Saturday, April 08, 2006

Six Great Wonder Woman Covers

After hearing about all of the crappy casting possibilities (and the one good one, Charisma Carpenter), I thought I'd put up some really good 21st century covers of the only other truly great artist (besides George Perez) to draw WW.

I love the way the arms balance each other out on this one. Great dark colors, too.

There's your movie poster right there. Tough, imposing, and perfectly framed.

From that month where DC did the really cool covers with no words on them except for the titles.

Cute concept. By this point, isn't it obvious that Hughes's model for WW is Bettie Page?

A little dreamy, perhaps, but it has a nice quality to it. Posted by Picasa

Sexual Double Standards

Playboy magazine is one of the few magazines I can read practically cover to cover every month. People who call it pornography have no idea what they're talking about and have probably never even looked inside an issue. Yes, there's a centerfold, and usually at least one other nude pictorial, but there are also fascinating articles, social and political commentary, and what is still the most insightful interview process in print. One of the regular features I always read is The Playboy Advisor, which promises to answer any reasonable question. But sometimes, they drop the ball.

In January, a reader from Miami wrote in with the following question:
I have always had a hairy butt. None of my sexual partners has ever said anything about it, but even if one had said it didn’t bother her, I would have just thought she was being nice. Is a hairy ass a turnoff for women? Is it necessary to shave your butt, and if so, how do you go about it?

Now, you don't have to be a genius to figure out that, for the most part, a hairy butt is a turnoff for women. I mean, it seems pretty obvious. But here's how Playboy responded:
We are far too lazy to shave our butt. Women just have to take it or leave it. They should be busy on the other side anyway.

See, ladies? You should be sucking our dicks, not worrying about aesthetics! This kind of cute, flippant (read: asinine) reponse never goes by without an outraged comment or two. So, in the new issue, we come across this response from (I assume) a female reader in Escondido, California:
In January a male reader asked for tips on shaving his butt, and you told him to forget it, that women should “take it or leave it.” This coming from a magazine in which the only hair on a Playmate is on her head! A hairy butt is a turnoff, guys. Wax it.

Well, she has a point, doesn't she? Of course women are worried about the aesthetic value of their naked sexual partner. We all are!

Here's another response from a woman in Princeton, NJ:
Not only should that reader wax his ass, but I’d bet his back and shoulders need shaving. We skip dessert, do our hair, apply makeup, wear bras and pantyhose and wax our bikini line and butt for men. The least you could do is give us something smooth to grab.

Again, an excellent point. Many women go to a lot of trouble to conform to what magazines like Playboy described, half a century ago, as the ideal sexual partner. And what do we do, men? We assume, in our typically arrogant stupidity, that women are just supposed to, by nature, have sex with us no matter who we are or what we look like. I do not envy what women have to go through in this world. Men assume that just because a woman gives them a stiffy, she's obligated to fuck us...and if she doesn't want to, she's going to be forced. Do you see how a cute, flippant answer from Playboy is just so indicative of how women are treated by men? Their own comfort, their own feelings, their own desires--none of those matter, because we have pricks that must be consoled and balls that must be relieved. What a bunch of fucking assholes men tend to be.

Here's Playboy's response to the two above comments:
While we appreciate your passion on the topic, this is the one area where we feel the sexual double standard is a good idea.

Smug fucks. So, women should always be prepared for sex with anyone, anywhere, on any surface, but men can just gain the weight, not wash their groins for days at a time, dismiss women's needs, and fart under the shared covers, and just expect to be sexually serviced?

How do any of us ever get laid?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Throwdown 4/7

15 random thoughts, questions, and observations for the week.

1. Sharon Stone to record an album. Sharon Stone to direct Basic Instinct 3. Where’s the story that says Sharon Stone is going to shut the fuck up and go away? And you know, I was all set to like her again, but some people never change. You give her a little bit of attention, and suddenly she thinks she’s important and we all need to be aware of her every feeling. Just show us your boobs and dance, monkey. We don’t need the play by play.

2. Will Sean Connery cameo in Indiana Jones 4? You know, I think a piece of every writer’s soul dies when he types the words Indiana Jones 4. Get over it, folks; it ain’t gonna happen. Harrison Ford is elderly. My mom says he’s middle-aged; can’t wait to see him when he hits 125.

3. Has Heather Locklear seen herself lately? Because only a woman who doesn’t know she’s that hot would be making out with David Spade. I think I’m going to chunder all over my keyboard just thinking about that...

4. Speaking of icky hookups, Teri Hatcher says that she’s still single, even after making it with Ryan Seacrest. That says a lot about her resolve; most of the women I know would say they were no longer straight.

5. Paris Hilton’s actual explanation for why Nicole Richie is so mad at her: "She cannot stand being around me because I get all the attention and people don’t really care about her." Wow, someone needs to smack Paris Hilton pretty hard. Hard enough to break her nose and give her something to think about. What is this, junior high? "I can’t help it that people like me so much and I’m so popular." Man, she really believes that people just naturally love her and she can’t help it. I hate this bitch.

6. Speaking of bitches, when I watch Mean Girls now, besides marveling at how much plumper, sexier, and better acting-er Lindsay Lohan is in that movie, I also notice that it’s really her story. I mean, substitute Paris Hilton as the bitchy girl Lindsay replaces, and there you go. Now Lindsay’s the bitch. Speaking of, Lindsay’s demanding an apology from W magazine, who said that her mother and siblings visit her dad in jail. Apparently, that’s just criminal, because they don’t. Oh, horrors! When is the media going to stop making it look like people are just willy-nilly caring about their jailed relatives?!

7. And now Kate Beckinsale wants to play Wonder Woman. Let me ask you a question: who the fuck is Kate Beckinsale? I just turned around one day, and there she was, with her insipid smile, her blank emotionlessness, and her grody fake tits that look like uncooked chicken wings. What was the big movie she did that made her so, I don’t know, relevant? Someone at Warner Brothers has to have seen how badly those Underworld movies did...they won’t make this mistake, right? I’d almost rather see Lindsay Lohan do it. By the way, Kate Beckinsale went as Wonder Woman last Halloween; media idiots keep reporting that as though it shows she should play Wonder Woman. Dude, every woman I know was Wonder Woman one year. She’s the only good female superhero! I used to watch Wonder Woman, does that qualify me to play the role? Because I look damn good in bracelets and nylons, but the heels may be a problem.

8. Eminem and Kim are getting divorced again. Stupid white trash fuckwits. Hands up, who saw that coming? My, there are an awful lot of you out there...

9. Jennifer Aniston is talking about leaving LA and moving to Chicago. As a representative of the Windy City, let me just say, no. No, we don’t want any of that.

