Tuesday, March 24, 2009

New Books

New books over the threshold (in no particular order):

Stephen John Hartnett and Laura Ann Stengrim (2006). Globalization and Empire: The US Invasion of Iraq, Free Markets, and the Twilight of Democracy. U. of Alabama Press.

Phaedra C. Pezzullo (2007) Toxic Tourism: Rhetorics of Pollution, Travel, and Environmental Justice. U. of Alabama Press.

Helene A. Shugart and Catherine Egley Waggoner (2008) Making Camp: Rhetorics of Transgression in US Popular Culture. U. of Alabama Press

Paul Alkebulan (2007) Survival Pending Revolution: The History of the Black Panther Party. U. of Alabama Press

Carroll Pursell (ed) (2005/8) A Companion to American Technology. Blackwell

Sharon Marie Ross (2008) Beyond the Box: Television and the Internet. Blackwell

Paul Hopper (2007) Understanding Cultural Globalization. Blackwell. [Checking out the competition :) ].

Angharad N. Valdivia (ed) (2003/6) A Companion to Media Studies. Blackwell.

Kelly Askew and Richard R. Wilk (eds) (2002) The Anthropology of Media: A Reader. Blackwell. [Ever since reading Horst and Miller's book on the cell phone in Jamaica I've been interested in how anthropologists deal with media; I'm really liking this work]

Neil Gaiman (2009) Blueberry Girl. Illustrations by Charles Vess. HarperCollins. [This is an absolutely beautiful children's book, a prayer for a new daughter, with all ones wishes for her life. I highly recommend it].

Monday, March 09, 2009

Gas Pump TV

Saturday, March 07, 2009


Not bad. I’ve been rereading the comics over the last week (apparently the original set is becoming more of a collector’s item). In many ways the film is like an animation of the graphic novel; it stays true to the feel of the graphic novel (which in itself was very cinematic), and the limitations of the graphic novel. As a whole, I think the film worked (though less sure of how it worked as a film if you came in without prior knowledge). I think they carried off the feel of it, and it didn’t seem awkward (as films about caped crusaders may). Could they have done something more with it? Certainly. Perhaps made the melodrama of the original into actual drama. If Malin Ackerman had been a better actress, perhaps (and she’s not; she’s got to carry a lot of emotional moments in this film and comes across as wooden). Night Owl is supposed to be dweebish and wooden; he’s not a dramatic center for the story, and actually I thought Patrick Wilson played it with some subtlety (the audience liked him). Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach was quite good, though they had to trim some backstory (the whole Kitty Genovese connection was gone) and radically truncate the days of “therapy” he gets in prison (which cheapened the reveal a bit). R. was certainly a crowd favorite, and it’s always disturbing to watch an audience root for a brutal misanthropic psychopath. Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the Comedian was fine, but needed a bit more Robert Downey, Jr. (touch more charisma, touch more psycho).

I thought that the film evoked the 1980s quite well. Little details, not just of the movie, but of the ads, styles, TV images. What was anachronistic was the fighting style. In every movie these days it seems that everyone does some form of martial arts, and this film is no exception. This is fine in an of itself, but a bit of variety would be nice. And back in the 70s and 80s, that wasn’t superhero fighting (despite that song)

Can we have a moratorium on shots of violence that suddenly slow down to a crawl so we can see the impact, the splatter of blood, and then suddenly accelerate again? ITS BEEN DONE. Move on.

I’ve never liked the ending of the original series. It seemed too silly for all the gravitas that came before (giant psychic squid???). This ending actually makes more sense (while making the same point), and explains events more logically. The actual end of the film dragged. Too many final scenes (watched a number of audience members leave early at points which looked like the final scene).

One big change from the graphic novels is a ramping up in the brutality and graphic nature of the violence. It’s a violent novel, don’t get me wrong, but the film lingers on prolonged fight scenes to beef up the action between the debates about humanity’s future. [This is sort of like battles which are brief paragraphs in Lord of the Rings or the Narnia books suddenly becoming elaborate set pieces]. Especially disturbing was the increased violence by Night Owl and Silk Spectre. In the scene in the alley, they’re not just defending themselves against a gang, but brutalizing them until the gang members lay about as twisted broken bodies. It collapses some the moral distance between them and Rorschach. In the novel, they always stood apart a bit, still the goody-two-shoes of the Watchmen, but seeming to silently assent as Rorschach and the Comedian do their thing.

What’s missing: the pirate comic I was never that fond of (though I see the point it was trying to make in parallel with the main story about losing one’s moral compass), and the dynamic of the newsseller and neighbors, but we get their anxiety about the end of the world and the coming war grafted onto Dan and Laurie. They did skip one of my favorite lines from the book, which is when the two detectives are in their office and get a call tipping them off. And the officer says, “What did you say? Raw Shark? Why would I want to know where I can get raw shark?”

Another chapter in the general cultural narrative of the armored fascist male body. Between this and Iron Man (which, I must admit, was more fun that Watchmen in and of itself) Claudia Springer’s critique of Robocop et al is still quite relevant and needs to be revisited. Which means I should see the Batman film sometime too.