Friday, June 30, 2006
26 years... 26 years I waited. Saw Superman Returns last night. Loved it. Planning to see it again on Sunday in Imax... figgerin' I'll love it. As I type this? Superman (the 1978 epic) plays in the background... oh, look! Superman's filling-in the San Andreas fault! Laugh all you want, but like you'd think to stop an earthquake that way. That's just part of why he's... waitforit... super.
Seriously... what do I do now?
Ummmmm... here's something cool someone did to something else cool once.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
We just got home, and, well, the film is awesome. Superman Returns is, for we geeks, the Lord of the Rings of superhero films – in both scope and emotion of the story. Our beloved Bryan Singer wasn’t simply content with making the prettiest Superman film ever made – he had to go and make the most tear-jerking, heart-rending, pulse-pounding superhero film ever made.
Now, obviously I was predisposed to love this film. I grant you that. You should know that Nancy came to the screening prepared with Kleenex for my inevitable crying fits. It's also worth mentioning that Jen? At work? She was sincerely worried about me making it through the first viewing... she knew I'd be a wreck, and you know what? She was right. Julie, James, Lindsay, G, Christina, Sarah? They all knew too... their support didn't actually keep me from being a wreck, but as I sat there gripping Nancy's hand and fighting back the tears of outright joy I have to tell you their support (and thanks, Julie, for knowing exactly what I was talking about when I said "No, really: I'll be crying the whole time.") made being a wreck somehow... comforting. I owe all of them... which they'd deny, of course... which is, I should point out, a very "Superman" kinda' thing to do....
How much of a wreck was I? I fell apart during the opening credits.
The theater went dark, the WB logo played, followed by the Legendary Pictures logo…and I was doing okay... even during the revamped DC Comics logo that followed... but then the screen went dark one last time. Marlon Brando's voice drifted out from the darkness; John Williams’ familiar Superman march blared out of the speakers and all of a sudden, the familiar blue outlined credits floated toward the audience then streaked straight at us... and I realized... I was about to watch a SUPERMAN movie. All of a sudden I was twelve years old again... and that feeling? It never went away. Not for two and a half hours.
This film plays to every geek sensibility you have, my friends, equally striking chords of the comics (with shots that emulate some of the all time great Superman covers and panels, including a nice reversal of Action Comics #1)) and the footsteps of the films it is boldly attempting to follow. This film... soars.
Speaking of soaring... when Superman flies... it's graceful; it’s ballet. It's poetic. He flies exactly the way we’ve always dreamed he could – the way every comic panel we’ve ever seen has tried to show us. Yes, it needs to be said: you will believe a man can fly. Again.
But while the special effects in this film are simply astounding, you won’t walk out talking about the explosions or the fights or the physics of saving a dead-stick 777 (okay, we did discuss that one) or cities being torn apart. You’ll be talking about the heart. Make no mistake: this movie is a love story. In fact, it’s two love stories. The first is the classic story of the Clark/Lois/Superman love triangle – with the added twist of new complications. But it's also the story of our (and Bryan Singer’s) love of Superman, the icon, the hero, the man we all wish deep down inside we could be.
Bryan Singer... he just... he just gets Superman right. Every aspect. There isn’t a single moment here that would make a single Superman fan wince. On the contrary, there are scenes that will bring tears to your eyes – not because they are emotionally manipulative moments at which you are supposed to cry, but because you are actually seeing the first truly amazing Superman rescue of your adult life. It sounds hokey, it sounds corny, but goddam if I didn’t look around and see some bleary-eyed little fanboys tearing up... after Nancy lovingly handed me a tissue to dry my own eyes, that is.
Brandon Routh is amazing; he defies all expectations. There is no question in my mind that he is Superman. I’m not saying he’s better than Christopher Reeve – but I will say that he is more than capable to fill his red leather boots. Nancy pointed out that Christopher Reeve's Superman made her swoon, while it was Brandon Routh's Clark Kent that did her in tonight. I have this idea that I should feel threatened or petulant about that... but honestly, I'm just too delighted by Brandon's performance to feel anything but happy, and confident in knowing that Superman is, at long last, back.
Kate Bosworth? Noel Neill still will always be Lois to me, but Kate? In many ways she is the definitive Lois Lane. Headstrong, beautiful, relentless and all the while a damaged woman in love but afraid to admit it. Bryan Singer offers up a very complicated Lois Lane, one of tremendous depth, and Kate meets every challenge thrown at her.
