David Thompson
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December 27, 2017

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John D

On cinematic bathos, or dramatic knee-capping.

That's why Logan was a better film than Thor Ragnarok.

David

That’s why Logan was a better film than Thor Ragnarok.

I still haven’t seen Logan, though I’ve been told it’s worth watching. I’m not a big Hugh Jackman fan and, more to the point, I have X-Men fatigue. Two decent films out of eight, or whatever it is now, isn’t a great hit rate.

Ray

I believed Spiderman can shoot gallons of goop without losing any weight. I believed Ironman's suit contains enough reaction mass for hours of flight. I even believed Antman can go subatomic. But I didn't believe Rhodey could fall a thousand feet and NOT DIE.

I just wanted to say that.

Governor Squid

You can almost hear the writers discussing their scenes, and anything with real emotional pull gets dismissed with "that crap belongs on the Hallmark channel." Don't get me wrong -- there's a whole bunch of terrible stuff on Hallmark that yanks at the heartstrings in the most clumsy and obvious ways, but that doesn't mean that every emotionally moving scene is automatically terrible.

Iron Man makes stupid wisecracks all the time because Tony Stark is a deeply messed-up guy who uses humor as a coping mechanism. Not every character, and not every writer, needs to manifest this particular neurosis with every line they speak or write.

pst314

Jeff Koons makes art that is pure kitsch, but it's honored rather than despised because he poses as an "ironic" artist.
In one episode of the Simpsons, Homer (?) is embraced by the art world because they see his garbage as "ironic", and is rejected when they suspect him of sincerity.

David

Not every character, and not every writer, needs to manifest this particular neurosis with every line they speak or write.

That. The Guardians sequel pushed the formula to breaking point (and beyond), and Thor: Ragnarok drove the whole thing off a cliff.

Horatio Hufnagel

Did anybody see 10 Cloverfield Lane?

(Spoiler alert...)

A woman gets in a car crash and wakes up in John Goodman's bomb shelter. He says aliens have invaded and he saved her life. We spend the whole movie wondering whether or not he's lying, and just when we think we're sure he is, and the heroine escapes his clutches, we find out he wasn't. And this moment of horror, when the big monster finally makes its way on screen, the resolution of the film's central mystery, a big nasty surprise, etc, etc, is totally undercut by the heroine making some meta wisecrack.

You wouldn't catch Steven Spielberg pulling that kind of thing.

David

As an example of how to juggle quips and knowing comedy with drama and an emotional pay-off - veering right up to, but not quite over, the threshold of cheese - the animated comic book adaptation Big Hero 6 comes to mind. It’s funny, and touching, and tonally consistent. And it doesn’t show a need to undermine itself.

Penseivat

Every time I see photos or film clips of Hugh Jackman's Wolverine, with his huge side whiskers, I can't help thinking he looks like a younger version of Harry Enfield's Wayne Slob. I will only go and watch one of these silly fantasy films if I know that Cathy Burke will wander on screen moaning that she is the only woman on her estate who doesn't have a black baby.

R. Sherman

This was one of the problems with The Last Jedi, IMHO. Too many dramatic moments undercut by forced gags.

As for bathos as a rhetorical technique, P.J. O'Rourke was/is a master at it, to good effect in his writing. But it's like Tabasco sauce. Sparing use is better.

Craig Mc

"I believed Spiderman can shoot gallons of goop without losing any weight."

That's teenage males for you.

Pogonip

Forget all these heroes—here’s the ultimate non- hero:

https://www.tor.com/2017/12/24/i-cthulhu-neil-gaiman/

champ

Ha! Now trees are racist...

https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/blogs/tim-blair/racist-trees-face-removal/news-story/c8dd61ab1a819dbf1d0e1b6b78424c37

Pogonip

They certainly are. I thought everyone knew.

