Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Day 1426 - Steve Jobs

If I ever need to wash the abomination that is Prometheus out of my brain, all I need to do is watch Michael Fassbender kill it as the title character in Steve Jobs.

I tell people all the time that computers are "magic."  I have no idea how they work.  I press the power button and it turns on, and I close it up and it turns off.  There's a scene in the movie where Steve is practicing a speech, and he's describing the things that the computer will do.  It seems that Steve is like me as far as how the computer works.  But where he's different is where he absolutely knows what he wants that thing to do, and he has the people who can do it.

Steve Jobs is not a nice guy.  He's arrogant, selfish, mean, vengeful, and absolutely refuses to acknowledge the fact that he's the father to a girl who most obviously is.  But he's also smart, canny, and captivating.  What you see is a complete person.  He may not be likable, but in order for him to do what he did, I'm not sure likabilty was necessary.

The movie unfolds by showing us Steve right before a product launch.  First in 1984, right after the ground-breaking Super Bowl commercial with the release of the Mac.  Fast forward four years, and the Mac has failed, Steve's been fired, and now he's spearheading the release of the Next.  Fast forward again, and we're right there with the unveiling of the iMac.  Each release has Steve and his assistant, Joanna Hoffman (played by Kate Winslet, who so buries herself in the role, that it took me about 15 minutes to realize it was her) dealing with time issues, computer issues, family issues, friend issues, reporter issues, and life issues. And it's all done at a breakneck pace due to Aaron Sorkin's script.

When referencing "The West Wing" most people talk about the "walking and talking" that goes on throughout each episode.  Steve Jobs seems to do that times a thousand.  And if the characters aren't walking, they are at least talking.  There's no rest.  No respite.  We know what we need to know through what the characters say.  And they say a lot.  And maybe the best thing about Danny Boyle's direction is his ability to keep us visually focused on what the characters' reactions are to what's being said.  When Steve is being insensitive (most of the time), we know exactly what the other characters are thinking, simply by watching them react.

But what the movie is really about, is how Steve Jobs is able to create an empire almost through sheer strength of will, yet is unable to emotionally open himself up to the fact that, yes, he really has a daughter.  He can do nothing other than throw money at what he sees as a problem.  He likes Lisa, his daughter, but he's so emotionally self-centered that he can't cope with her on any more than a superficial level. He's a genius who can't understand humanity.  He makes a number of references that people don't know what they want until he gives it to them.  He burns bridges left and right.  But it's not done out of malice (usually).  He just doesn't know  boundaries.

It's a fascinating character study.  It has more dialogue than probably three movies put together, and it's anchored by a fantastic cast.  Jeff Daniels has never been better.  Seth Rogen must be thanking the acting gods for his part as Steve Wozniak, because he kills it.  You honestly just keep waiting to see if Steve Jobs becomes a better person, and like the best thrillers, you have to wait for the final scene.

****  (and I give it four stars not merely because it's great, but because the scene between Fassbender's Jobs and Jeff Daniels' John Sculley is one of the best edited and acted sequences I've seen in years.)

Monday, October 26, 2015

Day 1424 - Supergirl

I blame Cary Bates and Neal Adams.  World's Finest #176 is called "The Superman-Batman Split!" and co-starred Batgirl (on Superman's team) and Supergirl (teamed up with Batman).  It's one of my favorite stories, and I attribute my reading of it at such a young age (probably around 11 or 12 years old) as to why I like both Batgirl and Supergirl as much as I do as characters.  I'm also not going to discount Yvonne Craig's performance as Batgirl in the Batman TV series, either.

But as or Supergirl... I saw the movie with Helen Slater in the theater back in the day.  It wasn't good.  But there was a blog I read years ago (that I wish I had saved) where the person who wrote it listed 99 reasons why you should never watch the Supergirl movie again.  It was really funny.  But at the end, he said there was one reason to watch it every day - Helen Slater was perfect as Supergirl.  I'm hard pressed to argue with him.  And I'll say that the extended version of the movie still isn't a perfect movie, but it's a lot better than the theatrical version.

All that is a lead-up to the new Supergirl TV show.  My goal tonight is to write my thoughts as I watch the show.  This isn't live, since I had to tape it, but it's going to be live for me.  So here we go.

Gotta love the spit curl on little baby Kal-El.

The Phantom Zone is introduced.

Helen Slater and Dean Cain!  Yup! 

"Aliens are out there."

Super powers at work.

Intro to Jimmy Olsen.  Sorry, I'm calling him Jimmy no matter what he says.

Melissa Benoist is channeling Christopher Reeve's Clark Kent pretty well.

Nothing like using your super powers to prove men are scum.

I like the flying effects.

So, all the stuff before the commercial break - Character introductions, power set defined, and only the tiniest bit of angst.  This is why I'm going to enjoy this show.  Kara is going to enjoy using her powers and have fun.  And we don't see "fun" enough.