Kevin Spacey? Come on. No brainer. The man owns every second he’s on screen and displays the exact type of menace the role of Luthor demands. The guy’s just ruthless and is given a few perfect little moments to showcase just how dangerous he is. I especially liked that we got "Mad Scientist" Lex... a nice nod to the days when he was just "Luthor" in the comics.
And the rest of the cast works just as perfectly as the leads – especially the ones I was unsure of. Parker Posey, who I normally grit my teeth while watching (Oh, gee, I wonder if she’s going to play another chain smoking, catty, uptight, bitchy character? Oh look. She is!) actually bowled me over. I loved her here. She’s funny as hell, playing perfectly off of Kevin Spacey at every step. And Sam Huntington’s Jimmy Olsen is the perfect mix of puppy dog charm and over exuberance that has made the character of Jimmy Olsen stick around for so long. Sure, he's no Adam Brody (and our signed Superman Returns poster suffers for it), but he's terrific anyway, trust me.
But what amazes me most about this film is the fact that it maintains the soul of a kids' movie. It’s very wholesome and cute, in just the way a Superman movie should be, without sacrificing the mature themes that they were striving for. For instance: this is a movie all about being adopted.
I have friends who were adopted as infants, and to this day they ask themselves "Why didn't they love me?" and "Who am I, really?" They're well-adjusted, loving (and beloved) people who know and appreciate all they have... but those questions haunt them still. They don't care much about Superman... but I'm sure they'll love Superman Returns. The film plays directly to that sense of abandonment. The whole reason Superman left for five years was because there was a slight chance he might be able to discover some new information about Krypton. This turns out not to be true, but he was willing to throw all responsibility and personal connection aside to go find out.
We’re going to have to tread into spoiler territory to fully discuss this, so be warned. If you don’t want to know anything else about the actual story, just skip past the next paragraph now. Just in case, here's a buffer for you:
Okay? Ready? Superman searches the cosmos for his heritage, but instead finds his own son on his adopted homeworld... only to have to watch him be raised by someone else. Five years ago he had a child with Lois he never knew about... and he left. When he first shows up and sees her son Jason (Tristan Lake Leabu), he’s hit by a wave of regret, asking himself, “What if he had been my son?” You can see the regret on Clark's face as he gazes incredulously at Lois' family portrait. By the end of the film though, once he learns the truth, he looks at the boy in a whole new way, and it’s amazingly affecting. Later, Superman’s decision to allow his son to grow up with another father is a selfless one, and it ties things up perfectly.
Now, to be fair, I have a few nits to pick: First of all, how come no one even questions that just as Superman miraculously reappears, Clark Kent strides back into the Daily Planet bullpen? I know these same absences and reappearances happen almost regularly in the comics, but at least they try to explain what happened. "Oh, yeah... while Superman was out extinguishing stars with his super breath, Clark was, uh... trapped under this rubble." Oh, and who would want to live on that Kryptonite-laced island Lex built, anyway? Never mind wanting to live there, who could afford to live there after it swallowed half of North America, and most of the global economy along with it? And if Lex reall-- you know what? I don't care.
You know whay I don't care? Because of that grin on Superman's face as he looks up from the bullet that just bounced harmlessly off his eyeball. Because Lois stepped, barefoot, onto his boots like she was used to it. Because Lex had another real estate swindle to engineer, and he had to steal a 28-year old meteorite (found in Addis Ababa) to help realize his vision. Because when Superman is hurt, and suffering, his mother has to stand alone in a crowd of strangers staring at his hospital window while others get to go inside and comfort him. Noel Neill's cameo. Jack Larson's cameo. Because Clark has a dog, still pushes his glasses up with an uncertain finger, and still has trouble with revolving doors. Because Superman is passionate, powerful, polite and... present. Up in the sky.
Right where we need him.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
"Look! Up in the sky! Superman's iconic S-Shield -- accompanied by a countdown to the day when "Superman Returns" hits movie theatres nationwide -- will be projected on popular landmarks around the country. The S-Shield will appear at such recognizable sites as Niagara Falls; the Time Warner Center in New York City, where it will be clearly visible from Central Park and other parts of Manhattan; the Queen Mary in Southern California's Long Beach Harbor; the new Fantasy Tower of the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas; Chicago's Sears Tower; and the giant Mall of America in Minneapolis. The S-Shield will also be seen in a variety of prominent locations in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Dallas, Denver, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Kansas City."
