Of all the Hitchcock films…

…why am I writing about Rope? I don’t really know. It popped into my head the other day while I was making breakfast and no, I didn’t pour rum onto my French toast.

I had pancakes.

Rope isn’t on any “Best of” lists, yet I don’t think anyone hates it as much as they tend to dismiss it. Rebecca is probably the best example of an outlier in Hitchcock’s oeuvre, but it’s a great film, whereas Rope is, at best, mediocre. In my opinion anyway.

Rope began life as a play written by Patrick Hamilton, and the plot seems very well suited for a Hitchcock film: Two men kill one of their old college mates, conceal the body in a trunk located in the living room their apartment , then proceed to throw a fabulous cocktail party. The invited guests include: the dead man’s fiancee, the dead man’s parents, and, to make things more interesting, their former college professor.

Where did it all go wrong? Since the action takes place in real time over the course of an evening, Hitchcock decided to shoot Rope in one continuous take. The biggest problem he faced was that the camera holds ten minutes of film at a time. The script was then broken into segments in order to overcome the limitations of the camera.

If anything, Rope resembles a documentary of sorts. There are no cuts or montages to give the film any sort of visual tension or excitement–it’s pretty much what you see is what you get. I sometimes wonder if Hitchcock had decided to shoot Rope in a more traditional manner would it have been better? Who knows? I guess it depends on you feelings about Lifeboat, but that film was far more psychological in nature as opposed to Rope, which was about John Dall and Farley Grainger wanting to see if James Stewart will figure out what’s going on.

Nowadays, thanks to digital cameras, a filmmaker could shoot a film in one continuous take with a minimum of fuss; Steven Soderbergh could knock it out in an afternoon. Come to think of it, maybe Gus Van Sant would have been better off remaking Rope.

Is Batman a Superhero?

The “Is Batman a superhero?” question is one that has been debated on playgrounds and in comic book shops for the last seventy-five years, and it seems like it will go on forever. The subject pops up from time to time on Mike & Mike in the Morning on ESPN2 and ESPN Radio, as it did today. One would think with all that is going on in sports they would have far more important topics to discuss, but in some cases there is a gag order in place.

*cough* Bill Simmons *cough*

Mike Greenberg is firmly in “Yes” side of the Batman debate, while Mike Golic emphatically says, “No.” Golic make a very good case for his arguement when he asks, “Would you consider James Bond to be a superhero?” I have often thought 007 was, in a way, the British Batman. Both are orphans, they fight crime, and they have cool cars and brilliant gadgets. Bruce Wayne plays the part of swinging bachelor to cover up his nocternal activities, while James Bond has a similar cover. But in Bond’s case, all the finery he surrounds himself with is provided courtesy of Her Majesty’s government.

Greenberg’s counter-arguement comes from the DC Comics website, which states: “Batman is a superhero, but not a metahuman.” Golic is fond of saying that Batman’s only function as a member of the SuperFriends is to get captured so that the actual superheroes can rescue him. This morning, Greenberg had the most genius retort to that arguement ever: “They’re called ‘SuperFriends,’ they’re not called ‘Friends!’ Batman is not Ross!”

So… I guess that setttles that.

Dad

September 25, 2014 would have been my father’s one hundredth birthday. I thought I should write something, so I spent all day trying to figure out what to say. Actually, I have been trying to think of something for the past few months and I keep coming up empty. I’ve tried all the usual things: going for a bike ride, shower, sleep, thinking about everything but the thing I want to write about; but nothing is coming to me. Maybe I can write through it.

If this seems even more scattershot than usual, please forgive me.

Part of the problem may stem from the fact that I don’t really talk about my dad all that often… If ever. Most of his friends are deceased, and most of my relatives that are old enough to remember him live far away.

Whenever I meet someone new sometimes they inquire about my father. When I say that he is dead some will ask about how he died. My reply is either, “Pneumonia,” or “Long story short: pneumonia.” The answer I give depends on my mood and/or if the the person asking is just making small talk or someone that will be a part of my life for the foreseeable future. The thing is that not a lot of people ask anymore. Maybe it’s because they don’t care, or maybe it’s because I’m so old that of course my father is dead. Part of me misses answering the question, and another part of me never wants to go through that again.

What was my dad like? He looked quite a bit like me, but with less hair, and what he had was grey. More often than not he wore a cap. Unlike me, he could rock a fedora. I’m glad I don’t look good in a fedora; I don’t want to be that guy.

His favorite film was Smokey and the Bandit; in my lifetime that was the only movie he saw more than once in the theatre. He could pretty much quote all the dialogue by heart. Once, he drove at least an hour in order to see Thunder Road because there was the only one drive in theatre in all of North Georgia where it was playing.