10. Can you believe that it’s been nearly a year since Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were engaged? This summer, after the family values-espousing lunatic and his addled child bride have given birth to their illegitimate bastard, they might actually finally get married! You know, I don’t care if someone has a baby out of wedlock, but he really opened himself up to this kind of criticism after all of that shit about drugs and babies and psychology. I cannot wait for Katie Holmes to have a near-suicidal bout of postpardum depression; maybe then we’ll see how she feels about her new alien-worshipping cult. Of course, it already seems like the "church" has her all drugged up, doesn’t it? She’s so eerily placid these days. Of course, we all know the "church" denounces mood-altering drugs, right? Tom Cruise also denies that he bought Katie an adult pacifier to help with the silent birth. I don’t know, everything he says is so crazy, I stopped paying attention. John Travolta, meanwhile, has said that he supports the silent birth. Um, Mr. Travolta, no one’s cared what you have to say since, like 1995. Why don’t you plug that talk-hole with some more spaghetti and grow another collar size while I ogle your hot wife, alright?

11. Heath Ledger wants five more children? He should talk to Katie Holmes. She looks like she’s going to breed a litter of 14 all at once; maybe he could adopt some of those from her vet. Yeah, like scientologists have real doctors. Doctors believe in medicine.

12. Prince, I beg you, do not go on American Idol. They’re ruining Queen this week, don’t let them ruin your music, too. Don’t make me rethink my assessment of you as one of the few musical geniuses left alive. I mean, you don’t want to make a fool of yourself like Stevie Wonder, do you? And America, how could you vote off Mandisa? I mean, you left on out-of-tune Ace, dumbshit Fucky Covington, and Elliott the Token Retard? Seriously, when Elliott sings, just start thinking "Sloth love Chunk" and tell me it doesn’t make sense. Fuck, America, you just never know who to vote for in any election, do you? Of course, just like the presidential election, barely anyone votes for it and the results are determined in advance for maximum dramatic impact. I’m sure either pretty boy Ace or fake "ordinary girl" Kellie is going to win, anyway.

13. How pervasive is reality television? Well, this year’s Miss America contest is going to be a seven-episode reality series, Finding Miss America, in which America will get to vote for their pick. Why don’t we just run the elections this way, too? I’m sure phone votes are just as easy to lose as paper ballots.

14. Wait, so Hugh Hefner had to apologize for using a publicity photo of Jessica Alba on the cover of Playboy? Who the fuck does she think she is? She’s nobody! But at least she forgives him, the magnanimous cunt.

15. Queen Latifah wants to adopt, Carmen Electra wants to have a baby, everyone's suddenly pregnant... man, do you ever wonder whatever happened to those little puppies everyone was carrying around a couple of years ago?

Troy: The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, Part 5

Achilles offers Priam the respect of 12 days to honor Hector with games, promising that there will be no warring before that time is up. He also frees Briseis to go back with Priam.

Aaron: Annnnnnnnnnnnd, meaning gone. Now we’re back to the obtuse love story that seems to be arbitrarily thrown in there for the straights so they won’t get scared by the gay movie.

Harlan: Well, maybe you’re right, there. The love story between Achilles and Briseis--containing, as it does, neither love nor story--is the weakest aspect of this film.

At a campfire one night, Odysseus arbitrarily gets the idea for the wooden Horse from some whittling soldier. The Horse is built while Achilles apologizes to Eudorus for his gruff behavior and orders him to take the Myrmidons home.

Aaron: So, the mighty siege of Troy took a mere fortnight? Because I count, actually, 17 days from the start of the film. Do I even need to point out that Achilles was dead by the time the Horse even entered into it?

Harlan: And what about Neoptolemus? That’s how long these men were away from home; Achilles’s son completed the conquest of Troy after his father’s death. You figure that Neoptolemus must have been about five or six when his father left home. Of course, that’s if you count the year or two it took to muster the armies and get them out of Aulis before the fighting even started as part of the ten years...

Aaron: You know, some people believe that the Trojan Horse is actually an earthquake. Troy was rebuilt about seven or eight times, and around 1275 BC there’s evidence of an earthquake. And since the horse was an animal sacred to Poseidon, and one of his titles was "Earthbreaker," some archaeologists think that the story of the gigantic Horse is a reference to a great earthquake that caused waves and destroyed the city.

Harlan: That’s actually fascinating. Greece and Turkey have always had a lot of earthquakes.

Aaron: The city was destroyed by an attack, though, around 1200 BC, so I think the mythmakers have compressed events, as they tend to. Maybe Asimov was right, and history seemed shorter in the ancient world because such little progress was made and the world didn’t visibly change with the pace of our own time.

The High Priest of Troy believes the Greeks have left because of a plague and that the Horse is an offering to the god, so they stupidly wheel the Horse into the city despite both Paris and Glaucus warning Priam to burn it.

Aaron: Is this more religious indictment? Because everything that high priest has told Priam to do has turned out to be a mistake.

Harlan: Could this movie be more heavy-handed and obvious?

Aaron: Wait.

The men hidden inside the Horse open the gates and let the Greek army in. Much destruction and slaughter ensue. Achilles runs off with purpose.

Aaron: What more does Achilles want? I mean, Neoptolemus avenging his father makes sense, but what does Achilles really want anymore?

Achilles searches for Briseis.

Aaron: Why did he take himself out of the war for her, only to let her go, and now to want her back? This movie sucks...

Harlan: I know. Just decide what story you’re telling, already... I mean, do they really expect us to believe that Achilles doesn't want the glory anymore, but instead wants Briseis back?

Andromache gets Astyanax, Paris, and Helen, and leads them to the secret escape passage.

Aaron: Hey, someone finally said Andromache’s name!

Harlan: Of course, Andromache was killed, so was Astyanax, and Helen was taken home...

Aaron: It’s all just quibbling at this point. Obviously in their arrogance the filmmakers decided that Homer's work, which had endured for 2500 years, just wasn't good enough on its own.

Paris refuses to go with Helen and Andromache if there’s still a chance to save his father. He gives the "Sword of Troy" to a kid who is supposed to be Aeneas.

Aaron: Alright, this is just too far now. Some kid is holding an old man and escaping, and I’m supposed to buy that this kid, who looks even younger and wimpier than Orlando Bloom, is Aeneas? And the old man is thrown in to be Anchises, just for people who know anything about the Aeneid. Why didn’t they just have him in the story? He’s married to Creusa, one of the many daughters of Priam, like Polyxena and Cassandra, not seen in the film. And what of his son, Ascanius? AND WHERE THE HELL IS HECUBA?

Harlan: There’s that "Sword of Troy" again, too. This whole appearance of Aeneas is rather insulting. I can’t decide if the screenwriter is showing us how smart he is, or if it’s supposed to placate the people who are going to talk about all of the inaccuracies going on here.

