“Am I an outlier?” or “I loved Batman Versus Superman: Dawn of Justice. What’s wrong with me?”

While I was away in Asia, Batman Versus Superman came out in cinemas. Despite my expectation that it would be a great addition to the DC filmic universe, the reception of the movie was broadly negative. I made my peace with that and thought that at some point I would pick up a cheap DVD and make my own mind up. I rather put it to the back of my mind.

While we were away I did not buy physical media; region coding is a hit an miss issue and I did not want to have even a handful of Bluray discs that were going to be useless to me once we got back to the UK or indeed ended up somewhere else. As such when the longer cut of Batman Versus Superman came out on Bluray I hoped to be able to buy it from iTunes, based on the much more favourable response this version received. Again I was thwarted; the UK iTunes Store only offered the “Ultimate Edition” as an iTunes Extras, streamable only, version, which received very poor reviews for being hard to watch, low quality and just generally disappointing as it could not be watched offline. As such, once more I put it to the back of my mind and tried not to be disappointed that while most people were still quite down on the new DC offering, several of my friends were much happier with the extended version of the film. For what it may be worth, and expecting to be derided by many, I had some faith even after the initial disappointment, that if allowed to release his actual vision, Zack Snyder would be able to pull off the ideas and plot and that the film would stand. My defence of Zack Snyder is a MUCH longer post than I want to make right now, but maybe one day I will get around to it.

Anyway, we arrived back in the UK in March, and there was a flurry of house-hunting, starting a new job, lots of business travel for me and before I knew it I was killing an evening on one of my trips to London by taking myself to see Wonder Woman on the big screen. Wonder Woman exceeded my expectations and I think those of many other viewers as well, proving not only that DC could produce a great super hero movie, but that a woman could carry one and a woman could direct one – not that I had been in any doubt on either score, but the industry being what it is / was…

So finally, after another six months I had the time and the inclination last night to catch up with the DC Universe and so I was coming to Batman versus Superman after having already seen Wonder Woman, and having the added benefit of only seeing the extended version.

My verdict?

I do not know how people have fun any more… I thought that the film was fantastic. Amy Adams is Lois Lane, Laurence Fishburne completely persuades as Perry White, Jeremy Irons is the best Alfred we have seen yet, and for my money by a great, great margin despite my abiding love for Michael Caine. And then there are the principles…

Henry Cavill is every inch the Superman in my head, dragged bodily from the pages of comics I have read, completely believable as a conflicted hero, aware of his insane power, aware of not belonging, aware that he will always be slightly the wrong shape for one aspect of his world or another. Ben Affleck, an actor that I have always felt has been unfairly punished by critics and the populace alike, entirely embodies the late-career Bruce Wayne / Batman of the Dark Knight Returns. He is exactly note perfect, for an older, grizzled, disaffected Bruce Wayne, searching for meaning, for a legacy, burdened with a looming understanding that just pulling up weeds is an endless and thankless task. Diana Prince is also completely on-point, but I think that I may be seeing her in a different light to the original cinema audience, as I felt that the portrayal was completely in keeping with the film I saw about her first. Finally there is Lex Luthor. I can remember criticisms of the characterisation and performance that he was too manic, too self-assured, too geeky and so on and so forth, but honestly I felt that as a portrayal of a young Lex Luthor, filled with anger and hatred for Superman, utterly driven to unmask the dangerous alien and cement his place as the pre eminent force in the modern world by force of intellect was pretty much spot on. I think that people just don’t like Jesse Eisenberg and have some narrow belief that Lex Luthor can only be Gene Hackman, but I suppose that I may be over simplifying things.

The machinations of the blame plot, to persuade Batman that Superman is dangerous and must be dealt with and the wheels within wheels that Luthor goes into in order to put the pieces into play while retaining a reasonable shot at having apparently clean hands and have all the blame fall upon Batman is actually really well done, even if there is a hubris in Luthor’s final actions as there would be people that knew that Luthor had been given access to Zod’s body. The arc that Superman takes, and the evolution of his relationship with Lois, both as Superman and Clark is believable and satisfying, and in keeping with the years of to-ing and fro-ing in the comics. Even the conflicts that Clark has with Perry over what they ought to be doing as a newspaper speak well to the larger internal conflicts he is dealing with about purpose and accountability.