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Monday, June 26, 2006
The launch went off without a hitch, and Lois had made history as the first journalist in history to file her stories from the stratosphere. As a result of the attention her stories had generated, an enormous crowd --numbering in the hundreds of thousands-- had gathered at the Metropolis International Airport beltway to witness the Constitution’s historic landing.
It was extremely unusual for such a craft to land at a civilian airport, but even with all the difficulties involved in rescheduling the scores of commercial flights to provide ready clearance, everything had gone like clockwork. It looked as though the Constitution would complete her maiden flight in picture-perfect style.
Despite all precautions, a small civilian jet aircraft somehow slipped into restricted air space. Without warning the small plane slammed into the Constitution’s tail section. For one endless moment the two ships hung there, motionless in the cool Spring air, and then, fused together, tumbled earthward.
Suddenly… gently… miraculously…
“We’re leveling off… we’re slowing down!” Commander Morrow shouted, turning to his copilot. “Callahan, did you--“
Major Adam Callahan shook his head. “Not me boss. We’re still dead stick and power down. I don’t know what’s--“
“I… I do,” Lieutenant Anne West, the ship’s navigator, looked up from her monitor station, blue eyes wide with amazement. “I’ve got it on our belly camera, but…”
“On the heads-up display Lieutenant, now!” Commander Morrow barked.
Lois looked up at the video display. There was someone beneath the Constitution, gently cradling the great ship in his broad hands, and….
“He isn’t--“ Lois began incredulously.
“He has to be, “ Lieutenant West assured her without turning around. “And he’s--“
“Flying.” Major Callahan finished, finally saying the words aloud.
“A flying man?” Lois cried, shocked.
“I don’t care if he’s a flying squirrel,” Commander Morrow spat. “Callahan, get that gear down so he can set our sorry butts down.”
The landing was picture-perfect after all. Moments later, Lois scrambled from the space plane, and spotted the tall stranger as he emerged from beneath the fuselage.
Lois put Captain Sam Lane’s endless drills to the test: “Hold it right there buster!”
The young man froze in his tracks. Lois dashed up to his side, her mind racing with questions and Pulitzer Prize acceptance speeches, but then….
Their eyes met.
For the first time in her life, Lois Lane found herself speechless.
It wasn’t just that he was tall and handsome. His eyes were a deeper blue than any she’d ever seen, and his hair was very dark, with an errant lock that curled boyishly across his forehead.
No, aside from his striking appearance --even aside from the astounding fact that he’d just flown through the air and saved their lives-- there was something very different about this man. There was nothing distinguishable about his clothes (he was dressed simply in slacks and a jacket), but there was something….
Lois opened her mouth, but found that she still couldn’t speak. The stranger appeared to be similarly affected. They stood mere inches apart; stared intently at each other.
Gradually, Lois became aware of a distant roar which grew slowly in volume and intensity. The roar coalesced into voices… cheering, shouting, screaming voices. Across the runway streamed hundreds of people who had overwhelmed the security barricades. Before Lois could gather her wits, the crowd surged around her, separating her from the handsome stranger. A look of sheer panic flashed across his ashen face, and suddenly he leapt up into the air… and out of the clamoring crowd.
Stunned silent by the flying man’s sudden --and dramatic-- departure, the mob fell back, thinning. In the confusion, Lois made her way to a pay phone to call in the story to the Planet’s city desk.
Within minutes, her story went out over the AP wire, and newspeople across the country seized upon the name that Lois Lane had bestowed upon the mysterious stranger: “Superman”.
“Fine thing,” she groused. “Everyone’s using the name I gave the guy, and I can’t even get close enough to tug on his cape.”
Determined to interview Superman, Lois finally devised a bogus emergency to attract his attention. She stashed a scuba tank beneath her front seat, and drove headlong off a city pier and into the Metropolis Harbor.
Superman arrived within seconds.
“Are you all right, Miss Lane” He asked in a deep baritone, pulling her gingerly from the car.
“A bit… waterlogged, but otherwise fine… thanks to you!”
“Don’t mention it,” he smiled. “It’d probably be wise, though, if you got into some dry clothes as soon as you could. Here, let me fly you home.”
“Oh, no… I--“
In a matter of moments, Lois’s half-hearted protestations lost in the wind, they were standing on the balcony of her midtown apartment. Everything was happening so fast! She asked him to wait while she changed clothes. As Lois threw on dry clothes, she fought back a giddiness she hadn’t felt since…
Had she ever felt it?
Taking a deep breath, Lois returned to find her guest scratching her cat, Elroy, behind the ears. He likes cats… that’s a good sign, she thought, and then smoothly shifted into reporter mode.