Aaron: This music is a ripoff of Horner’s own The Mask of Zorro. Shameless hackery...

Glaucus gives a speech to encourage his Trojan soldiers to resist.

Harlan: "Sons of Scotland!" Oh, sorry.

Aaron: "Riders of Rohan!" There, I can do it, too.

Agamemnon kills Priam, then attempts to rape Briseis at another statue of Apollo.

Aaron: Of course, this should be lesser Ajax and Cassandra...

Briseis kills Agamemnon with a knife to the throat.

Aaron: Boy, Clytemnestra’s going to be pissed. All her planning, and she doesn’t even get to kill him. You know, does Agamemnon’s family even exist here? Where was Iphigenia?

Harlan: This movie passed the point of actually telling the story of Troy a long time ago, it’s just hard to figure out when... I can actually feel myself becoming retarded.

Achilles and Briseis are reunited, but Paris shows up and shoots Achilles in his famous Achilles Heel. And then four more times in the chest.

Aaron: There’s some vengeance for you.

Harlan: Why is Briseis crying for Paris to stop? This movie has yet to make me understand why there’s love between them. Frankly, I want someone to slap Briseis across the face and clear her head so she understands there’s more going on here than her torrid love affair with Achilles.

Aaron: So, all this time, the heroes of the movie are really supposed to be Helen and Paris? Because this movie isn’t about either one of them, and yet, improbably, their love is allowed to survive as they escape with Andromache, Astyanax, and Briseis. And, apparently, Aeneas.

Harlan: Hey, do you think Paris fights Aeneas for the Sword of Troy, or what?

Aaron: Good point. They can’t really reconcile their brand new ending with the Aeneid, can they? Does Aeneas run off to found Rome, or does Paris found a new city? Jesus, this sucks.

Harlan: Heh, maybe he went west and founded Paris. You know, Paris, France?

Aaron: I’m ignoring you now.

Odysseus, the only major Greek character who hasn’t been killed, ceremoniously burns Achilles.

Aaron: Oh, how sweet; he’s putting coins on Achilles’s eyes despite the fact that they haven’t been invented yet.

Harlan: You know, it’s amazing that Troy was lost to us. Even in the seventh century BC, there were still people living there, and the citadel walls were still there. They knew it was the site of the siege and the battle. Xerxes visited Troy to see the birthplace of Hector; Alexander went there to see the grave of Achilles. Roman emperors made pilgrimages there because they traced their lineage there through Aeneas. All that majesty--the movie touches on it not at all.

The end credits--or should we say blame--begins to roll at this point.

Aaron: Look at the talent involved, too. David Benioff wrote the excellent 25th Hour. And Roger Pratt is a great cinematographer; he did Brazil and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Harlan: There: James Horner. Happy?

Aaron: God, listen to that horrible Josh Groban song. Man, they really thought this was going to be last year’s Titanic, didn’t they? You know why it wasn’t? Not gay enough. Man, if they had played to the gay audience more, they would’ve had a runaway hit. Josh Groban is a step in the right direction, though; maybe the queers will rediscover it on DVD.

Harlan: Will you stop that?

Aaron: Hey, buddy, alls I’m saying is that the subtext is there, you can either play it, or not. Besides, I need something to amuse me while sitting through nearly three hours of this boring garbage.

And now, the final summation on the merits of Troy.

Harlan: Well, it’s really a shame, because it’s the kind of movie I want to like, but it’s so ineptly made that I ultimately can’t. This movie exists on its own plane of stupidity, telling no story, and creating no intellectual or emotional hold. And if that weren’t enough, they take one of the greatest pieces of literature ever written, and they crap all over it to make it more marketable to a summer, male, American audience. Homer’s profound narrative on all of the aspects of humanity brought out by suffering and hate is turned into a simplistic boy-meets-girl love story, and to absolutely no effect. This is probably one of the worst films I’ve ever seen.

Aaron: It’s not even that good. The real problem here is that, despite one truly great sequence and some good performances, it’s totally forgettable. Boring, tiresome, and not even remotely interesting, this is one of those films that you see and can barely comment on because it’s not even stupid enough to make fun of. It just is what it is, and there’s nothing special about it. Like all Wolfgang Petersen films, it feels unfinished and unrealized, and it doesn’t work as a story, or as a movie; frankly Clash of the Titans is a better realization of not only mythology, but Ancient Greece as well. I’ll stick to reading the Iliad, thank you.

And that’s the end of that chapter; another terrible film running around pretending to be the much-needed film version of a literary milestone. People who don’t know the Iliad won’t know how wrong it is, and people who do know it will find nothing added to it. Stick with the original. Or read Eric Shanower’s excellent Age of Bronze comic book series instead.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Troy: The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, Part 4

Day 3: Achilles decides that now is the time to go home. Odysseus attempts to talk him into remaining.

Harlan: So, the point of all this is that men need symbols? Not that we know, of course, because only the leaders matter in this, not the ordinary people...

Aaron: Listen to Patroclus whine. Are we supposed to respect Achilles’s sanguine summation that "Someone has to lose" as some kind of wisdom? WILL SOMETHING PLEASE HAPPEN ALREADY?

Hector urges Priam not to attack the Greek ships, but Priam decides to do just that. That night, Achilles and Briseis make love some more.

Harlan: I don’t know why she’s in love with him or why he’s in love with her or why I’m supposed to care. This isn’t exactly one of the great couples, no matter what they’re trying to impose on us.

Hector’s men make a daring night attack on the Greek ships, trying to burn the camp before the Greek armies can muster a response.

Aaron: What are those giant fireballs supposed to be? Greek fire, centuries too early?

Harlan: And where are the explosions coming from?

Morning on the fourth day: the Trojans use the cover of smoke to march on the Greeks.

Aaron: Apparently, the Trojan reinforcements have arrived.

Harlan: Well, Gandalf said to look to the east on the morning of... oh, wrong movie. This one’s just ripping off that one.

Aaron: I wonder if those are Dardanians or Lycians. They certainly aren’t Amazons, which leaves out Penthisilea. Now, cut out Briseis and replace her with Jennifer Garner as Penthisilea, and you have a movie.

Achilles leads his Myrmidons into the battle, re-energizing the Greeks and pressing an attack, until Hector kills him and reveals that it is, in fact, Patroclus in Achilles’s armor. Every single person in both armies stops for the scene of Patroclus’s death to go off.

Aaron: And Willow, James Horner is totally ripping off his own score to Willow.

Harlan: Apparently, this is some kind of lesson on the horror of war. But the direction is so ham-fisted that it doesn’t sink in.

Aaron: Is it just me, or does this movie feel like it’s taking place in real time?