Any of this sound the least bit familiar?

He was a NASCAR fan and his favorite driver was Richard Petty. He would go to races at the old Lakewood Fairgrounds, which coincidently, was where parts of the first two Smokey and the Bandit films were shot. In late Eighties they built an amphitheatre on the site and I have seen any number of concerts there. There are many stories that I could tell you about that place, both mine and Dad’s, but some things are best left as memories.

Dad taught me right from wrong, but more importantly, he taught me that things aren’t always black and white. Good men do bad things and bad men do good things and the reasons why are often complicated and more often than not they’re unimportant. Also: Knowledge is important, but sometimes not knowing is more important.

That sort of explains why I am a fan of both Batman, and Sons of Anarchy.

The best advice Dad ever gave me was given to him by his father: “Never drink from a river then walk upstream.” Yeah… It does sound more than a bit psuedo-Zen; like something found on a coffee cup or yogurt container. However… In my grandfather’s case, he meant it quite literally–he found a dead sheep.

But… If you buy into the psuedo-Zen interpretation, it kind of sums up the plot of Chasing Amy.

I wonder what my father and grandfather would have have made of that film.

Yes, I Get Emotional Over Superheroes

Gotham is not a Batman story in the traditional sense. For better or worse the story of Gotham City is the story of Batman; for you cannot have one without the other.

I don’t care how many times I read it in the comics or see it on TV, film, or animation, I never fail to feel a great sadness at the sight of that helpless child kneeling beside his deceased parents in Crime Alley. It’s easy to look back in retrospect, knowing who this child will become and think that everything will be okay–but that would be missing the point. The point is: Everything will not be okay.

One of the many things to love about The Dark Knight Trilogy is the scene in Batman Begins where James Gordon meets Bruce Wayne. Yes, they met under less than ideal circumstances but the one true friend is the person who is there for you at your darkest hour.

Gotham seems to be taking this relationship one step further; apparently Gordon and Master Bruce will have quite a bit of interaction. It’s a great idea since these are two people who will form a bond, if not a friendship, that will define both themselves and the city they have sworn to protect; albeit in very different ways.

U2: No Line on the Horizon

When U2’s No Line on the Horizon was released in March of 2009 I didn’t quite get it. After a few times listening to it, I came to the conclusion that it should be listened to while driving at night. Picture the “In the Air Tonight” scene from the pilot episode of Miami Vice and you’ll get the idea.

I didn’t listen to No Line on the Horizon for quite a while after that. I didn’t even hear any songs from the album until I saw U2 in Atlanta the following October. Let’s just say 2009 was a crap year and leave it at that. When I finally got a moment to myself and listened to the record again I realized I was partially correct regarding my theory. It seems there was far more to the story, and yes, there is a story.

Okay, it is a story only to me. I invented a story that follows the track list. I want to turn it into a film and I want Anton Corbijn to direct. The thing is, he really doesn’t need me since there probably won’t be any dialogue, and if there is any it can be improvised. There is also the fact that he has gotten along quite well without my help for a long time now. Why ruin a good thing?

So, here goes nothing.

It’s night and we see a car driving the streets of Atlanta. Why Atlanta? It’s my idea, and my city. What kind of car? I’m thinking Maserati–in a dark color, or possibly silver. I love Ferraris and Aston Martins, but they are a bit overused. My other choice is a black Dodge Challenger Hellcat, because badass. I want one, except I would want it in blue.

Because cool badass.

As the car is crusing along I-85, we hear “No Line on the Horizon,” and as the car exits onto the surface streets, more than likely Peachtree, but it doesn’t have to be, the song playing is “Magnificent.”

The car pulls into a hotel parking lot and the music pauses as the driver exits, remeoves a black bag, and hands the keys to the valet. The driver can be male or female–it doesn’t matter. It might make it more interesting if it’s a woman, especially if she’s driving the Dodge.

The driver checks in and takes the elevator up to the top floor. It might be funny if the song playing in the elevator is a Muzak version of “Elevation,” but then again…

The driver enters the hotel room, and proceeds to the balcony. As he/she is standing there taking in the view “Moment of Surrender” plays.

Just before “Unknown Caller” begins, there is a knock at the door at the door. The driver opens the door as if he/she was expecting someone. The two people talk–what they are discussing is irrelevant.

And then it’s time for business if you catch my drift. I don’t want to go into details, I’ll let you picture whatever you want to in your mind’s eye. This lasts from “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” through “Fez–Being Born,” which is about sixteen minutes and fourty-three seconds, which may not seem like a long time for you or me, but it’s more than enough time to watch other people.