All in all the film delivers and it does not shy away from the darkness that has long since been the territory that DC has occupied by comparison to Marvel.

I can’t single the film out as the best Batman movie of all time, simply because I love the “early years” of the character and feel that the Nolan trilogy does an excellent job of exploring the genesis and early experiences of Bruce Wayne and Batman, but for me, as a comics fan that came into comics through The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke and Death of Superman, here were familiar, compelling representations of some of my favourite characters in fiction, doing what I would expect them to do, and ultimately saving the day, though at great cost. As such it’s a firm 9.5/10 from me, and I am excited to see Justice League when it hits Bluray later this year. I expect, based on the spoiler-free reviews I have seen, that I will continue to be in the minority, that I will continue to warm to Batfleck, that seeing more of Wonder Woman will be a good thing(tm) and that adding in other exciting and very DC characters can’t really hurt at all.

I await your flame-war with joy in my heart…

P.S. If I had one criticism of Batman Versus Superman: Dawn of Justice, it would be this; “WTF, Jimmy Olsen is CIA and you let him take a bullet to the head in the first 5 minutes! DUDE!”. Look I am a photographer, a nerd / geek and a guy; if I am honest with myself Jimmy Olsen is the only DC character I have any hope of really identifying with. Well that and Olsen was my nickname at work for a while, long ago…


Book Review – Split

A couple of people asked me why I was reading a book about divorce, when they saw me reading Split, a book edited and contributed to by Katie West.

The simple answer, the one that does not require a longer conversation, would have been that I have followed Ms. West’s career for some time and I was interested to read the book; so much so that I pre-ordered it on the first day of the pre-sale.

Now the simple answer is true, but it’s not the whole story…

Before I go any further, no I am not getting divorced. I am not even considering getting divorced. I don’t imagine that it is unusual for married people to think about divorce from time to time, and I would admit that I have, but never in a longing way. Married people are confronted by divorce from time to time and on other occasions it flits in and out of the transoms of our minds, but until it is something that you want (and even then I imagine it is a conflicting set of feelings), it is not something that you are excited or happy about. Society makes it pretty clear that divorce is failure and ignominy and is about who did what and who gets the kids, the house and so on.

This is probably the first reason that I wanted to read the book. I want to be with my wife forever, and cannot imagine a scenario in which I would want a divorce. Of course we all suffer moments of self-doubt; in mine I sometimes confront the frightening prospect that my wife might want a divorce. I wanted to read about other people’s experiences, in part to inoculate myself from this fear. I hoped to discover that if it was coming it would not be a creeping, self-maiming fear, but something that if I was honest with myself I would be expecting when it came. Not only that. I wanted to see if, despite the difficulties, it could be said that people “get past” it in the end; if divorce were to come looking for me, would I survive?

I have an unusual experience of marriage, I suppose. We learn from our parents and my parents’ marriage, while I am sure not the perfect idyll it always appeared to be to me, was and still is a happy one. I grew up in a time when almost a third of marriages in Britain ended in divorce, so I knew my share of people that did not have happily married parents. My closest friend at primary school’s parents were the first that I really knew about; they were divorced when we were seven. Well, maybe when we were eight?

I can remember spectating, from one remove, seeing the effects it had on my friend and his brother, gleaning hints of the push and pull between his parents over custody, money and so on. I remember being very scared. Suddenly my parents were not the rock solid foundation that they had appeared to be. They did a great job of reassuring me, and I became less worried over time, but I remained a little fascinated. As I grew older other friends’ parents separated, divorced and in the fullness of time many of them had new partners. Modern life and the modern family seemed to be about second and even third tries and half-siblings and step-children and all of that.

In my own adult life I have known people who seemed happy, and some that never did, who have married and divorced before I even got around to getting married myself. I have been through relationships breaking up, of course, but divorce is a much bigger thing, not only in terms of the spectre it represents but also in terms of the practicalities that need to be untangled and the sheer pragmatic pressure that people are put under to start again – new house, new friends (in some cases), new lifestyles.