Harlan: And then the armies just give up for the day because of the death of one man? Does that seem a little over the top to you, or is it just me?

Aaron: It’s not just you, friend. You’re talking about 50,000 Greeks and an undetermined--but very high--number of Trojans stopping battle to mourn for one insignificant boy, just because he wasn’t Achilles? This is total bullshit. Besides, we've already seen 5 dozen other soldiers die, so why is this one so important?

Harlan: How bad is Hector supposed to feel? "Alright, everyone, just knock off for the rest of the day, I need to go brood on the worries of war."

Eudorus tells Achilles of Patroclus’s death, and Achilles overreacts.

Harlan: Look at that; now Achilles wants to kill everyone because his cousin, whom we haven’t seen more than three times in the last 107 minutes, is dead.

Aaron: Do you think Achilles and Patroclus were lovers?

Harlan: From the point of view of Homer, from the point of view of mythology, or working off your theory of this movie being a big homoerotic epic?

Aaron: Actually, it does support my theory about that, doesn’t it? All of those sweaty men in skirts with perfect hair running around and slapping each other with swords while the women stay in the background intoning. How can you not see this?

Harlan: Let’s just move on, shall we? We’ll leave the Patroclus question undecided, especially since he’s in this movie so few times that it doesn’t seem to really warrant any speculation. It also makes Achilles’s reaction silly, though, since there wasn’t any character development to explain how close they were. Of course, no American movie is going to let its big, manly hero be a bisexual.

Aaron: They crossed swords earlier, though. I think we both know what their intimacy is... (Aaron winks)

Harlan: You are such an idiot.

Hector shows Andromache, whose name has still not been spoken by any character, how to escape with their baby, Astyanax (whose name has also not been spoken).

Harlan: He talks about babies being thrown from the city walls, which is the actual fate of Astyanax, but the movie takes the liberty of the baby escaping later...

Aaron: Hector killed a young boy today? Patroclus looked the same age as Paris. Speaking of Paris, where is he? They just lost him completely.

Harlan: Even Homer doesn’t care about him after the battle with Menelaus. And the only thing he does before dying is to kill Achilles with the arrow shot guided by Apollo. Then he was just killed by Philoctetes, refused healing by Oenone, and his body was mutilated by Menelaus. Who is dead, apparently...

Patroclus’s body is ritually burned. Hector looks at his baby meaningfully. Paris is suddenly seen practicing with a bow. In the morning (the fifth day of the war), Achilles puts on his armor, rides to the city walls, and challenges Hector to single combat.

Aaron: Achilles almost seems sorry to have to kill Hector. How did wars ever get fought in Ancient Greece? Everyone’s too busy feeling tired at having to carry all of this symbolism...

Harlan: I know; it’s like Achilles is sorry he has to kill Hector for the sake of making a point about the futility of war. Hector even refuses to allow an archer to shoot Achilles, even though it would be a major advantage for Troy...

Hector says goodbye to his family before going down to meet Achilles.

Aaron: Oh, now Priam suddenly loves Hector as a father.

Harlan: This is the only emotionally-charged scene in the movie. It’s too bad it took 115 minutes to get to something that’s remotely powerful.

Aaron: If I have a tiny problem with this scene, it’s that Hector’s death seems to be a foregone conclusion. Hector’s saying goodbye for the last time, and so are Paris and Priam. There’s no air of suspense at all; it’s like Hector really feels he’s just walking out to meet some kind of just death for having mistakenly killed Patroclus. What if it had been Achilles in that armor? Would Hector still feel the need to pay for this death? People die in war, that’s about all that they do.

In the only truly great scene in the entire film, Hector and Achilles have an amazing fight. The scene is charged with energy. Hector is killed, and Achilles shamefully drags the body behind his chariot back to his camp.

Aaron: Not to take away from this scene, but the editing is a lot more obvious on DVD than it was in the theater. You can see where they’ve actually taken out frames to make this scene look faster. I wonder if Brad Pitt and Eric Bana were fighting slowly and then sped up.

Harlan: The fight choreography here is amazing, though. It’s like a ballet.

Aaron: It is great. If only they’d gotten someone really talented to direct this film, the whole movie might be so impressive. Imagine what Ang Lee could’ve done with this.

Harlan: Well, Ang Lee’s method would’ve been more holistic, and might not have tried so hard to cram so much in. Where’s the characterization? Where’s the story development? I mean, stuff happens, and that’s it--you don’t care either way. Just plot, no story.

Aaron: So, Achilles still has no honor? I mean, mutilating the body is understandable--he’s really mad--but he’s being unrealistic to hold Hector to the expectation that he should’ve seen it was Patroclus and let the boy live. It’s like George C. Scott says in Patton: people win wars by making as many of the other people die for their country as possible.

At night, Priam sneaks into the Greek camp to beg Achilles to return Hector’s body to him.

Aaron: This is one of my favorite scenes in all of literature. Peter O’ Toole knows the power of the words here, and plays it without overacting.

Harlan: Brad Pitt’s weaknesses come out here; O’ Toole is acting him right off the screen.

Aaron: "But even enemies can show respect." At last, there’s some real meaning infused to all of this. Of course, it’s the second they start quoting actual lines from Homer. It’s like the writer wanted to adapt the battle of Hector and Achilles, and this powerful scene, and needed the previous two hours to set it all up.

Harlan: So, there’s a redeeming factor here, despite what a waste of time everything else is...

One more to come.

Is Katie Holmes Having a Litter?

Seriously, when is she going to have this fake alien baby? If it's a stunt, the "church" has taken it way too far. Look at how fake that thing looks... Christ, it just pisses me off for some irrational reason. Posted by Picasa

Masters of Animation: Cultural Interlude 1901-1910

More cultural perspective that you're probably sick of reading or don't really care much about.

In 1901, Mercedes, Oldsmobile, and Cadillac all start producing automobiles. The New York subway goes into construction. Eastman Kodak is incorporated. The vacuum cleaner is invented. The inventor of dynamite, Alfred Nobel, begins handing out peace prizes named after himself. Annie Edson Taylor goes over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Marconi sends the first transatlantic wireless message. Queen Victoria dies after 63 years as queen. President McKinley is assassinated. Ted Sears, Clyde Geronimi, Ub Iwerks, and Walt Disney are all born.

In 1902, Pathe sets up shop in Vincennes as France's art nouveau style becomes an international hit. The American Automobile Association is formed; Henry Ford forms the Ford Motor Company. It becomes illegal to hunt buffalo. Tsar Nicholas II allows Christians to slaughter Jews. Nathan Stubblefield makes the first public radio broadcast. The US Court of Appeals rules that Thomas Edison did not invent the movie camera; the first American movie theater opens in Los Angeles, CA, with a 10-cent admission fee. Edison consoles himself by inventing the battery. Richard Felton Outcault's Buster Brown begins in the New York Herald. Georges Meilies makes a fortune with his magical A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune), but the film is ripped off in America by (who else) Edison, and Meilies will never recover from this slight.