Superman was not a difficult interview… but neither was he very forthcoming. Lois was able to pin him down on the specifics of his amazing powers… but not much else.
“I really don’t think this will be of much use to you, Miss Lane,” Superman sighed.
“You’re too modest. You happen to be the story of the century, Mr… Mr….”
“ ‘Superman’, if I can earn it, would be perfect Miss Lane.”
She smiled. “Superman it is then. And could I possibly get you to call me ‘Lois’?”
“I’d be delighted… Lois.”
“Thank you. Now, Superman, where are you from? Are you a Metropolis native?”
Superman smiled, and eased closer to the young woman. He gazed into her deep green eyes, and replied “Let’s just say I’m exactly where I’ve always belonged.”
Suddenly, he rose, and strode to the balcony with an even, effortless stride. There, he paused for a moment, and looked back, shooting her a wry grin. “Just out of curiosity, Lois… do you always travel with a scuba tank under your front seat?”
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Why do they think I'd know, anyway? I can't tell you. The answer? Come on... I'd like to think I'm some sort of gentleman....
But this reminds me: we have a "Superman Bathroom." Lookee:
It was Nancy's idea. I admit, I scoffed at first. I seem to recall calmly asking "Put our beloved Superman memorabilia in the bathroom? Where people... you know and... you know... are you insane? Do you hate me?"
But it turns out it's the coolest room in the house, and easily the most popular. Heck, I think it'd still be most popular room even if we removed the toilet... which would make much more room for Superman stuff... hhhhhmmmmmmmm....
It's the home of some very rare, signed comics and original artwork. It houses a Superman figure from each of his eras (including "Mullett Superman!"); it's the home of the Superman monster truck! It has it all... except for one thing: a Superman bathroom rug.
We have been searching high and low for a Superman bathroom rug. No luck in local stores; the internet's -amazingly- no help either. The closest we've come to our non-skid dream is a latch hook kit... but the rug would still be small, and I'm not convinced that even if we followed the pattern exactly that it wouldn't still turn out looking like a Precious Moments toddler. Don't all latch hook rugs turn out as a Precious Moments toddler? I'm pretty sure they do.
So we're looking to you for help. Anyone have any leads on a Superman bathroom rug? Drop me a comment, or an email. We don't just want the rug... we need it. Then you know what we'd have? We'd have the "Lebowski/Superman Bathroom," 'cause that rug? It'll really tie the room together.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
"What's up, New York!" Federline shouted from a stage after arriving in an armored truck decorated with 120,000 pennies. "I'm here with Virgin Mobile to bring the power back to the penny! I feel good about the penny! I'm glad to give it back to these charities." Then he sent the first 1-cent text, claiming it went to "my wife." Mugging for the cameras, Federline held up a penny and slipped it in the armored vehicle's donation slot. Then K-Fed took a cigarette break, wiping his hand on his pants before doing a few television interviews.
"I just gave all my pennies to charity!" he bragged to one TV outlet. To another, he said: "A bunch of charities get these children off the streets - build a better life, build a better future, for these children." And to another: "There's thousands of kids out here that have nowhere to go." He admitted to "Access Hollywood's" Tim Vincent: "It's my first time doing a charity."
What a shock. Finished with his compassionate interviews, K-Fed kissed publicist Marilyn Lopez goodbye, and four bodyguards escorted him to a black SUV. A block into the ride, the SUV rear-ended a pedicab, prompting a curse-fest between the pedicab driver and one of Federline's guards. At which point the Naked Cowgirl - a pastie-wearing, guitar-strumming Louisa Holmlund - toplessly approached the vehicle. A rear tinted window rolled halfway down, and a hand came out to give her two $1 bills."
If you managed to read through all that you must've noticed at the end he gave two $1 bills to a naked woman while only donating his change to charity. And you wonder why he's my personal hero.
I guess she was sick of all the jokes and felt it was time to change her image. Although somebody should point out people didn't think she was stupid because she was blonde, they thought she was stupid because she's really fucking stupid. You can put a donkey in a lab coat and tape a diploma to its back, but I'm pretty sure at the end of the day it still has no idea how to work a Bunsen burner.
Friday, June 23, 2006
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Normal people have "Flash Bulb Memories," you know? Like they know right where they were when they heard JFK was shot... or when Jerry Garcia died... or when Neil Armstrong fooled us all into believing he walked on the moon (you fell for that one, didn't you Uncle Tupelo?). They know these brief, shocking moments as impossibly-vivid recollections even now. They all have Technicolor memories of different things inexorably intertwined with a shared experience. They've marked momentous moments with mnemonic markers.
