In the late 1980s and early ’90s, when I did movie reviewing for radio — WRFG-FM (89.3), since you asked — my sister Monica and I used to argue over aesthetics of cinema. She had a radically simple way of telling whether a film was successful, a metric I dubbed the Monica Hall Rule: “Did I stay awake?” As I struggled earlier in the week to survive the frustrations of some balky video streams, I settled upon a corollary we'll call the Ed Hall Rule: Once the halting stream and stalled online commercials rectified themselves, did I go back to rewatch any of what I suffered through in a form that, with closed captions activated, resembled the fotonovels of a different but also lost era of my youth?
Assuming dizzyingly repetitive, earwormingly catchy, multi-genre, sitcom-inspired, 11-minute-mind-fuck vortexes are the kind of thing you’re into, by now, you’ve seen “Too Many Cooks.” The Adult Swim short that ran at 4 a.m. one morning a couple weeks ago was created by "Squidbillies" and "Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell" writer Casper Kelly, who didn’t expect much at the time. He got about 50 tweets, was pleased with the response, and went about his life.
But then someone uploaded it to YouTube, and that clip worked its way up to a million views, trending on places like Twitter and Reddit, and grabbing the attention of countless celebrities. After that, Rolling Stone, Vulture, Entertainment Weekly, and virtually every other media property came calling. (In one particularly interesting interview, Shutterstock’s blog featured the two guys who composed the music.) As it turns out, the killer is played by a sweet, down to earth guy in real life.
Creative Loafing asked Kelly for a few of the places around Atlanta that inspire him to make such delightfully weird things like “Too Many Cooks.” We did not ask him what kind of drugs he was on when he made it, because we’re adults and that’s a dumb question. Turns out, he loves comedy, food, entertainment, and creative work environments. Stars: They’re just like us!
The Williams Street Building (1065 Williams St. N.W.)
"It’s the dinky building in Midtown where I work, and it’s where Ted Turner started his revolution of cable TV back in the day. ‘Nuff said."
Center for Puppetry Arts
"How many cities have a full-time center making challenging, interesting, and new works of puppetry? Take that, L.A. and New York!"
Oak Grove Market complex
"I know my Oak Grove neighborhood isn’t as hip as the ones down Ponce or Westside way, but we do have great Mexican, BBQ, cupcakes, and Mediterranean, [plus] a butcher shop, a vinyl record shop, a growler store, and two gastropub/farm to table restaurants all bunched together. The gauntlet is thrown, Old Fourth Ward!"
Star Bar open mic nights, the Hangar, etc.
"The Atlanta comedy scene is exploding. We are always poaching them to act in our TV shows."
"I can’t even think of a one-line thing for them. I just love them. Go see them. Not just the improv (which is great)—go see the plays."
"The fact that it is here gives me hope I might get to play a Wookie extra or something maybe."
Emory University kicked off its new major in Media Studies last Monday by hosting prominent media scholar Henry Jenkins. An Atlanta native and Georgia State University graduate, Jenkins is the Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, and a self-identified “aca-fan” — an academic who is also a fan of the media that he or she studies. Living up to the moniker, Jenkins has written prolifically on film, television, video games, and comics, ultimately helping to usher pop culture into scholarly circles.
In the vein of previous titles such as Convergence Culture and Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers, his forthcoming book studies the way that media franchises empower fans to participate in politics. Jenkins took an “advanced peek” at the book in his lecture and zoomed in on the role of youth within the political landscape: “What I want to shatter is the idea that young people are uniquely apathetic.”
In his lecture, Jenkins described how youth are politically active in a way that appears different than it did in the past. For instance, he views young people as distinctly savvy social media users, which can be used as a tool for forming and participating in grassroots movements. It’s how a video like “Kony 2012” can reach 70 million views in just four days. Though the success of the video was too fast for its own good, Jenkins says that it demonstrates “how much power there is in the communication of everyday people.”
As far as Jenkins sees it, the kind of political change that young people seek is ripped straight from pop culture, which gives them a vocabulary to articulate their thoughts on political issues. He says that fans of Harry Potter, for instance, have a platform to engage with matters like the Patriot Act or Fair Trade. Additionally, he observes the appearance of pop culture symbols in politics, from the use of “Winter Is Coming” signs at Occupy Wall Street to the appropriation of the three-finger salute from The Hunger Games in Thailand’s anti-coup protests.
Overall, he says, the manifestation of pop culture in politics illustrates that “the line between fans and activists has blurred substantially.”
But Jenkins is also sure to point out how the corporations that control these media franchises don’t always have their fans’ best interests in mind. Take, for example, the plastic mask of Guy Fawkes, an icon of the hacktavist group Anonymous. While the mask has come to symbolize many things, including protestation of corporate greed, its image remains under the control of Time Warner, which profits from sales of the mask. The paradox of being a politically active fan, warns Jenkins, is that one must also scrutinize his or her own passion.