So this time, I'm struck by Calista Flockhark.  The closer the shot, the more frightening she is.  But she looks fine in the longer shots.  No more close-ups, please.  And Kara says that Winn will be only the fourth person who knows about her powers.  Let's keep it that way.

Well, guess Hank Henshaw is number five.  *sigh*

And now Jimmy's number six.  Grrrr.

Super fight!  She's a rookie and fights like it.  I appreciate that.

This series has a real Buffy vibe to it.  If we can get some of these characters to be as potent as the Scooby Gang we might have something really strong going.  I'm also not disappointed that the bad guy chose death over capture.  I am a little disturbed that the super-secret military organization had everyone clapping at his demise, though.

I'm also impressed that the big bad is Supergirl's aunt, and that the aunt, with no hesitation, tells her flunky to "find her and kill her."  That tells me everything I need to know about her.

Yep, I'm in.  But we all knew that anyway.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Day 1423 - Being a fanboy

This is going to be a post about comic books, and the names of writers, authors, and titles are going to be tossed around with no regard to anyone who has no idea what I'm talking about.  However, that's what the Google Machine is for, isn't it? It's akin to your parents telling you to look up that word you don't know in the dictionary.

Anyway, yesterday I got to meet one of my top three favorite artists, and he couldn't have been nicer.  Number one on the list is Todd McFarlane, Spider-Man artist extraordinaire.  I have a signed poster that my cousin Jim got for me (without realizing that he was my favorite artist).  I also bought his big book of artwork (the signed edition).  And I've seen him hold court at San Diego Comic-Con.  So I've had the McFarlane experience.  Number two is Frank Cho.  I've been reading (and looking at) his stuff since his pre-Liberty Meadows work University2.  Every time I go to San Diego, I always make sure to stop at his booth and buy something at his table, whether it's a sketchbook, a calendar, or a print.  I've even got a couple small sketches from him before he stopped doing them.  One was of Dean the Pig on a bookmark which I gave to my old boss, Ralph (who, I'm pretty sure still has it in his bar at home), and a sketch of Monkey Boy, which sits in my book of sketches at home.  So, every one of my meetings with Frank have been great.

Which brings me to number three - Budd Root.  Budd has written and drawn a book called Cavewoman for a long time now.  I jumped on the Cavewoman bandwagon during his second miniseries, "Rain."  And the only reason I discovered the comic in the first place, was because Kurt Busiek had recommended it in the letter column of his book Astro City.  In fact, whenever Kurt recommended anything during that time, I gave it a chance.  But with Cavewoman, I got to read a book about a town that got sent 65 million years in the past, a super-strong Cavewoman (duh), a giant ape that looked like King Kong, dinosaurs that wreaked constant havoc, and a constant appreciation of old movies and characters.  Pretty much what I feed off of.  And then there was the fact that the art was incredibly reminiscent of Todd McFarlane's.  I loved everything about the book.

Well, Budd had never appeared at San Diego whenever I went.  I had a couple of his autographs on little things that I had ordered throughout the years, but I had never met him in person.  Last year, there was a convention in the Cleveland area that announced his appearance.  But after I wrote to him on Facebook, he said that he was going to be at a different convention that weekend, so I was out of luck.  This year, he was back on the guest list, but I was doubtful (burn me once...).  But luck was on my side, as he was attending.  I only had to get to the convention.  The problem was I was working yesterday.  All day.  And the convention filled the entire time I was going to be at work.  My normal go-to guy, Kevin, who might be able to cover my shift, couldn't do so.  So, Jim (the manager) was kind enough to take time out of his day off to come in for a couple of hours while I made a run to the convention.  (THANKS, JIM!)  So, off I went.  I had loaded myself down with about 2/3rd's of his books (all the ones I could find in my collection in a two hour span).  It was a hefty stack.  I went into the building where the creators were housed, and when I saw him at his table, I mentally yelled, "Yes!" and then proceeded to find an empty table where I could unbag all the books I brought to get signed.

I walked up to Budd, and told him I was a big fan, I couldn't wait to spend money at his table, and would he mind signing all my books.  He said he'd sign them even if I didn't buy anything (which made me happy on a whole different level - but that's a blog for another day).  While he signed, we talked about the future of Cavewoman, King Kong, Jaws, Universal Monsters, Abbott and Costello, and Frank Cho. It was perfect.  I bought some prints, one of each of the sketchbooks he brought, and commissioned a piece of artwork that featured either Supergirl or Batgirl.  I couldn't stay (work), but I left my money with another creator there (the always smiling Mark Sumerak), so it would eventually make its way back to the comic shop I work at. (Carol and John's Comic Book Shop - stop in and say "Hi!").  Finally, after monopolizing his time for at least a half hour, I had to go.  In terms of creator interactions it ranks up there with meeting Sergio Aragones and Garth Ennis (not at the same time, but each of those two are some of the nicest people I've ever met).

Budd - It was a real pleasure.  Thank you.

(And he didn't have time to get the sketch done, so I don't have any original artwork, but I'll be okay.  It was still great meeting him.  Everything I was hoping for.)