Me? I mark the miles with what's on TV.
I was on my way into the garage to feed the dogs when I caught my first glimpse of Star Trek. It was October, and way too warm, and the TV was on 'cause, well, it was always on in my house, and as I rushed to the garage door I caught a glimpse of "Catspaw" on channel 44. "Catspaw," if you recall, was the "Kirk and whoever are ensnared in a witch's vile trap. She's more than a witch, she's really a tiny, mechanized flamingo on almost-invisible strings from another planet... but ensnared they are, and it's up to Kirk and his insatiable libido to free them all. Which they do... after he tugs his boots back on" episode. Must-see TV.
I love Star Trek. Great Bird of the Galaxy help me, it has shaped my world view... and it all goes back to the that moment I watched James T. Kirk talk a giant black cat into transforming back into a tiny white woman he could seduce, and trick into giving up her power over his crew.
You wanna' know when I hit puberty? Come on... you know you do. It was the afternoon I came home from junior high school, turned on the TV and saw that, miraculously, Mary Ann had somehow assumed Ginger's identity on Gilligan's Island! I don't know... a coconut hit her on the head or something... but I do know that seeing our beloved revolutionary sweetheart slink around the lagoon in Ginger's evening gowns kickstarted my heart, and opened the door to adulthood for me.
Big Brother is a stupid show. Let's be honest. We watch people we wouldn't normally tolerate on TV and on live internet feeds 'cause it's hot outside, and 'cause part of us likes to think maybe we'll learn a little something about human nature... when really all we do is prove what we've always assumed: people suck.
But I watch it every season anyway... and I couldn't be more excited about this All-Stars season... and I have to finally ask myself: "Why?"
Maybe because before the histrionics of the show, there's what the show reminds me of... in spite of itself. Big Brother is the show no one should like, but everyone is drawn to anyway. Seven years ago, Nancy and I sat down to watch Big Brother on what the kids call "a lark." We just figured we'd mock it for an hour, then spend the rest of the night mocking anyone who actually liked it.
Not long before the series debut of Big Brother, Nancy was sharing a flat in San Francisco with the cast of every Real World ever. They were all great people, but almost comically different. The one thing they shared: they looked out for Nancy when some strange, bald guy showed up one Spring afternoon to take her to dinner. The more they looked out for her that evening, the more I liked them, so many moons later when they made fun of us for planning to watch the series debut of Big Brother I didn't even mind.
Before too long, though, we'd moved to Seattle. Me first; Nancy soon after... we made a home there even before we'd found a place to live together... and we watched Big Brother. We sat, huddled in the corner, to watch the houseguests struggle with captivity in Ikea and with each other while strangers on the outside voted on who got to stay in the incubatrix, and who was released, unwillingly, back into the humdrum world of not TV.
I remember how Nancy's eyes lit up that first evening. I remember being amazed at how someone so clever, and smart -and clever some more- could be so entranced by some dopey reality show starring people we couldn't be bothered to spit on if we passed them on the street... I remember wishing I could find such joy in such small things.
That night? Another door opened for me, thanks to Big Brother, and Nancy's unbridled love of the strange and unloveable.
That door never closed, you know... and I have Nancy to thank for that. I wouldn't go so far as to thank Big Brother for my not-so-new worldview... but I can't ever separate its network TV premier from my own coming-out that night. I felt reborn... I owe that to Nancy... but it's Big Brother that reminds me of that every week during the long, hot summer... and for that, I'm grateful.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
So... Page Six reports Britney Spears was a complete mess before her Dateline interview with Matt Lauer last week. When they showed up to her Malibu mansion they found her alone without any of her publicists, and she insisted on doing her own hair and makeup -which was the latest in a really long chain of really bad ideas for the Britster- and one of her fake eyelashes even fell off when she started crying during the interview. You think Kathy Griffin is gonna' have something to say about that?
"When [the NBC crew] got there, they thought they had the wrong day . . . During the interview, no one was there to rein things in," we're told. Spears, when asked about Kevin Federline being with a pregnant Shar Jackson when they first met, shot back, "Julia Roberts' husband had a pregnant wife when he hooked up with Julia, but no one ever talked about that!" Spears wore flip-flops, a see-through tank and micro-mini jeans. Reps tried to control the damage on Friday. "They asked NBC not to release footage to places like E!," said a source. Asked why Spears was on her own for the interview, Sloane Zelnick said, "Britney is a grown-up and makes her own decisions."
