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By Christopher Stipp

The Archives, Right Here

I’m awesome. I wrote a book. It’s got little to do with movies. Download and read “Thank You, Goodnight” right HERE for free.

And now, you can follow me on Twitter. Find me here, my oh so original name on the thing is Stipp so come on and follow my stray ramblings. From standing in a pool of toilet water to talking about nothing of great importance you can ensure that I send out quality.

I don’t care what the cool people say.

The hipsters of the world will have you believe that Comic-Con is a big bloated mess of a convention and that it’s better left to the overweight Chun-Li, Slave Leia, and Wonder Woman impersonators of the world who want to show off their well-deserved muffin tops and cottage cheese thighs. I say “pshaw!” to that as this convention, really, always ends up being the highlight of my summer. I get to go back and see the people who I identify with the most and it allows me to get the hell out of Arizona in order to get moments like this.

Correspondents who operate out of LA or out of some other major market can’t appreciate what it’s like to be starved for material and access to anyone related with the films we cover so when I had the chance to be a part of these roundtables I couldn’t pass it up. It’s no secret that I abhor the roundtable process, that I am genuinely jealous of any Tom, Dick or Harry who gets even so much as 5 minutes with someone connected to a high-profile film (It’s what brings all the boys to the virtual yard, so to speak) as it’s tough enough trying to sell an editor on running an interview with the guy who might have held a kleig light for a pick-up scene from WANTED so having the full cast from WATCHMEN talk about their roles, months and months before anyone would glimpse what this was all going to look like, was a welcome opportunity.

Every single person was a live wire when it came to talking about this movie. I think this was one of those moments when you could actually believe the bullshit: these guys got it. Whether they could execute Snyder’s direction, that was still an unknown but looking back at these interviews after seeing the finished film I am struck at how their words weren’t hollow. They all worked as tiny cogs in a bigger wheel that Zack Snyder was tireless in creating. I hope you watch some of what these kids have to say as I equally hope you like this more than having to actually read another WATCHMEN interview.
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PART 1:


PART 2:

Thanks to Ken Plume for the assist in getting these things digitized in an easily digestible format.

WATCHMEN - A REVIEW

Alan Moore, from a recent interview which makes his take on the adaptation of his graphic novel: I think that adaptation is largely a waste of time in almost any circumstances. There probably are the odd things that would prove me wrong. But I think they’d be very much the exception. If a thing works well in one medium, in the medium that it has been designed to work in, then the only possible point for wanting to realize it on ‘multiple platforms,’ as they say these days, is to make a lot of money out of it. There is no consideration for the integrity of the work, which is rather the only thing as far as I’m concerned.”

“Can one desire too much of a good thing?” As You Like It, Act IV, Sc. I

When director Lambert Hillyer took on Batman in the 1940’s, bringing the great cowled one to the screen for what was the first of many live action iterations, he made Bruce Wayne something more akin to a savior for the public than the vigilante lunatic he really is when you take the time to break down the idea. Of course, comics are a place of Never Never Land and Hillyer, over a half-century ago, embraced that false sense of reality. Comics embraced this false sense of reality. Superman was the indestructible force that indirectly belonged solely to the United States. Of course, he would fly to Germany to set things straight during World War II, we can’t have too much reality getting in the way of our comics, but it was escapism. And kids loved it.

Then those kids grew up and saw the world was obviously a lot more gray than the hard and fast black and white of their pulpy confections.

Alan Moore was one of those kids who saw the world of comics as fertile ground for a little existential exercise into what it means to be a hero, a cape, a crusader for people. What he came up, The Watchmen, is the perfect blending of thoughtful prose, dynamic characters and a storyline, in postmodern theory, that we all take for granted today. Could anyone debate whether THE DARK KNIGHT could have worked in the 50’s or 60’s? Sure, but the real answer is that before Moore took on the task of throwing childish comics and melding it with the seedy, dank recesses of culture’s greatest sins and vices there wasn’t a language to interpret it. Any cultural anthropologist worth their salary will tell you that the 40s and 50s were not, in fact, any gem to be revered in American society. There were the same social problems then as there is now and Moore has bridged the generation gap to show and prove the biggest point, in my opinion, of his graphic novel: Man’s inhumanity to man will never cease or relent. Rape, murder, violence, malevolence will always reign exist somewhere in our collective lives and to think different about it not only makes you ignorant of the facts but part of the larger problem.