After the lecture, a student asked Jenkins for a comment on the news that President Obama had advocated for net neutrality, an issue that Jenkins follows closely. He says, “I would love to think it becomes the state of U.S. policy.” If the support from the president lives up to how it looks, then Jenkins sees it as a step in the right direction for fans. He says, “The fight we need to fight right now is net neutrality.” It’s not about having better Internet service, he says, “It’s about our right to critique our government.”
When Super Visions was new I had the excellent fortune to meet someone who, without realizing it, became the patron saint of this blog. Jasmine Amussen, the communications director for Living Walls, engaged me in one of those conversations that geeks like she and I are wont to have. As we talked about why she doesn’t like Batman, I imagined a caution light rising in the distance for this column. Without trying to quote her, because my memory doesn’t work that way, I’ll try to sum up what I carried away from the conversation: Heroes, especially superheroes, can be dangerous emblems from which to dangle entertainments. One big reason is such narratives’ erection of a pedestal upon which the emblematic hero stands, hypercapable and more than human. Do such stories make life-altering action seem out of reach for mere mortals? Maybe. Another reason is the cryptofascist nature of many a modern comic book hero, a vast irony when one considers the WWII roots of such characters as Wonder Woman (who used to spend lots of time fighting Nazis) and Captain America (ditto). Frank Miller at least appeared to be exploiting this conundrum to great satirical success in The Dark Knight Returns, though the joke may have been on the readers in that instance.
Where Jasmine and I found common ground was in a mutual appreciation of monsters. The Great Brit has devoted ink aplenty to the frequent inability of us mere mortals to tell the difference between heroes and monsters, especially in his various League of Extraordinary Gentlemen tales. The tail in the mouth of those hilarious Marvel Zombies comics, wherein everyone from Cap to Iron Man becomes a gruesome and super-powered brain-eater, is that superheroes already rise from the dead. On a regular basis.
The caution light I alluded to earlier came into sharp focus this week because of a variety of influences, including the occurrence of Veterans Day and a recent tweet by a friend. Is violence an appropriate element in entertainment? Maybe not. But replacing it between pages or on screens with more benign activities is an unglimpsed outcome in a distant land on the far side of my caution light. And how that violence affects or involves women is of concern to many who consume and think about of the stuff of this blog, not just me. Longtime comics readers may know the trope of women in refrigerators, a shorthand for objectifying violence that afflicts female characters in the medium, often as a way of motivating some concomitant violence by a male protagonist.
>>ABC's "Red Band Society" will start filming in the vicinity of City Hall and the Fulton County Courthouse today, per a notice sent to local businesses in the area. Expect production crews at City Hall (right curb lane of Central Avenue, between Trinity Avenue and Mitchell Street; right curb lane of Mitchell Street, between Central Avenue and Washington Street) till 5:30 p.m. The crews will move over to the courthouse (left curb lane of Mitchell Street, between Central Avenue and Washington Street) till about 11 p.m.
>>The Vacation reboot filmed at Six Flags Over Georgia last week.
>>Wrestler Mick Foley did some comedy at Atlanta Improv. Rodney Ho has photographic proof.
>>"Local, feisty females are encouraged to attend the casting call" for Bunim/Murray's "Bad Girls Club." Any interested ladies should hit up Blakes On the Park this Sat., Nov. 15. More details here. Remeber: Applicants must bring a recent picture of themselves (which will not be returned) and photo ID. The minimum age to apply is 21.
>>On Tues., Nov. 18, the Goat Farm Arts Center will screen Paradise Garden: Howard Finster's Legacy. Details can be found here.
Have any tips? Sightings? Encounters? Pictures? Filming news? We need 'em! Drop me a line: email@example.com; or send me a tweet (Don't forget to use the hashtag #ATLwood).
Me: Hey! Agents of SHIELD!
Agents of SHIELD: Wha? Who? Me?
Me: Yeah, you. Did I wake ya?
AoS: Well, uh —
Me: Thought so. Someone needed to do it.
AoS: Who is —
Me: Don’t worry about who this is. Hey, nice curve ball there in “A Fractured House!” Prisoner transport, right near the end of the ep, an escape. Wow. Nobody saw that coming.
Me: Sarcastically. C’mon, don’t people in the Marvel universe watch television? Don’t lie! I saw 'em watching Belgians on the tube in this very ep!
AoS: What’s your —
Me: My point is, hello, leg irons. Shackles. Straitjackets! Eddie Izzard escaped pretty much the same way on "Hannibal." Eddie. Izzard*. If you want us to be surprised when some criminal turns a prisoner transport van inside out, you better bring some Houdini shit! Handcuffs? In that case, why not put the soon-to-be-free perp in a couple of finger traps and slide some flypaper under his ass?
AoS: You sound disappointed. …
Me: I am disappointed. Though I did like the Dalek on Fitz’s computer screen, but don't change the subject: I’m devoting the rest of this blog to something good. Or at least promising.
AoS: What blog — [click]
So, raise your sallow, rudimentary mitts if you saw the Minions trailer. No?
