts some of the worst 3D of the modern age. Remember that 3D episode of Chuck? Better than this. Why? Because it’s a movie that was shot in 2D, force-converted into 3D. Again, we ask why? Greed. Not because the film would play better or look better or achieve a sensory experience unattainable on a “flat” screen. Simply so that it would make more money.

And, of course, Hollywood’s in it for the greenbacks. I get that. And I don’t have a philosophical problem with 3D, either. When done well — in the aformentioned Avatar, How to Train Your Dragon, Coraline, Up, even Beowulf — 3D can be a wonderfully transporting, enveloping tool. But when it’s done with all the deftness of a fingerless mercenary…I call bullshit.

Have a little more respect for me, the audience. Earn my cash with glory; if you deliver unto me true spectacle, I’ll gladly deliver unto you my money. But don’t reach in my pocket just because you can. Or I’ll…I’ll…I just won’t leave the house. So there.

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