Pogonip

Readers, behold this, courtesy of bloggers R.S. McCain and Cynthia Yockey.

http://theothermccain.com/2017/12/27/ex-partner-accuses-nonbinary-transfemme-elierlick-of-sexual-abuse/

I read the whole thing, including the links. I know they’re kids and so a certain amount of drama-queening will be going on, but there seems to be much genuine misery here. What I want to know is, where are their PARENTS in all this?

To me they sound like what they really need is something constructive to do. If they were my kids I’d try to arrange a season of farm or fast-food work. (They may be legal adults, but saying firmly “You flip hamburgers for 3 months or your trust fund gets given to someone else” would prompt instant cooperation.). Mr. McCain is researching Tumblrinas—I think he’s writing a book—and he finds story after story like this. It doesn’t just sadden me as a parent, it worries me because this is the future ruling class. What do you all make of this?

Pogonip

P.S. You think those tamarisk trees are racist, you should hear my gen-u-wine white (!) oak wooden sword when it’s been into the sake. That thing would embarrass Archie Bunker.

I’m not laughing at the people who want the trees down; I can see why they are miffed. I’m laughing at the headline.

Hal

On cinematic bathos, or dramatic knee-capping.

I'm having a listen through of a lot of Rolling Stones, and have reached the soundtrack for the Rock And Roll Circus . . . and particularly have reached one of the performances in that.

I know, I know, you're quite welcome.

WTP

Don’t know if trees are racist, but they certainly are evil. Trees have killed more people than the Clintons and the Kennedys combined. That is a FACT. You can look it up.

JuliaM

Best film I've seen over Christmas so far was 'Kubo And The Two Strings'. Brilliant animation. Genuine story. Utterly charming.

Fred the Fourth

Seconded. Kubo is wonderful visual art and storytelling.

Jonathan

It seems that Marvel attempting to push 'Diversity!' in their comics didn't turn out to be a great idea:

http://twitter.com/GradedPointFive/status/946184711201796099

Who could have forseen it?


via S.C.R.U.M.P

Tim Newman

That's a good video clip, and explains the problem well. Frankly, I've always thought these superhero films were like that because they were aimed at kids, who like these sorts of gags. I've always found them a little childish, tbh. I've not seen Wonder Woman because I'm waiting for it to come on Sky, but I've heard good things and I'll catch it for sure.

On the subject of gags: they're good, but they must be used sparingly and timing is everything. The first and third Indiana Jones films managed this to perfection. I noticed when I started writing I used to insert a lot of gags but quickly learned a lot of them are a bit infantile. One way to see if a gag works or not is to read it out loud, or to imagine your friends or colleagues getting hold of a script and reading it out loud in a pub. You'll soon know which bits make you cringe.

Hal

Don’t know if trees are racist, but they certainly are evil. Trees have killed more people than the Clintons and the Kennedys combined. That is a FACT. You can look it up.

Daniel Ream

I've always thought these superhero films were like that because they were aimed at kids

Nope.

I called it months ago: we've hit peak superhero at the box office.

First of all, forget anything about film criticism, or screenwriting, or deep navel-gazing about when and how to use humour to release dramatic tension, or heaven forbid "bathos".

These movies are investment vehicles. Full stop. They're massive ROI for their backers, who are notoriously both skittish about a potential flop and fantastically ignorant about what people actually want to watch. What's happened here is that there's only so many superhero stories you can tell, and the various studios have pretty much exhausted them all by saturating the market. The lackluster performance of the latter X-Men films and the other Fox properties, the lukewarm reaction to Avengers 2 and Captain America 2: Civil War, the utter disaster that is the DCCU and the phenomenal ROI of Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy means the suits saw the economic writing on the wall.

The target demographic wants goofy, funny superhero parody? All right, you're going to get goofy, funny superhero parody. In spades. Until you stop paying to go see it.

Hal

First of all, forget anything about film criticism, or screenwriting, or deep navel-gazing about when and how to use humour to release dramatic tension, or heaven forbid "bathos".

These movies are investment vehicles. Full stop.

Three forms of storytelling,
Or,
The Once And Future Jedi, by T.H. White,
Or
Poor Mickey Mouse, he has indigestion and gout.

