Well, the Oscars are over except for the bragging rights, As a fellow who has been reviewing movies for the past 15 years or so (check out some of my more recent reviews here) I have to tell you that I love watching the Oscar telecast, and this year was no different. While many reviewers like to make Oscar predictions, and to rank movies, that’s not what I’m all about as a reviewer. I mean, how can you compare the gut-wrenching drama of Saving Private Ryan with the flat-out silliness of Airplane (perhaps the funniest non-Marx Brothers film ever made). While some of you might look at Toy Story and see an entertaining kiddie animated flick, I saw a top-flight buddy film on the order of Lethal Weapon (except, ya know, funnier)
So, given all this, what did I think of this year’s Telecast? Great! At the risk of being both redundant and trite, Chris Rock Rocks! His opening monologue was perhaps the funniest Oscar opening monologue I have ever heard (and I’ve been watching this show for as long as I can remember). So when he started trashing not only specific movies (Pootie Tang—in which Rock himself stared) but specific stars (Jude Law) as well I was hysterical. I mean, you just never do that kind of thing at the Oscars (I was reminded of Bobcat Goldthwaith’s bit at the first MTV Awards, all the presenters were doing “safe” comedy bits, and Bobcat comes out and trashes The Monkeys who were in the middle of their third (fourth?) revival — He did a bit where he said “hey, did anybody see The Monkeys? Man don’t they look old!” Then he grabbed a stool that was onstage and using it as a walker began to sing “Here we come, walking down the street.. Man, I wish my mother invented Whiteout (Former Monkey, Mike Nesbith’s mom had something to do with the invention of White Out and he was now so wealthy that he was passing on joining the new tour, which the other members needed to pay the bills).
Anyway, since I don’t pick winners, I’m never really disappointed with who wins (except for last year when Bill Murray was robbed of his best Actor award for Lost in Translation). Still, having said all of that, I was extremely pleased that Spider-Man 2 won for Special Effects, and (unlike our man, Walt) quite pleased that The Incredibles won for best-animated film. Yea you could make the argument that The Incredibles was derivative, but any crank can claim that anything (film, book, TV show, etc.) is derivative of something else (I know one such individual who insists that every film made since The Wizard of Oz is somehow derivative of that classic. I don’t know how, but that’s his claim, but all you have to do is ask him, and he’ll tell you).
Sure, sure it borrowed heavily from Marvel’s The Fantastic Four, and from DC’s Superman and Batman mythos, as well as from virtually every other superhero comic ever written. Who cares? I know that I certainly don’t. By tapping into this uniquely American, enormously rich, and entirely (and unfortunately mostly overlooked) vein, Director, Brad Bird cobbled together a thoroughly enjoyable story forming an entertainingly rich tapestry. Plus, given that these two films (The Incredibles and Spider-Man 2) came away with Oscars proves (to me at least) that comicbooks aren’t just disposable kiddie fare. That they are indeed legitimate entertainment and that I’ve been right about this all along (I’ve been reading comics since the early ‘60s, and have never been embarrassed that I — even at my advanced age — am still reading them.
OK, I’ll give you that Catwoman was crap, that the Joel Schumacher Batman films were ghod-awful, and that Hulk, Daredevil, and Electra all could have played better (I have longer rants on these last three films that I will get to another time, be patient, I actually do this stuff for a living, so I have paying clients that I have to get to first, plus, I unlike some in this particular arena, I do have like a life and stuff, ya know). If you wer to ask me (and yeah, I know that you didn’t but you are still reading, aren’t you?) The problem with Catwoman was that it completely departed from the source material (that and it was badly done, woodenly acted, and horribly animated the “action” sequences).
As for the Schumacher Batman films, they were just badly done (to the actor’s credit, Val Kilmer was them most athletic of the three actors who portrayed the Darknight detective (and thus closer to the comicbook incarnation, making him my personal favorite) George Clooney looked the best in the Batman suit, and Michael Keaton was actually the best Bruce Wayne. (I’m going to wait until Christian Bale’s turn in Batman Begins hits the screen later this year to go through my entire rant on this series, leave it to say now that Shumacher’s Batman was more like what he remembered Batman in the comics to be than what it actually was.)
The biggest problem with comicbook translations that make to the big screen (and why they mostly blow) is that the writers of the comics take the material, the medium, and the characters very seriously, while the writers of the movies, and TV shows don’t, and treat the source material as disposable pabulum crap. Only what they always fail to realize is that if the thing is popular enough in its original incarnation (and popular enough to be picked up as a movie or TV show) that it obviously does work as originally conceived, so why dick around with it? But they do, and when it fails miserably, everyone goes “See, I told you that this stuff was crap.” And then they go on to write and produce more crap based on respected works.