Monday, December 16, 2019

Five minutes watching Watchmen

I don't watch a lot of movies because I didn't have a lot of time. A lot of movies and television of late have become more niche oriented and horrible, I'm trying to write this sequel to a first book I haven't even published and I have a ton of video games I bought on sale I still want to play so there. So, I watch a movie or a little TV when I get a chance.  You know, I guess I really don't watch a lot of movies or television. Go figure.

I watched the Watchmen

I didn't read Watchmen until sometime in the 90's, when it was a graphic novel. I had always been more Marvel than DC, so it didn't seem immediately pressing even after the rave reviews. But while the book was a revelation to some, to me it was in line with my take on earlier titles like Howard Chakyin's American Flagg. But Chakyin was just a touch futuristic, on the other hand Watchmen explored the idea of superheroes not as they would appear in a comic universe, but more in line with our in that moment real lives: Less black and white issues, more murky goings on and ambiguity in the characters and their motivations. It was a refreshing read in a era of majestic heroism, a turn from that lofty iteration alongside the legendary Frank Miller's Batman: Dark Knight. It was simply heroes deconstructed.

The movie, by contrast, was a pale re-imagining. While it was visually exciting, it was missing something. I now want to attribute that to the brevity of the medium. Time constraints force editing, and editing is in the hands of of those who lack the proper respect for the source an axe and not a scalpel.

By contrast the television series, an extension of the book more than the movie, is everything the cinematic had hoped to be and more. Well written, well paced with nine hours to produce truly fantastic performances. Here it is not simply heroes deconstructed but the deconstruction itself torn down. It is a well crafted tale that almost insists on a revisit if only to catch the pieces you missed with each passing episode. From a genre crafted for the white teenage male gaze it posited a black female lead, visited upon historical black trauma, flipped our understanding of this universe's heroic history, made the cool agent a seasoned woman and made us question that most basic of understanding of superheroes: with great power comes great responsibility.

Note: Spoilers abound from here forward.

The only other show with so many callbacks that I can think of is the first season of Westworld. The first episode of Watchman started tossing out clues and they just never stopped. We all just assumed that the Ozymandias timeline was happening at the same time, although the statue in Lady Trieu's garden should have been a dead giveaway. The big deal about the squid drops that kept popping up. The eggs. The mesmerizing from the Black Hood origin swung back around to a tool for retribution at the beginning. From the goings on at the Seventh Calvary ranch in the first episode to super cool FBI Laurie's change of heart in Antarctica at the end to the ambiguous Sopranos style ending, the story was an intricately diagrammed little journey that just kept linking this idea to that idea over and over.

And nobody, not a god soul, noticed Cal was Dr. Manhattan.

This was good television. This year HBO has been fire, with Chernobyl and now Watchmen. I don't even really miss Westworld at this point which honestly in its second season felt like it was trying too hard. This series that was maligned by some for having white supremacists as the villains and discussions of reparations really hit a lot of good notes. For all the power that Dr. Manhattan possessed, why didn't he do more? But then it could also be asked, why should he?

They claim there might be a second season, which is both exciting and disappointing. The sophomore slump is real. I hope we get lucky. Again.

Barkeep. Something with some squid in it. I'm joking. No, I am telling a joke. Do not make me anything with a ...Dr. pepper. Plain. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The "Friendly Confines" of JerryWorld...

Ramblings Post #379
Where I been? I want to say I've been writing. I started the sequel to my alt-1960's tale The Grand Berber Most Divine, only this time the protagonist has a new challenge: family. It's tentatively titled The African Riviera Most Resplendent. But that's stalled for other reasons. And I did actually go to see Sporty. But that's a post I keep re-hashing in my head. And I'm leaving the Ranch. But that's also a whole other deal. So what I'm going to do is go with the familiar. No, not politics, although whenever I run into whoever is running the DNC some words will be spoken, believe that! No, I'm going to do football. It's just so soothing. Or at least it's supposed to be.

Ron Rivera is out at Carolina because the Panther's owner David Tepper has stated clearly that he will not accept the idea of mediocrity for his team. Ron Rivera and Jason Garrett started at roughly the same time, 2011 and have similar resumes of just above a .500 record and three division titles. Neither one's team is playing that well this season either.  The one notable exception is that Ron actually took the Panthers to a Superbowl. We're still waiting. 

As I was pondering this, it hit me. Kids, I hate to say it, but the Dallas Cowboys are apparently the Chicago Cubs of the NFL.

Allow me explain. The Cubs play baseball in the Windy city of Chicago at 1060 West Addison, the venerable Wrigley Field. (Elwood Blues does not live there). They went 108 years without winning at the championship level until three years ago in 2016. But Wrigley Field stayed a hot ticket all those years the Cubs cried about about that epic drought. The games broadcast on WGN, the merch sold like hot cakes and with no need to really improve the product because people came anyway, the owners were practically printing money in the dugouts. There were valiant efforts, of course, and on more than few occasions the team had a loaded roster and won many games but just couldn't bring it home, which only endeared them to their audience more.

Sound familiar?

The Dallas Cowboys are the number one brand in the NFL, far and away. The next three in order are : The Steelers, the Packers, and whoever is winning this season. Seriously. And like the Cubs, the fans are still talking about the last championship twenty five years ago and every flash of brilliance is met with the phrase "We're going to the Super Bowl!" They win just enough to make you mad. The team seems to keep a loaded roster, draw more primetime eyes than any other team in the league and JerryWorld may as well be a cathedral to the sport. It also stays packed. To the rafters.   

Sound familiar?

But for the Cubs it wasn't until they changed coaches in 2014 that things started to fall their way. With Ron's departure in Carolina, and Garrett's contract up at the end of the season, will the Jones boys get the hint? The players are frustrated, as are the fans. We lost to the Jets. I mean damn. (Okay, Philly lost to the Dolphins, but we can't count on that every week. LOL.) The Cowboys lucked into a season where everyone in their division but them are rebuilding or (also) struggling, so they're still driving the bus of their own destiny. And with the pieces they've assembled, they've got a shot at doing something great in the next few years. But not with their current head coach, who may get the un-coveted Marvin Lewis designation this off-season if things go wrong...for the fans.  

Dallas Fans waiting on the Jones Boys to get it right.
And this choke-hold on that branding spot and all the associated perks means the incentive to win a championship boils down to ego on the part of the owner.

Barkeep. If you could put a bottle of the Pappy Van Winkle aside for later, that would be swell. For now, vodka and OJ, two cubes.