When George Lucas created Star Wars, he went back to the original stories about stories, the original quest for something missing, which inevitably and ultimately always leads to Bill Moyers interviewing Joseph Campbell. In 2015, Disney brought out a movie which was quite entirely only generally reminiscent of being Star Wars all over again. The procedure used by Disney was rather simple: roll the initial scroll of text to show that this is a Star Wars movie, continue with waving about on screen assorted icons and characters from the original movies, and then once the supply of characters and icons has run out, roll the closing credits.

One result of that Disney focus on The Shiny Things comes from an online review series called Cinemasins. The Cinemasins process is to dig through a movie and call out every instance of something being clearly broken or just not making sense. Of Disney's Mickey Mouse attempt to follow George Lucas into the theatres, the primary Cinemasins review was succinct. When reviewing that movie, following the "discovery" of yet another Great Icon, Cinemasins made the proclamation that Artifacts from the original trilogy are more easily found than pop-up ads on a porn site. In turn, for the benefit of the Disney accountants, the result was a complete financial success---according to Wiki, the movie cost $306 million, and brought in just over $2 billion.

Of course, because that attempt as a Star Wars movie was a complete flop as an example of story telling, Mickey Mouse had to come up with something else before continuing on with a next movie. Judging From The Results---note the disclaimer there---the solution was to test out a new idea in a new movie, and then take the results of that to the next formal Grand Release of a further movie. The two part new idea that someone at Disney apparently came up with was first to go back to story bits which Lucas and his staff had already done---in this case the creation of the Death Star from before the first Star Wars movie. With that Lucas based background framework---again, looking at the results---what Disney did for the second step was to take a team of video game designers, and tell them to make a video game outline based on the creation of the Death Star. Only once the game was designed, only then did the trivial bits like dialogue and film script format get tossed in so that something could go before the cinematic cameras and computers. That result went onto the screens in 2016 and it also was a financial success, costing $200 million and bringing in a little over $1 billion.

In December of 2017, Disney released a movie that is best described as The Latest Junkheap. Again, judging from the results, TLJ was quite obviously merely assembled by a team of videogame designers who were handed a collection of playing pieces and told to go make some game that involves solving complicated maze puzzles while shooting things.

As an example of storytelling, TLJ. Is. Really. Really. Really. Really. Bad.

Hal

Heh.

The target demographic wants goofy, funny superhero parody? All right, you're going to get goofy, funny superhero parody. In spades

. . . .

In December of 2017, Disney released a movie that is best described as The Latest Junkheap. . . . As an example of storytelling, TLJ. Is. Really. Really. Really. Really. Bad.

Even Berke Breathed is pissed off, and he likes the Star Wars stories . . .

Patrick Chester

Finally saw Thor: Ragnarok last night. I thought it was pretty good, though not as good as, say, Guardians of the Galaxy or some of the Iron Man films.

Loved the cameo by Dr. Strange. ("Okay, bye now.")

Star Wars: The Last Jedi felt oddly... empty. Even the prequels had parts that I liked but it was like *nothing* in the film moved me at all. Which is sad.

Hal

Star Wars: The Last Jedi felt oddly... empty.

Warning, sort of somewhat spoiler alert here . . .

Consider the United States. Consider that the entirety of the US military is the US Marine Corps and a cluster of transport ships. By the way, the entirety of the Marines, and ships, are over in Ireland, not in the US. They're not doing anything to Ireland, that's just where they're located.

The heavies come along and wipe out the US. Now, this is not a matter of a few people dying, this where the Atlantic and the Pacific are now rushing towards each other.

The Marines get an idea that moving somewhere else might be a good idea, except that as they are starting to do so, about half the Marines get slaughtered.

From about that point on, an additional five percent of the remaining Marines get killed off every ten to twenty minutes of screen time.

Finally, just before the credits roll, the last surviving Marines, just enough in number to have a small tea party, squeeze into a commuter airplane and take off to go . . . somewhere.

At that point the Commandant of the Marines matter of factly announces We have everything we need.

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