Tag: Marvel

The Falcon and the Woke Soldier

 

Yesterday, I started watching the latest episode of Marvel’s miniseries, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.  I did not finish the episode.  They are losing me with Wokeist nonsense.

Spoiler alert: This following will discuss the first five episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, as well as other Marvel movies.  If you don’t want to know, stop here.

Stan the Man and How He Transformed Comics

 

Comic books started out in the mid-twentieth century. Originally they were “kid stuff.” As the twentieth century ended they had become a major cultural influence. No man was more responsible for that transformation than Stan Lee. Stan Lee: A Life in Comics, by Liel Leibovitz explores Lee’s life in a biography revealing the man and his influence.

Born Stanley Martin Lieber in 1922, Lee grew up in New York City. Good with words, Lee grew up a reader, retreating into books and writing as his father’s career collapsed during the Depression. After high school, deciding to become a writer, he shortened his name to Stan Lee. Comics were not adolescent Lee’s main interest. He read and enjoyed the newspaper comics, but his real love was literature. Shakespeare and movies fascinated him.

Lee drifted into comics. After high school, following a series of unsuccessful jobs, he asked an uncle for help. His uncle sent Lee to Timely Publications, owned by another relative. Timely published pulp – anything that sold. The newest hot seller was comic books. Lee became the errand boy for comic book illustrators Jack Kirby and Joe Simon.

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Source, Rotten Tomatoes Audience Response: Captain Marvel – 62%The Incredible Hulk – 70%Iron Man 2 – 71%Captain America: The First Avenger – 74%Thor – 76%Thor: The Dark World – 76%Ant-Man and the Wasp – 77%Iron Man 3 – 78%Black Panther – 79%Avengers: Age of Ultron – 83%Doctor Strange – 86%Ant-Man – 86%Thor: Ragnarok – 87%Guardians […]

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Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America lament the loss of another GOP Senate seat as Democrat Kyrsten Sinema is declared the winner of the Arizona Senate race.  They’re also not surprised as North Korea is found maintaining and even enhancing its ballistic missile program with numerous undeclared sites.  They also react to National Review writer Kat Timpf being harassed at a New York City bar and being forced to leave because some people found out she worked for Fox News.  And Jim pays tribute to the late Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee.

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News has just reported that Stan Lee, comic book creator and favorite Marvel cameo has passed on at 95. He’s had health problems in the last few years, enough so he’s cancelled Convention appearances. He’s had quite a footprint in the entertainment industry at his passing. Thanks for the stories, Stan. Excelsior! Preview Open

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RIP Stan Lee — Comic Great and Cameo Favorite

 

Stan Lee
Photo by shutterstock.com

As I noted in an earlier post, Stan Lee, Marvel giant, co-creator of many of its titles and constant cameo in many of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films has passed away today at the age of ninety-five. He and Jack Kirby began Marvel Comics in 1961 with its first title, The Fantastic Four, and went on to create some of the most iconic characters in the genre: Spider-Man, the Hulk, and the X-Men as well as many others: Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and collaborated in the creation of Iron Man, Thor, and Ant-Man.

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James Gunn, the screenwriter/director of the Guardians of the Galaxy films, was allegedly fired for morally reprehensible jokes he made almost a decade ago. Jokes he has apologized for. But Mike Cernovich dug up the tweety dirt on him and now he’s been canned. Before these events something else happened which may have figured into […]

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I would like the first scene in Black Panther 2 to start in Asmara the capital of Eritrea. The architecture is beautiful as it was built by Italian futurists. In it, Captain America and T’Chala (The Black Panther King of Wakanda for those of you who aren’t geeks) open up an advanced vibranium hospital. (Vibranium […]

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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.

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“Right now, America is in a state of fundamental moral conflict. On the one side, we have a group of people with incredible power available at their fingertips. Most of them have no desire to hurt anyone and simply wish to be left alone. A relatively minor few have abused that power and caused catastrophic […]

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The Marvel-ous Culture

 

Jon Bernthal as “The Punisher” (Marvel Studios)

I am not an aficionado of comic books. I can not argue the merits of Marvel vs. DC. The only comics-based movie I can attest to seeing in the theater was Superman with Christopher Reeve and that was in a whole different universe called “1978.” Fast forward 40 years and my wife suggests we sit down and watch a Netflix series called The Punisher. She hooked me with the words “former Marine.”