The music pauses as the two people part ways. Once the guest has had enough time to leave the premises, the driver exits the room, goes downstairs, gets into the car, and drives away as “White as Snow” plays.

The driver stops at a bar and “Breathe” is heard playing while the driver is having a drink. The driver puts a hand in his/her jacket pocket, then remembers you can’t smoke in bars anymore.

The driver pays for the drink, steps outside, thinks about having a cigarette, decides that it’s best to leave. “Cedars of Lebanon” plays as the taillights fade into the night.

The End.

Some U2 Albums are Better than Others

So… What do I think about the new U2 album? I don’t want to give my verdict too soon; the reasons why will be made clear. I thought instead I would relate some quick, and some not so quick, thoughts about U2’s discography up to this point. I know in my heart none of you will have lived a full, rich life without reading my opinions on a bunch of old records.

The plan was to skip over the 80s output, but the plan changed when my last post got away from me–it was supposed to be the intro to this post. That happens every time I make a plan. I promise to keep this part short.

Boy: Young band makes exciting record.

October: Difficult second album.

War: U2 starts to fufill potential.

The Unforgettable Fire: Not exactly what the fans were expecting, but excellent none the less.

The Joshua Tree: Seriously? You have to ask?

Rattle and Hum: Better than the film.

From this point on I will not go in strict chronological order. Why? I’m funky like that.

Achtung Baby: It was love at first listen and that love has grown over the years. Like most U2 albums, this one has been talked to death so I’ll move along.

All That You Can’t Leave Behind: Prior to release, this record was touted as a return to the original sound and the next logical step after The Unforgettable Fire. At first, I didn’t get it. I liked it, but not as much as I felt I should. It wasn’t until I saw the Elevation Tour the first time that I saw the light, and everything suddenly made sense.

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb: Oh how I loved this album… The first three or four times I listened to it. It was at this point I came to the conclusion it should have been called: More Stuff That You Can’t Leave Behind. In all fairness, I haven’t listened to it in a while; my opinion may have changed.

Zooropa: I have never considered Zooropa to a proper album; it comes across as a collection of B-Sides and half finished leftovers. It doesn’t flow like an album, or even a well made mixtape. With the exception of “The Wanderer,” you could put it on shuffle and most people would never know the difference.

Pop: If Zooropa was leftovers, Pop was a undercooked meal. this is what happens when you book the tour before you complete the record. Pop is far more album-like than Zooropa, but what they have in common is that a group of good to good-ish songs does not an album make. If Achtung Baby was, to quote Bono, “The sound of four men chopping down the Joshua Tree,” then Pop was the sound of four men jumping off a tall building and working it out on the way down.

No Line on the Horizon: This one is going to require a post of its own. I apologize in advance.

So, How’s That New U2 Album Working Out For You?

Surprise, surprise, surprise! You get the new U2 album! You get the new U2 album! Everyone is getting the new U2 album! I could keep this up for days.

As expected, there was quite the backlash when Songs of Innocence appeared like a ninja from nowhere on people’s iTunes accounts. U2: The band we love to hate. It’s pretty much been this way for quite some time now, and it seems that that will be the trend in the foreseeable future. At least the vitriol hasn’t turned to pity… Yet. I’m sure it will happen at some point.

U2 don’t make it easy on themselves, and by U2 I mean Bono. I think he’s a good guy; he tries. Maybe too hard. He knows that with celebrity comes responsibility and he is always been at the front lines when it comes to social injustice, and he has used that currency, for lack of a better term, to promote causes near and dear to him.

I’m not saying that he should be applauded, but neither should he be villified. I believe, not often enough, that people are essentially kind. We give to charity what we can, when we can, and complain that others (people in power, people of wealth and/or fame) don’t do enough. Yet, when we see Bono on TV discussing poverty, famine, disease, etc. we reflexively dismiss him as some rich, famous, asshole who is droning on and on ad infinitum about the same old same old. Ever stop to think that maybe, just maybe, if everyone of us did a little bit more to help our fellow man, then maybe, just maybe, Bono wouldn’t be on our screens, and collective nerves, quite so much?

Rant over.

I am proud to have been a teen during the 1980s, which is a weird thing to be proud of, but I’ll take what I can get. I always liked U2 (Okay, at the time I liked R.E.M. more–I have already written about them) but, in my neck of the woods at least, they weren’t widely known. They were neither cool nor uncool, they just were. It wasn’t until a year after I graduated that The Joshua Tree was released, and in a way I am kind of grateful. I was made fun of enough in school as it was, I didn’t need yet another self placed albatross around my neck.

Then again, I was known to walk the hallway while singing “Sun City.” It seemed like a good idea at the time.