If you happened to miss the interview, don't worry... I've posted the entire thing here, god help you. Britney obviously doesn't come off as very bright (What? You expected otherwise?), but the best part is seeing her try to use air quotes when she clearly doesn't know how to. Oh wait, no idea "how" to.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
"For rarely are sons similar to their fathers: most are worse, and a few are better than their fathers."
"It doesn't matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was."
"I talk and talk and talk, and I haven't taught people in 50 years what my father taught by example in one week."
~Mario Cuomo, former governor of N.Y.
"Jarrell was not so much a father... as an affectionate encyclopedia."
"It's only when you grow up, and step back from him, or leave him for your own career and your own home—it's only then that you can measure his greatness and fully appreciate it. Pride reinforces love."
"When a child, my dreams rode on your wishes, I was your son, high on your horse, My mind a top whipped by the lashes Of your rhetoric, windy of course."
~Sir Stephen Spender
"You don't have to deserve your mother's love. You have to deserve your father's."
"I just owe almost everything to my father [and] it's passionately interesting for me that the things that I learned in a small town, in a very modest home, are just the things that I believe have won the election."
"People see Archie Bunker everywhere. Particularly girls; poor girls, rich girls, all kinds of girls are always coming up to me and telling me that Archie is just like their dad."
"A king, realizing his incompetence, can either delegate or abdicate his duties. A father can do neither. If only sons could see the paradox, they would understand the dilemma."
"My father died many years ago, and yet when something special happens to me, I talk to him secretly not really knowing whether he hears, but it makes me feel better to half believe it."
Father Grows Up
A history of TV's most famous dads
by Beth Rowen
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
Dear old dad has come a long way on the small screen, from television's early fathers who wore cardigans and dispensed advice to today's TV dads who vacuum and make PB&J for the kids' lunches. While 1950s television had men coming home from a day at the office to be greeted at the door with a peck on the cheek from an adoring wife and hugs from enamored children, recent network offerings have introduced single dads who juggle careers, laundry, and adolescent crises.
Recently, programs have kept pace with the changing landscape of the post-feminism era - the dawn of the male gender revolution that has seen two million men staying at home with the kids and millions of divorced fathers seeking custody of their children. NBC's short-lived Daddio featured a family in which the father quit his job to take care of the kids when the mother accepted a position as an attorney.
Nonetheless, most TV dads cope with the stress of parenthood all too easily and laugh off minor disasters, rarely yell at the kids, and never seem to run out of cash. But that's fiction (escapism) for you. Who wants to watch on television how silly we look stressing over life's nagging exigencies?
In honor of Father's Day, here's a look at how television's patresfamilias have evolved since the 1950s.
Too Good to be True
Nineteen-fifties television mostly reflected the typical American family: man as breadwinner and woman as homemaker. Father Knows Best (1954-1963) aptly portrayed the stereotypical family, with Robert Young playing insurance agent Jim Anderson, a loving husband and the doting father of three children with the nicknames Princess, Bud, and Kitten.
Leave It to Beaver
With sobriquets like that, it's obvious those kids didn't create too many ripples for dad. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, Jim Anderson would always replace his jacket and tie with a cardigan and shift into problem-solving mode for his family.
Even more virtuous than the Andersons were the Nelsons: Ozzie, Harriet, David and Ricky, family members in real life, too. The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952�1966), television's longest-running sitcom, was decidedly low on adventures. In fact, Harriet rarely left the kitchen and Ozzie didn't venture much out of the yard. Ozzie's occupation, if he even had one, was never mentioned, so he had plenty of time to guide his sons through dating problems, career choices and marriage.
While Ozzie and Harriet was not grounded in reality, Leave It to Beaver's (1957-1963) title character, played by Jerry Mathers, managed to get himself involved in some sort of minor calamity each episode. The Beave's ever-patient, accountant father, Hugh Beaumont's Ward, was always on hand to offer words of wisdom and to make sure his son learned a valuable lesson from his miscues; and more often than not, Ward learned a few lessons himself.
Wrinkles in the Fabric of the All-American Family
Not all early sitcoms portrayed the "traditional" family. There were a handful of shows with single dads -widowers, not divorcés, of course. However these fathers didn't go it alone; most often they had reliable domestic help.
The Brady Bunch
Mayberry, North Carolina's down-home Sheriff Andy Taylor, played by Andy Griffith in his eponymous rural comedy (1960-1968), was one of television's first single dads. Though a little on the homespun side, Taylor handled fatherhood with a laid-back sense of humor.