I won’t be strident because I myself am remiss here. I thoroughly enjoyed Despicable Me but haven't yet seen its initial sequel. The trailer for this prequel starts beautifully and out-Waterworlds Waterworld by morphing the Universal logo into Pangaea, the ancient supercontinent whose fragments are probably beneath you readers’ collective bums right now. The montage that follows, showing the minions’ pre-Despicable Me bosses, is also delightful as it zigzags from prehistory to history to fantasy and back. And that last zag? Did not see it coming. Seriously. Not sarcastically. Want to see this movie.
Anybody have a copy of Despicable Me 2 I can borrow?
*Which rhymes with neither “gizzard” nor “Grizzard” (as with orange, nothing rhymes with “Grizzard”). “Izzard” has a short I and takes a double stress. I know. I asked him.
Programming note: This is my last week on the ATLwood beat, y'all. It's been a wonderful 18 months; at this point, there are almost too many productions and their attendant celebrities to keep track of. I followed in the footsteps of the industrious, omnivorous Allison Keene. And now someone will follow me.
>> The Nice Guys has been filming at the Sandy Springs home of producer Dallas Austin, once occupied by Justin Bieber, per Jennifer Brett, and at Akers Mill near Cumberland Mall. Its base camp is reportedly at Galleria.
>> Ant-Man will be filming at Broad and Luckie Streets next week, starting Nov. 12, per a notice sent around the neighborhood. (Turns out, the film's Pym Industries is actually the archives building.)
>> USA's "Complications" has been filming on Marietta Street and in Douglasville and Kirkwood.
For this roundup of news from/views on the world(s) of onscreen comics, so much is going on that I scarcely know where to begin.
Who am I kidding? The trailer for Avengers 2: Age of Ultron pwned last week! It did so as much through what it promised as what it showed. Keep in mind, I had days to see and ponder this thing before Marvel announced its Phase 3 slate of films, so by the time they did reveal Black Panther (about whom more after the jump) will have his own movie come November 2017, I was already confident of such then-still-to-come good news. Why?
Specifically a sweaty, curly-bearded Serkis looking not only worried in the A2AU trailer but also an awful lot like the Panther’s proto-foe, Ulysses Klaw. Of course, after he becomes living sound, Klaw looks more like the victim of a tragic tanning bed accident that happened as he was engaged in manual intimacy with a satellite dish. Take my word for it, ’cause all the pictures reek. And like the Hulk and Groot, to generate some awe the post-transmogrification Klaw will have to be the product of substantial CGI/motion capture. Ergo Mr. Serkis, master of that form.
>> The Nice Guys, starring nice guys Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, filmed in Castleberry Hill and near Decatur. Random Russell Crowe-in-sunglasses break! The production is shooting at Cone and Williams Streets today, as well as on Poplar Street. Matt Bomer will also reportedly be joining the shoot just as soon as he leaves the Magic Mike XXL shoot down in Myrtle Beach.
>> Deathless, starring Liev Schreiber and Diane Kruger, will shoot in the city starting in November and continue through January.
>> "The Red Road" filmed at Smyrna's Faith Christian Center.
Regular readers of this blog know that I love me some onscreen intertextuality. You know: the tombstone for a certain eyepatch-wearing badass in Captain America: The Winter Soldier that bore an epitaph uttered by certain Jheri-curl—wearing badass in Pulp Fiction, the two of whom were played by one actor. When it comes amid other good stuff, intertextuality provides grace notes. When it’s the single most memorable thing in a movie or television show, though, intertextuality can be damn embarrassing. Seriously, “Space: Above and Beyond”? The best you could manage, as you were knocking off the premise of Joe Haldeman’s novel The Forever War was to steal a planet name from Joe Haldeman’s novel Mindbridge? And no, almost 20 years later, I still haven’t forgiven you.
So, yes, there are risks involved in nodding at a thing you love, a thing that probably inspired you to make the thing you’re now sharing with the world. Such risk boils down to the classic slam of a review that goes, “What was original was not good, and what was good was not original.”
Alas, I was thinking pretty much that as I watched the season opener of “Arrow.” Our hero was in lackadaisical pursuit of a petty criminal named Steelgrave and — wait, Steelgrave?
Yes, all these decades later, the ingenious Stephen Cannell series “Wiseguy” still exerts its undeniable pull. But Ray Sharkey made Sonny Steelgrave a complex, scary, and pathetic figure in that show’s first story arc. The Vincent Steelgrave that Oliver Queen apprehends in “Arrow” after barely breaking a sweat? I don’t even know what he looked like. And yes, one of intertextuality’s uses is to breed a knowing smile among viewers who get the reference. But if what’s going on all around that reference is perfunctory at best and unpersuasive at worst*, the risk to the production at hand is that I’ll be thinking about that production evoked by allusion — that I’ll suddenly be recalling the long-lost glories of Vinnie Terranova, and Pat the Cat, and Don Aiuppo.
Yeah, okay “Arrow,” you deserve a moment to set up the current season, to show your characters comfy in their chosen roles before all their apple carts get overturned. But if that moment mires my wheels in the stuff of some other show, maybe the better choice would’ve been a name plucked from the decades of Green Arrow comics.
*We need to talk another time about the sorry level of stunt work that "Arrow" tolerates these days.
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