This was the second, deeper reason that I wanted to read Split. I know that reading a book cannot help me really understand my friends’ experiences, but perhaps it could shed some light on this shadowy part of life that is so very present and reasonably commonplace, but at the same time so wrapped up in taboo.

I am here to tell you that this book is wonderful. I know, it is full of stories of sadness and hurt and disappointment and betrayal and just plain old change and circumstances, but through all of it, it is also wonderful.

I am not sure that I can properly explain how refreshing it is to have the shutters thrown open wide and the honest truth about the endings of marriages be shown the full light of day. There are stories in this book from the conventional to the positively twenty-first century, from the upbeat to the equally down tempo, from recovered souls and people still finding their way. In every case there is a new truth about human relationships waiting to be found by the reader, and by the time you reach the end of the book I am sure you will have learned something; I certainly did.

This book is not supposed to be a “how to” manual, I knew that on some level before I started and I was pleased to be proven right. This book is both a collection of stories about hope and a collection of stories about a part of the human experience that we do not talk about, that is mostly hidden from view and as such can seem frightening.

Having read Split I am not frightened by divorce any more. I do not welcome it, I am not inviting it, but I don’t fear it any more. Here is the proof that no matter how complicated the circumstances it can be survived, and that sometimes, frankly most of the time, it is the right thing for the people involved.

I strongly recommend it to anyone, single or involved, married or unmarried, monogamous or polyamorous, straight, gay, bi – this is a book about living truthfully, and how that can get you through anything, even things that society has probably told you to be afraid of.


Open Letter to the Curator of svbtle.com

Hi,

I really liked your website.

Then you let Milo, this “Walter Mitty”, hate-filled, bitter, over-weening, irredeemably arrogant, fraction-of-a-human-being post on it.

His writing makes me sad, and not just because of the subject matter.

I fear that one can quite easily detect that he did not complete either of his degree courses, despite his continued insistence on parading his having attended both Manchester and Cambridge Universities. It is worth noting that having attended is almost completely meaningless if one did not actually attain a degree.

To drop out of one degree course might be seen as misfortune, but to drop out of two is nothing but carelessness. To continue to attempt to dine-out on one’s attendance when it has become public knowledge that one did not complete either course is nothing short of pathetic.

His dropping out twice is self-confirmed here:

Forbes Profile on Milo Yiannopolous from 2012

and yet he continues to use terms like “Cambridge educated” when writing about himself.

With regard to notes that I might give on his writing, you might want to point out to him, in your capacity as curator / editor on your site, that;

“Rampant hordes unsatisfied by apology, by careers ruined or by the sustained public humiliation and dark thoughts of suicide their profitless crusades inflict now demand to bathe in seas of blood, biting and scratching like wild animals until there is nothing left besides bones and the blubbering, quivering, tragic mess of someone who once dared to venture an opinion under the masthead of a national newspaper or prominent magazine.”

might, just possibly need to be at least two and possibly three sentences. Full stops are not a mark of weakness. Overly long sentences are almost always a mark of trying too hard to appear erudite.

Not only that, but:

“…dark thoughts of suicide their profitless crusades inflict now demand…”

probably ought to read:

“…dark thoughts of suicide, which their profitless crusades inflict, now demand…”

but what would I know..? Oh hold on, yes I actually hold a degree in English Literature, a degree that actually had a creative writing component. Yes, I probably would know.

I am unwilling to apply the red pen to the entire piece, but frankly your site deserves a better quality of writing.

Shame really, your website is a good idea, but I just cannot take it seriously any longer. Since allowing this tripe to appear amongst the pages of svbtle.com you have seriously diminished its overall quality.

By equating Milo Yiannopoulos with the description “great people” you have made a laughing stock out of your editorial vision.

You might want to read the following articles and think again about allowing his writing to grace your site:

Charles Arthur in the Guardian

@PME2013 on Milo Yiannopolous and Hatred of the Self

Tim Fenton, politics blogger, on Milo…

Max Dunbar, blogger, on the evils of unpaid labour & The Kernel

Kind Regards,

Oliver

P.S. I will be posting this email to my blog(s) as a public record of this communication. Forgive me, but Milo has a reputation for making wild claims about non-public correspondence etc. and I would far rather that this missive be a part of the public domain, so that there can be no confusion.


