Monday, July 31, 2006

A Change of Mind

I've written before about the oddness of having totally different, yet concurrent mindsets. I've just seen an article on the BBC website which has reminded me yet again how completely different my thinking is now, compared with my teenage and early twenty-something years (my pre-'out' period).

The article draws similarities between the American missile strike in Qana and their strike on Baghdad in the first Gulf War in 1991. Each time scores of innocents were knowingly killed, not by 'them', but by 'us'. I find it hard to imagine that in 1991 I was moved enough to complain about Jeremy Bowen's coverage of the story and yet now I'm joining in the near-universal condemnation of what the Israelis are doing and have done there above all. And yet I also look back into the late 80s and early 90s and find a great deal which is (bizarrely) incompatible with who I am now: my worldview, my politics, my attractions. I always thought of myself as mature for my age as I was growing up, and yet I didn't slough off my childhood and the unchallenged views you pick up from your parents, until I was in my early twenties. I find myself strange.

It seems so strange that the act of coming out to myself should have shattered and begun to shatter so many aspects of the way I was and transform them into who I am today. I suppose it's a rite of passage - for many at school it was having sex with their first girlfriend (which I knew from an early age disinterested me), or their first cigarette. I resisted my first rite of passage until I was 24 and now accept I fancy boys, wouldn't vote Tory if my life depended on it and condemn utterly what Israel is doing to Lebanon in general and most recently to Qana in particular.

Superman Returns

A change of tone if I may. As a comic collector of many decades, I thought it time to air my thoughts about the new Superman movie. As with many other people, my views have altered considerably after having time to think it over, and I feel like exploring them here.

In short it's an entertaining movie. It's clearly a tribute to what's gone before, and on closer inspection very nearly a remake; similar plotline, often the same dialogue. Even Marlon Brando's Jor-El is back, providing the continuity link to the Reeve films which this follows on from. Yet stating that Superman Returns follows on directly from Superman II is perversely the film's greatest flaw. Brandon Routh has Christopher Reeve to live up to (probably impossible for anyone), Kate Bosworth has Margot Kidder to live up to (she fails) and whilst Kevin Spacey's Lex is far and away a better Lex than Gene Hackman's, it's largely because this film realises that it has to respond to a different audience in a different age. So it's trapped from the outset between trying to emulate what's gone before but 'move it on a bit'. And with compromise after compromise, despite frequently astounding CGI, the film is spiritually dead. For a Superman movie this is unforgivable.

The film explores themes about moving on, legacy, generational change. And with an entirely new cast inhabiting the same characters it's clearly something they and Bryan Singer felt that the audience would need to go through in trying to clear the franchise of the ghost of Christopher Reeve. Clark moves on through his son, emulating his own development from Jor-El in Superman I, Lois moves on through shacking up with James Marsden, yet this worthy exploration masks a fundamental failure of both the franchise and of Singer's understanding of the character. It's been said that the novelisation retains the original beginning to the plot, where Clark travels to what he believes are the remains of Krypton - it's a deception by Luthor to get him off planet, discredited, leaving him free to escape from jail. All we learn in the movie is that Clark is gone for five years - he just up and left. With the values he was raised with, Clark would never do that - he would never leave his Ma, Lois, all the people he cares about who depend on him. Yet this is what we are led to understand he did. And when he learns that Lois has moved on, he essentially tortures himself and her for two hours' worth of footage before claiming no longer to be bovvered. Again - Clark would do this? I don't think so.

We have a continuity fudge of Lois clearly knowing (Singer has alluded to this) that she slept with Clark/Kal-El in Superman II, yet her memory was supposedly wiped of his secret identity at the close of that film. Did she fake that sequence? We don't know. It would explain Lois' fury at being abandoned, yet fury seems too strong for this film. Apart from Lex noone appears to feel anything at all. Clark broods relentlessly, seeming to have a messiah complex not previously shown in this franchise. And this opens up another flaw: if he is emotionally disconnected throughout most of the film, the closing sequence with his son should have restored his connection. It doesn't happen.

Since Superman II America has changed from being seen as a champion of social values to a defiler of them, and it's no surprise that a Superman movie in the 21st century would try incredibly hard to abandon these associations. Truth, Justice and the American Way become Truth, Justice 'and all that stuff'. Superman's closing fly through in space no longer has him holding an American flag, and it is at that point more than ever that the film falls flat. Christopher Reeve made you feel good about yourself and gave more vigour to the character before or since, just with a smile. He had effortless charm and authority in equal measure. Whilst Brandon Routh might, he isn't allowed or encouraged to, leaving a film of good intentions but weak execution, loaded with miscast characters and wasted opportunities. It was Christian Bale's job to brood, not Brandon Routh's. It was the X-Men's place to be dark, not Superman's. I was moved by the retention of the theme and opening credit sequence, but by nothing else. The film's poor box office takings in the US suggest I'm not alone, and in the film's most important market to boot.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

It's Been Too Long

Originally uploaded by lewishamdreamer.
I apologise profusely for such a wait for new words, but again images have me uttely captivated. As my photography progresses and business tentatively begins (I shot me a wedding last weekend), I'm increasingly drawn into the power and poetry of images to tell stories about people and the world. A high falluting way of putting it I know, but there you are - it means a great deal to me.

I've been spending all my time fighting to keep my world together. 2006 has been like that - fighting brush fires that spontaneously become forest fires - and it's been beating me down and keeping me more exhausted than even this horrendously humid and hot weather. I'm not being melodramatic, but people really don't know just how low my confidence is right now. I've actually succeeded in doing the things which have needed to be done, and I'm left with precious few resources with which to tend to normal life adequately. I'm not entirely sure how to get a good feeling back to daily life to be honest, although with most of the other 2006 pressures having been removed, the task should be easier than it feels.

I've decided I hate the British summer. Noise, heat, lower tolerance of (and respect towards) one another even than normal. I don't get a decent night's sleep at all. My only outlet's becoming photography - the accompanying photograph is my own work and is a result of considerable patience. I wish I could do more, but all I can do is focus on not crashing - from morning to night.