What Zack Snyder has done, you see, is distilled equal parts commentary and equal parts violence and mashed it together with a love story that, for better or worse, doesn’t leave you completely despairing over the fate of humankind. The real exciting thing about this film is that you have one of two ways to enter this picture: 1) completely oblivious to the source material or 2) somewhat knowledgeable of everything that’s going to happen. I happened to be in the latter camp while the person I went with fell squarely in the former. Both of us were impacted by Snyder’s vision and ended up on the same side of the discussion as the movie let out. Really, if you meditate on it, Snyder had to account for both audiences. He wanted to keep the fidelity to the source material closer than anyone else could have done it but he needed to make sure there were enough bread and circuses to keep the masses happy. This graphic novel eschews violence insofar as it is a commentary on the human condition, these “heroes” completely fallible and broken, human, and the lengths some will go to prove how committed they are to their ideals.

For Rorschach, the violence feels wholly a function of his upbringing, his life as a neglected and abused child; his actions, lunatic though he may be, serve his warped sensibilities in a way that no one has ever explored before. Sure, we have countless comic versions on this theme but to say Alan Moore was the first to do it would be to give short shrift to the other personalities he was able to lay claim to examining. Dr. Manhattan, a God of a man given to fits of dissonance to those who want him to be their savior, while he sees the human population for what they are: parasitic organisms obsessed with self-destruction. Billy Crudup’s syllogistic intonations and ruminations are the highlights of this film as his words feel less like comic monologues but observations on humankind that are disturbingly real. The Nite Owl, played by Patrick Wilson is pure delight. Pathetic, to be sure, impotent and a bit of a wimp to begin this is the character that you root for as you see the struggle in the man’s spirit. Too modest to be a lecherous knave like The Comedian, Dan wants to be more than he is. He is not content to be useless to a country that doesn’t want him but he’s not the same man we know him to be by the end of the movie as he was when we first meet him. Wilson is easily one of the bright spots in a movie that doesn’t have a lot of light to give. His relationship with Dr. Manhattan’s on again, off again lady, Silk Spectre brings humanity to a movie that is on genuine need of it.

However, it’s The Comedian’s turn as the resident sleaze, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, that is the only real downfall of this film. In flashbacks to when he was still alive and kicking ass Morgan plays him with a bombast that doesn’t quite work well on the screen. He feels campy, like he’s almost putting on a show. The Comedian should have come across as more brusque and sinister but what we get is a comic book interpretation of what The Comedian seems to be. His moments in the film are hit or miss when it comes to their effectiveness but it’s usually those he is playing off who come off as the real deal. Dr. Manhattan, in comparison, wipes the screen clear with his blueness and flat tonality. I would hazard a guess as to say that Crudup is the very best part of this movie and he, along with Rorschach, make the running time seem meaningless. Crudup understands Manhattan in a way that I don’t think I have when you consider Crudup’s tone. He is smooth, almost whispering. You forget this is a god among men as when he talks he makes complete and total sense. The moment he has with Malin Akerman on Mars is worth your full attention. Rorschach, as previously mentioned, is completely arresting and, oddly, sympathetic at times. As an example, and all bad Christian Bale voice comparisons aside, when Jackie Earle Haley is having his impromptu psych evaluation inside the state penitentiary, Jackie thunderously blends voice over, performance and nuance that when he dispatches a child molester you not only recoil in horror at the savage act being depicted on the screen but, again, he engenders sympathy in an odd, odd way. We understand his motivations. They may not be very Christian but, for him, he is the result of the age old question of nature versus nurture. He’s weirdly the guy you root for throughout the picture. I did anyway and I have no idea what that says about my own psychology but I think it’s a valid point. Both Rorschach and Nite Owl are kindred spirits and in a landscape full of those who have no chemistry with one another you can believe these two are friends.

In the background to all of this is Snyder who has, without question, created a faithful adaption to Moore’s work. I think you can quibble here about the level of fidelity he has brought to the visual storytelling that he so wanted to retain but there is something that I hope to recuse myself of doing: casting judgment on a less than viewed film. It’s no secret that Snyder had to trim this movie in order for it to be as long as it is now and there are signs that things here were snipped, things over here were trimmed. Expediency took precedence over what his full vision really encompassed. I fear that the things that I take issue with, the hurried moments between characters when there was obviously more to say, the sequences that feel rushed, are all there except they have been taken out, temporarily. As it stands, however, this movie is an artistic movement of both social commentary and the hopes and wishes we put upon our heroes. Snyder takes a page from As You Like It in that he understands if you’re going to bum everyone out with the high concept you better deliver on some sweet bloodletting. He gives us this book’s bread and circuses on a visual palette that mixes soundtracks and sights that evoke a period not so removed from our own.

The film has to be so many things to so many people but Snyder takes the risk by doing the honorable thing which is being true to what was on the page. The debate can rage without me as it pertains to whether he stays too close to the novel but the penultimate fight sequence, the prison, Mars, the opening moments, Dan and Spectre’s love tryst all outweigh small problems compared to what should be held in the same regard as Peter Jackson’s LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. To be sure, Jackson had a lot of runway to pave his own vision but flipping through the graphic novel you could see where the challenges were all but apparent.