In 1903, Winsor McCay began drawing his first comic, Tales of the Jungle Imps. Ford began selling the Model A car. Japan invades Korea, the Wright Brothers fly at Kitty Hawk, the first World Series is played (in Boston), and Enrico Caruso records "Le Donna e Mobile." The Teddy Bear, named for Teddy Roosevelt, goes on sale. Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising are born, as are Hamilton Luske and George Orwell; Whistler and Gauguin die. Edwin S. Porter's The Great Train Robbery, often considered the first narrative American film, is exhibited.

In 1904, New York's subway opens and Russia's Bloody Sunday occurs. Edison patents the electric car, which is only now becoming a foreseeable possibility. Winsor McCay introduces two new comic strips, Little Sammy Sneeze and the wonderful Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend. Dr. Seuss, Friz Freleng, and Bill Tytla are born.

In 1905, the Russo-Japanese War ended after the deaths of 457,035 Japanese. The Russians celebrate by slaughtering over 1000 Jews in Odessa. Albert Einstein, at 26, publishes "The Special Theory of Relativity." Roald Amundsen finds the magnetic North Pole. Pittsburgh opens the first Nickelodeon; The Great Train Robbery is their first show. Winsor McCay begins drawing the first truly great comic strip, Little Nemo in Slumberland. The Story of the Kelly Gang premieres at the Athenaeum Hall in Melbourne, Australia; at one-hour long and with a continuous narrative, it is considered to be the first feature film. Jules Verne dies at the age of 77.

In 1906, the Great San Francisco Earthquake kills over a thousand people and nearly destroys the city. The British Empire covers a fifth of the planet, so British women start fighting for the right to vote. The first Victrola Record Player retails for $200. The air conditioner is patented; so is the talking motion picture (by a Frenchman, Eugene Augustin Lauste). Wilfred Jackson is born; Cezanne dies. Blackton releases The Humorous Phases of Funny Faces, a funny short film. In Britain, The Hand of the Artist is a film of animated black board drawings shot in stop motion.

In 1907, the first movie fanzine, Moving Picture World, is published. Women in Finland become Europe's first female voters. Pablo Picaso develops cubism. The Ringling Brothers buy Barnum & Bailey a create a monopoly on the circus business. Louis B. Mayer opens his first movie theater in Massachusetts. The first helicopter flies in France. The Lumiere Brothers invent a three-color film process. Bud Fisher's Mutt & Jeff debuts in the San Francisco Chronicle; it is the most successful comic strip yet. Animators Art Babbitt and Les Clark are born. Edwin S. Porter's The Teddy Bears is a puppet film; Segundo de Chomon's La Silhouette Animee is, as the title suggests, silhouette animation.

In 1908, France sees the first long distance airplane flight, Ford's Model T rolls off the assembly line, child labor laws begin, and the FBI is founded. Edison patents the film projector and forms the Edison Biograph Studio; he makes two clay-animated films this year, The Sculptor's Nightmare and A Sculptor's Welsh Rarebit Dream. Someone who isn't Edison invents cellophane. Many animation births this year: Mel Blanc, Mae Questel, Tex Avery, Joe Grant, Shamus Culhane, Seymour Kneitel, and George Pal.

In 1909, Prohibition pisses everyone off and makes life more profitable for organized crime. Robert A. Peary reaches the North Pole. Louis Bleriot flies across the English Channel. The New York Board of Censorship is set up by the major film companies as a self-policing action in an attempt to avoid threatened government censorship. Carl Laemmle establishes the Independent Motion Picture Company, breaking the monopoly of the Motion Picture Patent Company. Rose O'Neill debuts her Kewpie characters in Woman's Home Companion, setting off a marketing craze. Winsor McCay begins work on his first film, Little Nemo, which will consist of 4000 individual drawings on rice paper. The motion picture industry takes in $40 million on 10,000 movies (most less than 10 minutes long). Milt Kahl, Wolfgang Reitherman, Al Eugster, and Jack Kinney are born. Emile Cohl's Spanish Moonlight, produced by France's Gaumont Studios, is the first combination of animation and live action.

In 1910, the Boy Scouts of America are formed. Wassily Kandinsky creates the abstract school of art. Neon lights are publicly demonstrated at the Paris Motor Show. George Herriman begins his comic strip The Dingbat Family; Krazy Kat is a regular character. Raoul Barre and Bill Nolan begin experimenting with animation. John Randolph Bray forms his own animation studio and produces The Artist's Dream. Edison demonstrates talking pictures. Bill Hanna, Robert McKimson, Charles Nichols, and Jack Mercer is born (and hey, so is Akira Kurosawa). Mark Twain dies; so does Winslow Homer.

Masters of Animation: The Prehistory of Animation

It's hard to say where the history of animation exactly begins and ends. Some people start it in the late 1800s, with the invention of the motion picture camera. Some put it a little earlier, with the advent of newspaper cartoons. So, just for the hell of it, I'm going to start it with the first drawn representations of life. Just to fill some gaps in.

c. 15,000-13,000 BC: The cave paintings of Lascaux, France, and Altamira, Spain. The artists of these images (mostly animals, with some enticing mysteries) used charcoal lines with red and yellow ochre. Drawn randomly and in two dimensions, these are history's first known cartoons.

c. 5000 BC: Sumerians invent pictographic writing; the Egyptians will modify it and create a stunningly rich hieroglyphic system. Egyptians also invent papyrus paper.

c. 2350 BC: Egyptian tombs are decorated with relief carvings of hieroglyphs telling the story of that person's life.

c. 1250 BC: Stonehenge may have been used as a druidic Zoetrope.

c. 1200 BC: The epic of Gilgamesh is inscribed on stone.

c. 600 BC: Mesopotamian bas relief sculpture--wall carvings depicting exploits of the king--are the dominant art form of the Middle East.

c. 350 BC: Aristotle anticipates image projection, describing the camera obscura.

105: Tsai Lun develops a process to convert vegetable fibers into paper.

618-907: The Tang Dynasty of China. Shadow puppets are incredibly popular in this era.

868: China produces The Diamond Sutra, the first book printed with wood blocks.

1067: The Bayeux Tapestry is, in a sense, a really long comic book.

1223: St. Francis of Assisi's Christmas Crib is probably the world's first nativity scene; it introduces the concept of pictorial representation of the Birth of Christ.

1250: Leon Battista Alberti nearly invents the camera obscura.