“Woke” Without Waking Up to History … and Real Life

 

Four days ago on the website of the SyFy Channel, film critic, screenwriter, and comic book author Marc Bernardin wrote about the 2018 slate of pictures to be released.

If 2017 was the tip of the representational spear, then 2018 will be the long shaft that follows. This year will deliver Black Panther, A Wrinkle in Time, Ocean’s 8, and Crazy Rich Asians — studio movies catering to historically underserved audiences, many of which are written and directed by members of those same audiences.

In other words, 2018 is the year that white dudes will be confronted with inescapable media that isn’t about them.

ACF #13 Political Conflict in Marvel and DC

 

I’m back with the second part of my long conversation with my friend Pete Spiliakos. We talked about girls becoming women in despite of society in ’80s movies last time. In the most surprising way, Pete picked horror movies to show social and psychological realism. Well, he hit it out of the park there, but then our conversation veered to the aesthetic, dramatic art and the political implications of the new business model of sequels and franchises. Like it or not, in an age of sequels and franchises, it’s no longer feasible to ignore the problem of sucky sequels.

America and Marvel, Part V: Genres and Their Reflection on American Society

 

I will close this series with two brief explanations of how genre itself involves reflections on American society. I have recently been working on horror movies, so that is one of my examples. American horror comes down to two versions of an attack on progress. One is Christian — Hitchcock did it, his many imitators since John Carpenter do it, and endless others. These stories try to put together the universal and the particular in this way. They start with a social setting that is very broad and designed to show what’s happening with American freedom. They then move on to an individual story of the emergence of evil. How crazily implausible evil has become, and how maddening, therefore, is supposed to teach the audience that they didn’t see evil in the setting. The unwillingness of good respectable middle-class Americans to see the evil in their hearts, and therefore in their society, leads them to countenance or even provoke monstrous things.

The tragic poet in this case resorts to these shocking things rightly called horror on the assumption that nothing else will even get a hearing. This is also what David Lynch wants to teach Americans; or Neil LaBute. These are very sophisticated movie-makers, but they are basically Christian moralists. They mean to remind Americans that you can stop believing in God, but you can’t stop believing in evil. Instead of providence, you get God’s wrath.

The alternative to Christian horror is scientific horror. America has great examples in Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft, more or less to correspond to the great British insights offered by Mary Shelley in Frankenstein and Robert Louis Stevenson in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I note in passing that these two British books, answering to the Victorian century of progress, deal with science taking control over life and then over good and evil respectively. Those, you will recall, are the two trees the fruit whereof was forbidden to man in Genesis.

America and Marvel, Part IV: Show Business and the Marvel Identity

 

Let us now see how all this emerges from show business. The box office seems to be growing exclusively on the strength of pricier tickets, as fewer people go to the movies. Fewer movies are made every year, counting movies with any kind of broad release — not 4,000 theaters, but say more than 500. The number of studios and the number of sources for stories are also decreasing. In the business, the idea is called intellectual property. In that sense, a minuscule oligarchy sells what a massive democracy wants to buy. The view of America you get at the movies is concentrating, ignoring more and more of the country. So, let us look at what we buy or, rather, buy into, while only really renting.

Today, cinema is dominated by three genres:

  1. Superhero movies.
  2. Animation, mostly about cute animals, often about redeeming villains.
  3. Teenage horrors-with-a-happy-ending, that is, political paranoia.

These are replacements for, respectively, action movies, family movies, and social criticism movies. There are many changes to speak about, so far as society is concerned. The audience for all these stories is getting younger; the knowledge of American society required to follow the movies is itself decreasing. Observations on life in America are constantly replaced by symbols.

America and Marvel, Part III: The Role of Cinema

 

I will start with some eminently questionable remarks. Let us start from the place of cinema in American life. Americans are notorious for the great gap their society leaves open in-between personal, private experiences, particular to each one and interesting mostly to himself — and public debates or public discourse, which is dominated by abstractions.

Tocqueville famously said Americans are uniquely given to general ideas — whenever doubt should arise about anything, a principle will be stated with god-like certainty. What lies in-between the abstract or universal and the personal or particular is judgment. Judgment, in both common senses of the word, is frowned upon in America. Obviously, moral judgment is frowned upon because it is a form of discrimination and the ground and mode of discrimination — it also odors of inequality, as he who judges necessarily sets himself the superior of he whom he judges. But judgment offends not merely equality — it also offends independence, or individualism.