It helped that his milquetoast son, Opie (Ron Howard ), didn't pose much of a threat to his authority, and Andy had Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier) to manage the household responsibilities with a maternal touch.
My Three Sons's (1960-1972) widower Steve Douglas (Fred MacMurray ), a bland aeronautical engineer, struggled a bit more than Andy Taylor but still managed to make raising three boys look like a day at the park. Douglas's father-in-law, "Bub" O'Casey, also pitched in at 837 Mill Street.
Oddly, neither Andy Taylor nor Steve Douglas showed much interest in women. The combination of careers and childrearing apparently didn't leave much time for socializing. In The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1969-1972), magazine editor and widowed father Tom Corbett was able to fit women into his schedule, thanks in part to the matchmaking efforts of his young son, Eddie (Brandon Cruz), though the entanglements never led to serious involvement. The show was a bit mawkish, but who wasn't touched by Tom and Eddie's relationship as "best friends?"
Mike Brady (Robert Reed), a widower architect father of three boys, also found time for a relationship. The union of Mike and Carol (Florence Henderson ) produced television's most famous blended family, The Brady Bunch (1969-1974). Mike and his three sons and Carol and her three daughters complemented each other like pork chops and applesauce, with very few "step" issues.
It helped that Mike was the perfect, hip-hugger wearing father who took the family on groovy vacations, always had logical solutions to family brawls and brought Don Drysdale home to have a catch with Greg.
Television Catches On
By the time The Cosby Show (1984-1993) hit the airwaves, dual-income families were the norm, rather than the exception, and Bill Cosby crafted his sitcom to resemble the traditional family. Indeed, with both Heathcliff and Clair (Phylicia Rashad) working (Cliff was an obstetrician and Clair an attorney), Dr. Cliff assumed more responsibility with the kids than was seen in earlier sitcoms.
Cosby parlayed his gift for physical comedy and his natural way with children into one of television's most beloved, and too-good-to-be-true, fathers.
John Goodman's Dan on Roseanne (1988-1997) headed what was much closer to the true traditional family: blue-collar parents struggling to raise three difficult kids. The rotund Dan often lost his temper, fought with wisecracking wife Roseanne, worried about money, was stymied by his kids and loved his beer and chips.
Speaking of beer, chips and not-so-perfect dads, The Simpsons's (1989-present) Homer has brought new meaning to the word underachiever. Through his bumbling ineptitude and foibles in everything from raising his kids to his career at the nuclear plant, Homer, thanks to consistently edgy writing, has managed to satirically convey social, political and environmental messages.
There are few socially or politically correct themes on Home Improvement (1991-1999), but the show also featured a father, Tim "Tool Man" Taylor (Tim Allen ), whose adolescent kids blew him away in intelligence and maturity. Though successful with his cable handy-man show, Tim relied on his wife (Patricia Richardson) for nearly all the serious decision making.
On the other hand, Paul Reiser's new dad Paul Buchman on Mad About You (1992-1999), took an active role in caring for infant daughter Mabel, from changing diapers to feeding to temporarily being an at-home dad. And he managed the responsibility without the stereotypical catastrophes that could have been.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Friday, June 16, 2006
Thursday, June 15, 2006
All I can tell you is: 12 days, baby!
That, and that I started reading comic books-well, mauling, truth be told- in 1968. I was two years old. I grew up on Superman comics, and the George Reeves Adventures of Superman repeats on Channel 44, and waited a good 10 years for Superman to hit theaters in 1978. That was a long 10 years my friends. All the bike-riding and four-square games in the world couldn't help make that time pass easily... people say I grew up angst-free? I waited ten years for a Superman movie... Ten. Years. Oh, I had angst.
Well, it's been a long 26 years since Superman II (even I can admit that was the last good Superman film, and I have to say it was a terriffic Superman film, by the way... "I expect better manners from my guests..." and no, I don't count Superman III and Superman IV... actually, I try not to think about them at all), tell you what. That's a lot of pent-up anticipation... and its gotta' vent eventually, and somewhere... and I don't play four-square these days, so get ready for even more Superman blog entries over the next 12 days (12 days!)... who knows? Maybe your childhood dreams will be soaring right alongside of mine... and you just may buy yourself a Kryptonite Ice Slurpee at 7-11 to celebrate!
We have all the makings of a win-win scenario here. You'll see! You'll believe! A man can fly!