1450: Johannes Guttenberg invents movable type.

1452: Birth of Leonardo da Vinci.

1475: Birth of Michelangelo Buonarrotti.

1483: Birth of Raphael.

1544: Reinerus Gemma-Frisius uses the camera obscura to view a solar eclipse.

1550: Geronimo Cardano invents the camera lens.

1553: Reinerus Gemma-Frisius constructs a functional version of the camera obscura.

1564: William Shakespeare is born.

c. 1565: Someone Swiss invents the first wooden pencil with graphite lead.

1590: Zacharias Janssen invents the microscope.

1605: The first great novel, Don Quixote, is written by Miguel de Cervantes.

1606: Rembrandt Van Rijn is born.

1608: Hans Lippershey invents the telescope.

1637: Galileo Galilei discovers how the pendulum works.

1645: Athanasius Kircher publishes The Great Art of Light and Shadow. Lanterns are now being used in entertainment.

1656: Haarlems Dagblad, the world's oldest newspaper, begins publication in Holland.

1662: Punch and Judy puppet shows are seen for the first time in England.

1671: Athanasius Kircher uses slides to depict scenes from the Life of Christ.

1685: Johannes Zahn publishes instructions for making a lantern into a projecting clock.

1687: Sir Isaac Newton defines the Law of Gravity.

1702: The first newspaper in Russia, Vedomosti.

1703: The first newspaper in England, The Daily Courant.

1704: The first newspaper in America, The Boston Newsletter.

1752: Benjamin Franklin proves the existence of electricity.

1770: Sir Thomas Wedgewood experiments with photography and records light images.

1774: Benjamin Franklin publishes the world's first newspaper cartoon. It is, naturally, political.

1777: Nicholas Conte is born; he will go on to invent crayons.

1781: Frederick Herschel discovers Uranus.

1785-1786: Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm are born.

1794: Etienne Gerard Robert's Fantasmagorie shows lantern slide portraits of the heroes of the French Revolution, ending with a slide of "the fate which awaits us all:" the Grim Reaper. It will be called Phantasmagoria in London in 1801.

1805: Birth of Hans Christian Andersen.

1826: Nicephore Niepce makes the first photographic image that still survives; the exposure time is 8 hours.

1830: Isaac Adams patents the first motorized printing press.

c.1830: Louis Daguerre and Nicephore Niepce make successful photography experiments.

1832: Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau invents the phenakistocope; it consists of a metal slot through which drawings can be viewed. When rotated, the images appear to move.

1838: Sire Charles Wheatstone invents the stereoscope, which allows a viewer to see 3D images.

1838: Samuel Morse invents the telegraph.

1839: Louis Dageurre photographs the moon; he and William Fox Talbot fight over which of them invented photography first, though credit should probably go to Wedgewood. Talbot does, however, invent photographic negatives and the development process.

1840: The world's first commercial photography studio opens in New York; they take Daguerrotype portraits.

1841: Punch Magazine, the satirical/cartoon forerunner of Mad and National Lampoon, begins publication.

1844: Thomas Eatkins and Eadweard Muybridge take rapid, multiple exposure photographs of a pole vaulter. Muybridge's studies of human movement are still used by animators.

1850: Ferderick Langenheim patents the Magic Lantern slide.

1854: The birth of inexpensive paper; Hugh Burgess and Charles Watt patent a method for making paper out of wood pulp.

1858: H.L. Lipman attaches the eraser to the pencil.

1861: Coleman Sellers invents the Kinematoscope.

1865: Konstantin Stanislavski, the creator of Method Acting, is born.

1867: William Lincoln invents the Zoetrope.

1868: The Kineograph, or Flipbook, is invented. Christopher Latham Sholes patents the typewriter. Uncle Sam first appears in Thomas Nast publications. Winsor McCay is born (maybe...he later says 1871).

1870: John and Isaiah Hyatt patent celluloid.

1872: Leland Stanford hires Eadweard Muybridge to find out if a trotting horse ever has all four feet off the ground. Muybridge shoots 25 sequential photos per second; turns out they do.

1873: Remington Co. begins to mass produce typewriters; The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is often cited as the first novel to be typewritten.

1874: Raoul Barre is born (and so is Houdini).

1876: Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone; Thomas Edison invents the mimeograph machine.

1877: Thomas Edison invents the phonograph.

1879: Edison perfects the incandescent lightbulb; within a year it will be lighting Broadway Street. John Randolph Bray is born; so is Einstein.

1880: Earl Hurd is born (we think).

1882: Emile Reynaud combines the Praxinoscope with a projector to create animated drawings.

1883: Max Fleischer and Leon Schlesinger are born.

1885: Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company manufactures movie film. Pat Sullivan is born.

1887: William Randolph Hearst begins his publishing empire with the purchase of the San Francisco Examiner; Emile Berliner invents a system for recording sound on a horizontal disc; Hannibal W. Goodwin patents celluloid photographic film. Birth of Paul Terry.

1888: Emile Reynaud demonstrates the theatre optique, which allows drawing on long strips of celluloid to be projected. Animation could now have a story; the first animated story film was called A Good Beer. George Eastman introduces a commercial, handheld box camera. Louis Le Prince patents the cinema camera, boards a train for Dijon, and disappears. Birth of Carl Stalling.

1890: Grim Natwick is born.

1891: Edison patents wireless radio and manufactures the Kinetoscope. Burt Gillett is born.

1892: Reynaud opens the Theatre Optique with three films with musical accompaniment. Pinto Colvig and Hal Roach are born (hey, so is Tolkien).

1893: Edison builds the first motion picture studio in New Jersey. Edison shoots the first copyrighted film, Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze, more commonly called Fred Ott's Sneeze. Truly, it is also the first gross-out picture. Roy O. Disney is born.

1894: Miss Jerry, the first Magic Lantern feature, is shown in New York. Edison's Kinetoscope debuts in a New York City arcade. W.W. Dickson is granted a patent for motion picture film. First birthdays of Dave Fleischer and Bill Nolan.

1895: The Lumiere Brothers, Augustine and Louis, begin showing cinematographe films in Paris. Woodville Latham demonstrate the first movie projector in the US; it uses perforated film and a projection screen. Edison invents the Mutoscope, a mechanical version of the flipbook. Richard Felton Outcault's The Yellow Kid becomes the first regular newspaper character in Pulitzer's New York World. Ben Sharpsteen born.

1896: The Vitagraph Company is formed. The first commercial presentation of a movie takes place at a vaudeville theater in New York; a Vitascope projector is used.

1897: The American Humorist is the world's first Sunday comics supplement; it appears in Hearst's San Francisco Examiner and features The Yellow Kid and Rudolph Dirk's The Katzenjammer Kids. Dick Huemer is born. The animator.