@maleghast


Wow, there is a lot of hate out there…

So the iPad; I never realised how much hate there is out there for Apple until this product launch…

Before anyone launches themselves down my throat in an attempt to immediately enforce the reality that Apple have finally bitten off more than they can chew and have doomed themselves to becoming a failing business once more with the release of the iPad, I have not made my mind up yet, and I won’t until I can actually get my hands on one. That having been said it is a beautiful looking device:

Apple iPad - Initial Marketing Image, copyright Apple Computer

(The image is also a link to the current iPad section of apple.com)

So what are the naysayers all about?

#1 “The iTampon” – Seriously? The name is __clearly__ a reference to a pad of paper and a nod to PADDs from Star Trek. I mean, ok if you are eleven years old and have just found about menstruation, but otherwise, please get a clue.

#2 “There’s no camera!” – On a device of this form factor? Really? Or is it just that we have got to a place where every portable device that is ever created now HAS to have a camera built into it. If you really think that this is an omission that “kills” the product then you are not thinking about how and where this device is projected to be of use.

#3 “No multi-tasking!” – I have seen __several__ people bemoaning that they won’t be able to listen to music and read an eBook at the same time, but the iPad is running a “version” of iPhone / iTouch OS X, so the one thing that you will be able to do is listen to music AND carry out another task at the same time, JUST LIKE THE iPhone; idiots! Also, again in terms of the paradigm that the device represents, multi-tasking is not as important as you might think; it’s never stopped me fully utilising my iPhone as a connected device for productivity, entertainment and communication, so why would it be a show-stopper for this device?

Basically the iPad is supposed to be a better, more convenient, longer battery-life, smaller form-factor device designed to better attack the need that netbooks have been trying to fill for the last 18 months. Very few people out there are using netbooks as their main machine; they are a stop-gap device that is lighter to carry, allowing email, IM, Twitter, web-browsing and video consumption on the go without carrying a full-weight laptop, but if you need to run Photoshop or DreamWeaver, or Final Cut then just as a netbook would not be the correct device for the job, neither will the iPad be appropriate. For all the rest, for casual connected use and as a leisure device that could certainly be a good “while I’m traveling” business device as well, there is iPad. All the positives of a netbook with none of the annoyances.

Like I said I will wait to hold one before I __really__ make my mind up, but if the iBooks and eBook reading experience are good / easy on the eye I would want one just for that alone, so the ability to wordprocess (iWork, sold separately 😉 ), listen to music, watch a movie and a hundred other things including playing Geo-Defence on a 9″ screen…

And then there is the App-Store; almost 100% compatibility with existing apps and a new SDK for iPad specific development – this is going to be a really great year for those of us that are open to doing some of our computing a new way. In true Apple style, the iPad really is all about “Think Different”


Warning: This post may offend (Apologies to LJ subscribers who got it twice)

I’ve come to a startling and yet satisfying conclusion. While a large proportion of my social circle will (I expect) take untold glee in bashing seven shades of shit out of the new Transformers film (“Transformers – Revenge of the Fallen”), I have come to a liberating realisation; it’s not art, so I can just enjoy it.

I’m not afraid to admit that I like to read so-called “great” poetry, I enjoy (yes genuinely enjoy) watching Shakespeare, at least when his work is well staged I do, and I am well and widely read in what many would refer to as ‘the classics’. I love attending the Opera, art exhibitions and quality live music across many genres. Bluntly I am cultured, and when I want the intellectual satisfaction of indulging in culture I am fitted for the task. There are times, nonetheless, when entertainment can be honestly and openly garnered from less subtle sources, and I feel duty bound to remind my peers that this may well be one of those times.