The Watchmen prove that there is much we have yet to learn from history and ourselves as beasts and Snyder has indeed given a film that slides narrowly on that line of artistic endeavor and full-throttle action.

———————

And now, some misguided ramblings from our own Raymond Schillaci who is back from seeing THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON. Welcome to 2009, Raymond…

The Curious Case of Oscar Slumming

Okay, so I have been away for a while without a good excuse to bring something to the table.Never mind that I have been wowed by the likes of “Son of Rambow,” “Let the Right One In” and “Gran Torino”.If you have not seen them rush to the nearest video (when they are released) store (or NetFlix) and rent them because they are far more articulate, artistic and deeper than the choice for Oscar’s best picture, director or adapted screenplay, “Slumdog Millionaire”. Mind you, I did appreciate director Boyle’s picture and I was touched, but Oscar, once again, missed the big picture.They missed it by a mile, especially not recognizing Boyle’s efforts with a far better earlier picture, “Millions”.

Was it circumstance, fate or just the academy’s lack of attention that had given the kitschy “Slumdog” an undeserving sweep?Will anybody talk about it years from now or will they stumble upon the more deserving fair as mentioned above? Perhaps Fincher’s film, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” will be far more appreciated as years go by.It certainly was an intricate, beautifully done piece of work from beginning to end.It did not truncate itself with a self-indulging dance sequence that Bollywood loves to propagate.Perhaps it was a direct example of the global economy and political correctness filtering through our film industry.

Whatever it is, it’s disappointing to say the least after I have just watched Fincher’s adult masterwork.Forget the comparisons to “Forest Gump” they are undeserved.This is a wonderful human odyssey.For those Pitt nay Sayers, leave your jealousy at the door.Pitt delivers a wonderful portrayal of a simple man with a complex problem attempting to wrestle down all the big questions life has to offer with the added twist of physically living it backwards.

Fincher with all the dark baggage he has brought to his other masterpieces, “7even” and “Fight Club” sets everything aside to show us his warm and fuzzy side.No, it’s not sappy, melodramatic or over-the-top.It’s a sincere poetic allegory that carries you through Benjamin’s strange journey and all the people he affects and the funny and unusual way life works itself out.Fincher paints his tale with broad strokes taking us from BB’s birth (as an old man), his awkward dealing as he goes through adolescence (still as a senior citizen) with the yearning of wanting to relate to other children to mid-life where the greatest years are lived and finally reaching an inevitable youngster dealing with dementia. It is heart-wrenching and may have fallen into maudlin territory if Fincher and writer Roth had not ventured further taking us into the character’s various loves (including his surrogate mother – played with remarkable perfection by Taraji P Henson), friends and acquaintances that make up a person throughout one’s life.

I could go on and on about the attention to detail from costume, sets and props. I could probably give a little more detail to this amazing story, but I would rather have it take you by pleasant surprise as it did me.It’s a great date movie, but do not mistake this as a chick flick.If you have any kind of heart at all, you will feel this film pull on the strings several times and find yourself looking for a hanky.I saw it alone, which made it twice as hard.No, I’m not wimping out, but I am a romantic and Fincher’s film is far more charismatic and romantic than “Slumdog”.I only hope the director will visit this kind of wonderment filmmaking again so he may receive the kudos he deserves, along with a golden guy spearheading him to legendary status.

Comments:

4 Responses to “Trailer Park: WATCHMEN - Review and Interviews”

  1. Kasey Says:

    Nice work Mr. Stipp.

  2. Hunin Says:

    I largely agree with your Watchmen review; terrific flick, though it’s apparently dividing people sharply. We will all be in for a treat when(?) the director’s cut comes along.

    I haven’t seen Slumdog yet, but I’ve gotta disagree on Benjamin Button. That film was a parade of anticlimaxes for me. It was all just pretty pointless and obvious. Of course, I knew the boat was gonna sink in Titanic and that didn’t keep me from liking that picture, but I really think the people who loved B.B. (like my wife) enjoyed it more for things they brought to the film and not things that were actually on screen. It was just another case of Fincherbation to me — like the camera flying through the mug handle in Panic Room. This time, Brad Pitt was the mug handle. Meh.

  3. Christopher Stipp Says:

    Kasey, thanks for the kudos; always appreciated around here and on the Internet where usually people are more apt to tell you that you suck.

    Hunin, agreed. It’s blatant that Snyder has material he’s not showing. There are sequences that feel rushed unnecessarily and I am convinced his Director’s Cut will be the crowning example of what a solid Director’s Cut should be.

  4. coffee Says:

    I had nagging feeling throughout the movie that the they chose the wrong girl for the (younger) Silk Spectre; all the other character choices were perfect tho

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