1899: Muybridge publishes Animals in Motion, a book still used by animators as a reference. The Vitagraph Company shoots film of the Spanish-American War, but miss the Battle of Santiago Bay; they use model cutouts and special effects to create a facsimile version in a bathtub. Artur Melbourne Cooper creates the world's first animated commercial, Match Appeal.

1900: Color and sound film are demonstrated at the Paris Expo. Frederick Burr Opper's Happy Hooligan appears in newspapers; Carl Shultze's Foxy Grandpa debuts in the New York Herald. Lotte Reiniger is born; so is Hitchcock.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

Well, it's better than Home on the Range, but I still don't see what's so special about this story that CG makes it so much better than cel animation would have. It's pretty obvious stuff about searching for daddy's approval and all that; it's kind of... well, it isn't forgettable, it's just rather ordinary. Zach Braff actually does a pretty decent job as the voice of Chicken Little, but Joan Cusack? Okay, I'm fucking sick of her "I'm in my 40s and I can't speak English without an affected lisp!" shtick. Cute, but nothing important. **1/2 stars.

I like Anna Faris; I think she's sexy and funny. Too bad the movie's so lame. ** stars.

Dennis Quaid was in it. I also like Danielle Panabaker and Miranda Cosgrove. Fucking hate Drake Bell, though, fucking smug asshole. Silly, but harmless. **1/2 stars.

Dear Alyson Michalka,
I've been a fan of yours since the first season of Phil of the Future. Since then, your talents have just kept sharpening; I find you to be a very funny actress and a damn good singer. I have your album, and I enjoy it. We played "Rush" at my sister's funeral; the song meant a lot to her. So, you and your sister have my attention as a fan. But, do you think we could agree that, as long as I'm going to just keep mindlessly showing up for anything you guys are in, you two could promise not to do a movie so bad that even the Olsen Twins wouldn't have starred in it? Because this vehicle was seriously bad. Not doing anything for you. I'll be you two had fun making it, but the plot was threadbare and predictable, and it didn't give you the chance to work out your talent and be as good as you can be. It's a *1/2 star mess.
Until next time,

Even for what it is--a seventies B-movie with a sexy star (Joan Collins), no plot, and a lot of faux-hipsters getting killed--it fucking sucks. * star.

Hey, Jess

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Hey, Jess.

I know we haven't talked in a while, but it's been busy for me.

Anyway, just looking over some of your recent projects on the internet. Can't wait for the next album; I really hope it's out soon, I've been looking forward to it for a long time. And I'm glad to see your making another movie; believe me, I'll be there as soon as it hits theaters.

Actually, your acting career is what I wanted to talk to you about. I've read some interesting things in interviews. Did you know that Marilyn Monroe wanted to do Shakespeare, too? I think there's something about pretty blondes that the audience has a hard time taking seriously; I hope you get to do it someday, though. As a fan of yours, I love seeing you hone your skills.

But what's this I hear about a Jackie Collins novel? Did you really say that you thought starring in Lovers & Players would help to make people take you seriously? You know what? I think that was another one of those idiot rumors that people start for no reason. I'm just going to chalk that one up to gossip. There are a lot better writers you could go with, and I think you know that.

And this thing about a Baywatch movie? I know you're smarter than that. Personally, I think you should mostly stick to comedy. But, you know, intentional comedy.

All the best of luck,

Troy: The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, Part 3

Achilles returns to his tent to find that the men have kidnapped Briseis for him.

Harlan: And there’s Brad Pitt naked again...

Aaron: The pronunciations are bothering me... "MeneLOUSE, "BrisAYUS," "PREEam." They just seem wrong to me.

Harlan: Speaking of names, we’ve only seen Andromache once, and she wasn’t even called by name. Apparently, her character isn’t important enough to have one...

Aaron: And now we’re supposed to believe that Briseis is instantly falling in love with Achilles? Why?

Harlan: Because the script told her to, I guess.

Aaron: Achilles is just so thoroughly unlikeable that I just want to fast forward past all of his scenes...

There is a long-winded scene where Agamemnon reminds Achilles who’s boss.

Harlan: The Trojan War seems an inappropriate venue to look at the age-old question of who fights the wars, soldiers or kings. Greek kings fought in their own battles; it was a point of pride. Priam doesn’t because the Trojans were Asian, not Greek. Their customs were different, even though their gods were the same.

Aaron: Okay, Agamemnon takes Briseis for himself to establish his authority over Achilles, I understand that. But why does Achilles try to defend her? In Homer, Achilles felt slighted, and his pride was hurt, so he took himself out of the fighting. But here, it’s like he wants to protect the girl for reasons we don’t even understand. Nothing has established that Achilles has a protective instinct, and he and the girl have known each other for less than a half-hour. What’s the point? The one time that, Homerically speaking, the feelings of a woman character aren’t meant to be important, they want to push it on us.

King Priam and his court meet to discuss war. Even though they have lost the beach and the temple to the Greeks in an afternoon, they seem enthusiastic about their chances and greet the arrival of war with pre-emptive victory cheers.

Aaron: This is annoying, too. I know they’re trying to make a point about the American government and it’s foreign policy, but it’s heavy-handed.

Glaucus says, "Our walls have never been breached!"

Aaron: Except by Heracles and Telamon...

Harlan: It’s appropriate that the High Priest here is played by Nigel Terry. This movie is easily the crappiest pseudo-historical telling of a legend since Excalibur.

Aaron: Since Jerry Bruckheimer’s King Arthur came out AFTER Troy, I have to agree.

Harlan: Okay, is this film pro-worship or anti-worship? Achilles desecrates the statue of Apollo, and Hector gets the idea that the gods won’t interfere and men must defend themselves. And yet, Hector is killed and so is Achilles. So, what’s the deal?

Paris offers to meet Menelaus in single combat. Priam gives him the "Sword of Troy."

Aaron: What the hell is the Sword of Troy?

Harlan: I guess a masculine symbol of war makes more sense to American audiences than the Palladium. Which is more important, a symbol of feminine strength in the form of an icon of Athena, or a weapon? It kind of sickens me.

Aaron: You know, if they really wanted to, they could make this about the slight of the Dardanians against the House of Atreus. I mean, Ilus founds Troy, and then drives Tantalus from the hills and into Athens. Tantalus begets Pelops, King of Athens, but his line is cursed. Pelops begets Atreus, and Atreus begets Agamemnon and Menalaus. Meanwhile, Ilus begets Laomedon begets Priam begets Paris. So, there’s a kind of lineal connection to the Trojan War from an earlier grudge generations past.

Harlan: So, you’re saying that this conflict could be played like the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians?