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
If Geezer Butler and Robert Plant had a baby, then abandoned it in a dumpster in Birmingham? It'd grow up to be Wolfmother. I'm not claiming they did that, and that it did... I don't want to get the cops involved, or have to start screening my calls... I'm just sayin' if they did, it would... and it does. Luckily.
So, truth: the truth is, the skinny guys with the bad 'fros have made an awesome, Zeppelinesque debut album. There are only a handful of adjectives -"Colossal," being used already as the opening song title- to adequately describe the mammoth sound of Wolfmother. Indeed, it sets the scene perfectly with giant guitar riffs punctuated with drums heavy as water-sodden lead. You can't not compare Andrew Stockdale's vocals to those of Jack White and Robert Plant... listen to songs like Apple Tree and Joker and the Thief, and try... I dare you. I double-dog dare you.
Turn up this album to as loud as a very loud thing, light some joss sticks and maybe dig out those sunglasses that are shaped like stars that looked so cool on the spinner at Fisherman's Wharf. Lay back, let the sonic wave wash over you... heck, gather some friends in hemp to join you... you'll find yourself in the early '70s before you can croak "Robby Benson."
You'll probably even listen to some Uriah Heep afterward. And like it.
In their eponymous debut album, the boys to men who are Wolfmother explore their most psychedelic aesthetic and in Pyramid Stockdale's vocal chords become a theremin. Wolfmother is a stoner rock album with no muthafuckin' apologies, my friends.
It's about time.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
June 9, 2006: “Superman Returns” Spoiler Free Movie Review!
By Jeffrey Bridges
On the night of Thursday, June 8th I attended a special press screening (and IMAX 3D preview) of "Superman Returns".
Producer Chris Lee told us he came directly from Technicolor and we were technically the first audience to see the film.
A far more in-depth review will be coming in the future, but for now here's what I can tell you. This movie is far greater than I could have ever anticipated, and I went in with extremely high expectations.
The effects, of course, do not disappoint. Several of the sequences are vying for the "most amazing thing I've seen on screen... EVER" and I've yet to decide which one tops the others.
But I didn't see many people questioning the effects, so on to larger issues. I am brimming with things I want to tell you. To reassure you about. To make you realize that this is really the Superman movie we've all been waiting before. But without details that will be hard to do. But perhaps my enthusiasm for what I've seen is coming through in this. At least, I hope it is.
James Marsden? Made me care for a character I had no real reason to. Parker Posey? Steals all her scenes. Eva Marie Saint? Touching and amazing. Frank Langella? A truly fantastic Perry. Sam Huntington? Best Jimmy EVER. Kevin Spacey? Easily the most sinister Lex to ever be seen on screen. A delight to watch. Kate Bosworth? Remarkably deep, tough and opinionated, just as Lois should be.
Brandon Routh? There is no longer any doubt. Brandon Routh IS Superman.
Routh and Bosworth have fantastic chemistry. Honestly, not a single performance was anything less than fantastic.
And the story? Well, that's what everyone wants to know, and the thing I can tell you the least about.
I still feel it inside me, honestly. It touched me. It's brilliant.
I hope this somehow does it justice, but I fear that I does not.
I have been moved.
I wish I could tell you more. I really do. I want to grab each and every one of you and make you understand how vital it is that you see this film. But perhaps my enthusiasm for what I've seen comes through in this.
At least, I hope it does.
Monday, June 12, 2006
Sunday, June 11, 2006
In Touch magazine reports that Kevin Federline is jealous of Britney Spears' new "manny." The manny was originally hired to be a bodyguard but somehow ended up doing chores that had been Kfed's chores, and was even -gasp!- spotted buying Britney flowers. A source says:
“[Federline] doesn’t like that this guy is taking care of his baby,” an “insider” told the mag. “He feels like Britney is throwing it in his face.” What’s more, Spears reportedly is redecorating her house, ditching Federline’s beloved black leather furniture in favor of a “1950s boudoir” look she favors. “She’s using pink, cream and apricot silk, lace and feathers,” reports the insider. “[Kevin] claims that he can’t think in the house any more and it’s affecting his music. [He] is complaining that the place is ‘some high-school chick's bedroom.’”
K-fed complaining the house makes it hard for him to think is like Helen Keller complaining on a summer day that the sweat dripping off her forehead is making it hard for her to see. The difficulty isn't so much the surroundings as it is his innate inability to think. You can't use your brain if god has replaced it with a small drawing of a brain. It's basic biology, man.