Tag: batman

Holy reboot, Batman! To debate the merits of the latest incarnation of Batman, this time with Matt Reeves directing Robert Pattinson in The Batman, Jack brings Young Americans stalwart Alec Dent, who writes about culture and checks facts for The Dispatch, back to the show. Jack was not a fan; Alec was (after a second viewing). Tune in for the exciting clash of opinions, along with broader thoughts on the enduring appeal of Batman as a character.

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Or so said Theodore Dalrymple/Anthony Daniels once. It certainly puts OJ and Dr. Kevorkian in perspective when you see what amateurs they were compared to this guy, warming up in the batting cage bat cave for the past 40 years. He may not know how to throw a baseball but if there’s one thing he […]

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An Apology to Tim Burton


Batman Director Tim Burton

A man ahead of his time.

Tim Burton’s first effort, Batman, was probably the first modern superhero movie. Going all in on budget and atmosphere Burton crafted an entrancing realization of the comics character and including Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale didn’t hurt. Michael Keaton as Batman was a physical miss, but his performance as the bat and as his alter ego Bruce Wayne were entertaining once disbelief was suspended. Keaton could not have done more to make the movie succeed. Sure, the Joker bits were over the top but Joker has gotta be Joker. Jack Nicholson finally working without makeup! The soaring art deco gothic vibe, the wonderful toys and stunts before the CGI revolution made all of that normal. Simply groundbreaking.

Then Burton took a second bite of the Bat-apple. Batman Returns. Michelle Pfeiffer was near perfection as a mentally impaired Catwoman. And Danny DeVito was all in on becoming the Penguin. But it went just a little too far. Penguin the Mayoral candidate? Polling ever upward? While chomping on fresh, unbutchered fish with black spittle oozing from his maw? On his winning television commercials? Nobody is ever going to vote for that, I said, wishing Burton had gone another way.

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A thought experiment.  New York City appears either as allegorical (Gotham City is a proxy for New York in the Batman series) or as itself (in the Avengers) and, departing the Super hero realm, has featured prominently in the denouement to the Bourne Series (“We’re going mobile!) and The Three Days of the Condor (“How […]

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‘Joker’ Is Incomplete Without Batman


“What would I do without you?” The Joker asks Batman in The Dark Knight. “You complete me.” He’s right in more ways than he realizes, as the newly released Joker shows: the Joker, by his very nature, needs Batman, and, more importantly, so does the audience. Because without the Dark Knight there to serve as a ballast, the Joker’s anarchic, twisted, disturbing nature, and Joker itself, becomes unbearably difficult to watch.

Admittedly, in terms of film qua film, Joker succeeds in what it sets out to do. It’s well directed, Joaquin Phoenix turns in an incredible performance as the titular character, and the story provides creepy insight into the psyche of its psychopathic subject. And in fairness, Phoenix’s Joker is not necessarily more evil than past incarnations of the character. Heath Ledger’s turn as the Clown Prince of Crime, for example, was just as twisted, just as nihilistic. Also, Batman: The Killing Joke featured a Joker committing acts just as depraved and horrific. These Jokers, however, did not exist in a vacuum, and the stories in which they’re present also feature counters to their dangerous ideology.

Joker, in comparison, is devoid of any sort of moral challenge to its villain. Watching someone engage in truly despicable, grotesque evil on screen without anyone rising to challenge it, without any sense of hope for viewers is a truly painful experience, one that unsettled me so deeply I had to turn away from the screen on several occasions and nearly walked out at one point—and I managed to sit through the entirety of The Shape of Water, so that’s saying something. With scenes of murder that are realistically graphic and intense, it feels almost as if you’re watching artfully shot found footage of homicides. While it is unfair to say that Joker celebrates its protagonist, or even that it portrays him in a sympathetic light, the movie makes no argument against him, relying solely on the audience to pass judgement on the character.

ACF Episode #100: Tim Burton


Friends, we celebrate our 100th episode with a conversation with Paul Cantor on Tim Burton’s early movies: Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, and Ed Wood. We start, however, with the new Dumbo and Burton’s attack on Disney, television culture, celebrity, and all that… For more Cantor on Burton and other pop culture writing, here’s the book: The Invisible Hand in Popular Culture.

In their third episode, the Young Americans take the occasion of the recent New York primary victory of 28-year-old self-declared socialist Millennial Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to wonder if their peers really are all socialists now, or are just going through a phase. They also reflect on the 10th anniversary of The Dark Knight and debate whether it is the best blockbuster released in their (so far relatively short) lifetimes.

Gotham by Gaslight


Batman. He’s been around for almost 80 years, in comic books and movie serials, small screen series and multiple film incarnations. He’s been goofy and gritty and everything in between, and just when you think you’ve got a handle on what Batman can be, along comes something like “Gotham by Gaslight.” Its premise is simple: what if Batman was set in the 1880s? The answer, it turns out, is a delightful twist on both the superhero and detective story.

The plot, it goeth thusly: Gotham is a bustling, growing city struggling to control its seediness as it prepares for a World’s Fair style celebration hosting by late-20-something Bruce Wayne. Alas, the town has a serious problem in the form of Jack the Ripper, who has been killing and mutilating women. And there appears to be a man dressed like a bat who has also been seen at night …

ACF Middlebrow #9: Justice League


My friend Pete Spiliakos and I bring you a discussion of one of the few truly interesting recent cinematic events, Justice League. This was an example of the conflict between artists and businessmen. Zack Snyder, one of the lonely few examplars of first-rate Hollywood talent, had his work destroyed by a studio Warner Bros / DC hellbent on suicide. Warner had the greatest team in Hollywood working on their superhero movies–Christopher Nolan (as writer and director, also with his brother Jonathan in the writing role) and Zack Snyder. The only men who have any grasp on the epic and the tragic as genres and insights. They also made billions of dollars for the studio. So naturally, the studio destroyed their work. Listen and marvel with us at the good, the bad, and the very bad, and the worse.

ACF #10 The Nolan Brothers


Hello, everyone! I am joined on the American Cinema Foundation podcast by Jason Eberl and George Dunn, editors of the book The Philosophy of Christopher Nolan. They are professors of philosophy with an interest in pop culture, and editors of many books on America’s favorite shows and movies over the last 50 years. Our wide-ranging discussion of Christopher and Jonathan Nolan’s movies goes through Memento (2000), The Dark Knight (2008), Interstellar (2014), and Dunkirk (2017).

ACF #9: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman


Hello, folks, this week’s podcast completes last week’s discussion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a discussion of the DC superhero movies. My friend and PoMoCon coconspirator Pete Spiliakos joins me–he is a columnist at First Things and writes for NRO, too. You can take my word for it, he’s the kind of conservative we need to hear more of!