You will notice, if you pay attention to your fellow Americans, that they spontaneously desire to raise an individual objection to just about any general statement in order to ruin the credibility of that statement. In America, every word for generality becomes suspect — think merely of the scientific word stereotype, which is not something anyone would say about his own way of thinking or mode of argument. The sacred rage against general rules is the intellectual correlative of the moral problem of judgment. There is a kind of heroism in Americans that leads them to fight off the claims of the intellect, that their freedom or unpredictability may remain intact. The argument against judgment is that it traps people’s individuality in human types available to the intellect in abstraction from experience. Each one wants to retain his essential mysteriousness, his opacity to the scrutiny of reason. This is politically salutary in many ways — a people without this aggressive rejection of reason would be easily tyrannized, indeed, with its consent. But it also creates serious problems. In America, taste is impossible publicly to distinguish from prejudice. Judgment, however, requires a ground more amenable to the intellect than inclination, less shifting than preference, and more social than habit.

America and Marvel, Part II: Reflections of and on Society

 

A few days ago, I talked to my associate Prof. Harmon who raised a fundamental question by way of a preposition. This is not as rare an occurrence as you might think. He asked whether I meant to speak of American cinema as a reflection of American society or a reflection on it. As I said, the movies are our human way of seeing what we’re like, as humans. But what does that mean more clearly?

“Reflections of society” involves the obvious meaning of imitation. What you see on the screen is what the movie-makers saw looking around — America. But this could mean two different things, being that no movie can reflect America as a whole. American movie-makers might offer Americans the images they think will please them — they see what Americans approve, and are governed in their works by that experience. This would mean cinema is a kind of flattery; a barely concealed form of self-congratulation. Every theater-going experience is really an awards ceremony in disguise. There is more than a little truth to that. Do people leave the theaters of this great notion in a soul-searching mood, somewhat chastened by the experience, or rather smug, and even self-important?

Or on the other hand, you could have what in literature we used to call realism and naturalism: An impious, immoderate staring at ugliness and misery, to chasten the bourgeois materialism of modern society. That’s not fun cinema. Even in America, this paradise, there is misery and there is suffering. That could be reflected in the movies instead of the fun stuff. This is not unheard of, but is very rare; it’s been rare in every decade except the Seventies, and the vaguely suicidal public mood in America at that time suggests there is more than a little that’s questionable in this fascination with ugliness.

America and Marvel, Part I: Introduction

 

At first, this series may seem strange to you. All I can say by way of preparatory remarks is that cinema properly understood is the self-understanding of a society. It comprises individual taste, popular phenomena, prestige, and also great achievements. It is at once all-American and almost universally opposed in America. Cinema is part of civilization — it is an attempt to think through and therefore to educate Americans about what it means to be a human being. But it retains elements of barbarism — a surprising fondness for images, let’s say.

Cinema is remarkably democratic in that it shows us the bodies of human beings whom we instantly recognize, with all the moral and intellectual consequences that follow from that knowledge. But it is also aristocratic, in that it privileges stories which are impressive by reason of being unusual — we generally look for great beauty, great power, or great achievements in stories. Or at any rate, cinema inevitably produces celebrities, the most obvious form of inequality in America.

Cinema today is what books used to be in America. To define the thing by the work it does characteristically is to see that movies, like books or literature previously, are our poetry — our making up stories about the things that most interest us. Our poetry is defined by a concern with the wholeness of life or human action. This is not to say that the highest purpose of cinema is the only purpose — I start there because it is needful to do so in our times. I remind you of Tocqueville’s statement that poetry in democratic times is bound to lose its ambition. The greatest things somehow slip from view without our noticing it. So, what is typical of our situation is that cinema has overrun our lives while at the same time its every claim to consideration is collapsing.

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In talking to various nerd and geeks I have come to observe that there are two sorts of comic book fandom. The first is one that gravitates to particular artists and specific story lines. These sorts of fans gravitate to miniseries and graphic novels, like “The Dark Knight Returns”, “Watchmen”, or “V for Vendetta”. The […]

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I’m starting to feel like I go see these Marvel movies less out of general interest and more out of an obligation.  With Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge playing in the next theater (I’m seeing it tomorrow), it was like I was dragged kicking and screaming to Doctor Strange instead. If I were to rate Doctor […]

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