I have no desire to protect Michael Bay from his detractors – you are right he is the King of cliché visually and in terms of the way he directs actors – nor do I wish to make the case that his most recent film should in any way be discussed as though it were art. No, my desire is to encourage my friends and acquaintances that there is nothing so utterly self-defeating as holding a film like the new Transformers movie up to the harsh light of our shared intellectual scrutiny. You have two options; either watch it and revel in its banality and inconsistency, its sensationalism and it’s accomplished superficiality, or don’t watch it. There is no third option…

You may think that there is a third option. You may mistakenly think that there is a place in this world for you to watch this film and then turn your undeniable analytical skills to the task of dissecting it, attempting to put meat back onto the bones of this paper butterfly so that you can complain that it is poorly done. You may, as has so often been the case before, feel that there is something clever in pointing out what some of us had already taken as read; that this is mindless, unconvincing almost entirely plot-free drivel with little or no characterisation and the worst dialogue one might be able to imagine. You see there are those of us who knew that going in, who decided quite rationally that there is a place in our lives for the entertainment equivalent of candyfloss (cotton candy to our American friends), and we are OK WITH THAT!

Time after time after time I have been forced to put up with facetious, knowing critiques of entertainment, be it film, tv, books, comics or whatever, that I already knew were intellectually sub-standard, and been made to feel as though I am anything from an “easy to please doormat of taste” through to an outright imbecile for enjoying them and yet I am quite aware of the fact that I am neither of these things. When I don’t like something I say so, and as for the imbecile thing… Oh what’s the point, I __do__ know I’m not an imbecile.

If you want to look clever, give me a well rounded and stimulating discussion on the film π by Darren Aronofsky, or let’s have a chat about why Citizen Kane may be a great film, but it has long since lost the title of ‘the Greatest Film Ever Made”. Let’s hear why you think “American Psycho” is an over-rated pile of horse-shit, but you’d better know your onions about the American novel of the late 20th Century before we get going down that route, because I do…

Here’s the bottom line; an end to all hackery, right here, right now. Until you’ve made your own multi-million dollar film you don’t get the spotlight while you tell the rest of us the bleedingly obvious as to why a film about giant robots from outer space that can talk and turn into mundane forms of human transport turned out to be an intellectual and artistic failure. We know it’s not Art, you don’t look clever telling us why it’s shit because it fails to be Art.

Quickly, before I finish, I think I ought to own up to the fact that until I was well into my late twenties I was just as much a part of this smug culture of armchair intellectual dilettantism for the middle classes as anyone else I know, and I want to say two things about that. One “I’m sorry; for every time I trespassed in this manner, and to everyone who won’t get back the time they had to spend listening to me using big words to tell them shit they already knew and had already decided did not matter to them”. Two; I’m pretty certain that what changed for me was genuinely trying to create something and realising that it’s nowhere near as easy as it looks… Oh experience how thy fruits are naught but humility and peace…

P.S. In case you were wondering (or worse still thinking of embedding the Kermode review in a comment) I’ve got a lot of respect for Mark Kermode, and I will admit that I found his “video review” for TROTF on the Kermode Blog genuinely funny, but then I know him to be a clever and insightful man and he did all of that to play to his audience. That being said, if he really wanted to impress me, he’d say something like my thoughts above to his ‘devoted followers’ if only to remind them that sometimes a movie is __JUST__ a movie…
.
EOT


Book Review: “Sunken Treasure” by Wil Wheaton

Wil Wheaton __is__ a writer. I know that in this world of celebrity it is easier to say Wil Wheaton is “that guy from Stand By Me” or “you know, Wesley Crusher” but as this, his fourth book, so deftly proves he __is__ a writer.

This small, yet perfectly formed treasury of gems from an Acme Script to a TV Squad review of ‘DataLore’ to a bunch of childhood memories and family moments (particularly the incredibly warm and touching ‘See a Little Light’) Wil once again proves his mettle as truly gifted writer of narrative non-fiction.

I have had this book three days, I have already read it twice; I cannot possibly convey to you how much you need this book in your life, and I am confident that if you take my advice that it will not be long before you have his other books and are regularly reading his excellent blog at http://wilwheaton.typepad.com .

Bravo Mr. Wheaton, another joyful contribution to the written record of our race; bravo indeed!
(*****)

The book is available on Lulu – this is the link to the ‘World’ Edition for non-US customers