Aaron: Sure, if the filmmakers had any guts. Instead of portraying the characters as Western Europeans, like they always do, why not make the Trojans Middle Eastern? I mean, they are Phrygian after all, and not Greek. But they’re connected to the places, and nursing the same defeats.

Harlan: So, they way the current conflict between Israel and Palestine plays out...

Aaron: Can be traced back to the way the Romans deported the Israelites from Jerusalem, then plowed over their Temple and let the Arabs take control of the place. It’s a conflict from two thousand years ago still playing out. Look at the Phoenicians: they had land in Spain, Sicily, and North Africa. Then they were pushed out of Spain and Sicily by Rome, who called them Carthaginians. But then, when those same people were known by the West as the Moors, they reconquered Spain and Sicily. And even now, there are Muslims terrorists from North Africa in Spain. The world never really changes...

Meanwhile, Hector catches Helen as she tries to sneak out of the palace, but he won’t let her leave now.

Harlan: This scene seems particularly cruel. It’s like, Helen finally realizes what she’s done, but no one will let her try and make it right because the men won’t listen to her. There’s no point to this scene; once again, there’s no focus.

Aaron: I wonder if Wolfgang Petersen realizes that he could tell the story of Troy through one focus, while commenting on the way other people see it. You have to pick an interpretation and then allow others to be commented on. There’s no coherence to any of this.

Trojan War, Day 2: Achilles refuses to allow his Myrmidon army into the battle until Agamemnon apologizes and gives Briseis back to him.

Aaron: So unlikeable. "Oh, my feelings are hurt, someone doesn’t like me as much as I like myself." Grow up, cry baby. They don’t play it as a slight, but as Achilles blowing politics out of proportion.

The Greek army marches to the walls of Troy. For some reason, it takes several unimpressive minutes. Priam bids Helen sit with him.

Aaron: Helen and Priam must have the same stylist. Seriously, this movie is so very, very gay. Priam looks so elegant, like Queen Elizabeth I.

Harlan: So, are you saying it’s bad because it’s gay? Does it make you uncomfortable?

Aaron: Not at all. I’m just pointing it out, because America is so uncomfortable with intimacy and flamboyance. I’m sure it’s all accidental, too; epic stories just have a way of gaying themselves up sometimes. No, if this movie were gay on purpose, it would have much more of a sense of itself. This movie is all pompous pondering and no spark whatsoever.

Paris offers to fight Menelaus in single combat. Agamemnon demands that Troy submit to Athens. Agamemnon asserts that, "Every son of Troy shall die."

Aaron: He’s easily as over the top and silly as Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs.

Menelaus and Paris fight.

Harlan: Paris is so outmatched here it isn’t even funny. Why do they let that little Orlando Bloom play roles where he’s supposed to be manly and fight?

Aaron: He’s built like a stick figure.

Harlan: You really have to feel sorry for Hector here. None of this was his doing.

Aaron: Need every main character have his own flamboyant personal helmet style?

At the last moment, Hector interferes, killing Menelaus himself as Paris cowers in the dirt.

Aaron: Just like in Homer. Oh, wait, no it isn’t. I guess if they had decided to make The Odyssey after this they would’ve had to cut out that whole scene with Menelaus and Telemachus...

Harlan: Yeah, Menelaus made it home, with Helen in tow. I don’t know what the point of that scene was. They reward the cowardice of Paris with life--in the myth it was Apollo, I think, who took him off the field--and kill Menelaus for his bravery. Not very honorable.

Aaron: It was Aphrodite, actually, but point taken.

The Greek armies attack, and much blood and destruction ensue.

Aaron: I guess this is meant to be impressive, or something. Still, there’s all that computer action making it look so preposterous. All of the artistry is being sucked out of battle scenes.

Harlan: And, of course, there’s all that shaky camera that’s, I guess, supposed to be thrilling and visceral. Yeah, I like Saving Private Ryan, too, but sometimes clarity is key to telling a story.

In the course of battle, Hector kills mighty Ajax.

Harlan: Again, whither Sophoclean Ajax? Killed on the battlefield, my arse.

The Trojans regroup under the command of Glaucus and Hector, while Odysseus convinces Agamemnon to pull back the suddenly disorganized Greek armies.

Aaron: So, what, they’re fighting badly because Achilles is sulking? In Homer, this is because the Greeks have been cursed to lose until Achilles returns to battle. But since the gods and their prophecies are absent here, there’s no point to the tide of battle.

Harlan: I hate this music, too--why the Israeli singers every time they have a movie that takes place in the past now?

Aaron: What’s odd to me is how we’re apparently supposed to like Achilles, and yet all of the Greeks are portrayed as the bad guys, even the real heroes like Ajax and, to some extent, Odysseus. And we’re meant to sympathize with the Trojans--easy to do, because Hector is such a great character. But, the beauty of the Iliad is that all of the characters are understandable and sympathetic on some level. And Homer was Greek! He had respect for the Trojan enemies, because Hector was a great man.

At night, Agamemnon meets with his company leaders; Nestor says that the Trojans cannot be victorious, because others might see Greece as weak and "the Hittites might invade."

Harlan: The Hittites? When do they think this takes place? The Hittites were in Turkey, like Troy, but that was second millennium BC--biblical times, if you must. This is way too early for Hittites. These are Mycenaean Greeks, for crying out loud.

Aaron: Well, you’re thinking of the Hittite empire. Actually, there were Hittites there. Some evidence suggests that Troy might have been the centerpiece in a struggle for control of the commercial trade through the Dardanelles between the Hittites and the Achaeans. It’s a pretty strategic point, after all--even the Battle of Gallipoli was fought over it.

Harlan: Well, that assumes that there was a lot of commercial traffic from the Black Sea to the Aegean at the time, which hasn’t been shown yet.

Aaron: Tying into earlier, the Hittites were actually the people who created the war chariot. They used it conquer Egypt about 600 years before this is taking place.

Odysseus tells Agamemnon that the army is failing because of his feud with Achilles.

Aaron: What? After one day?

Achilles rescues Briseis from a group of men who are attempting to torture her, and takes her back to his tent.

Aaron: Wait, wasn’t Agamemnon supposed to apologize?

Briseis and Achilles have an unstructured conversation on the meaning of courage and the nature of war.

Harlan: Ooh, romantic. Is there any point to any of this? Achilles says he was born, and this is what he is. And yet, we’ve seen him quietly lusting for glory this whole time. There’s no thought to him at all, no wisdom. He simply fights to be remembered, but then seems offended when people treat him differently.

Aaron: "The gods envy us." Nice. Why does he care all of a sudden? You know, it’s not that Brad Pitt is such a bad actor--he isn’t, really--but that there’s no character for him to play. The screenplay has a big hole in it in the shape of Achilles, and Brad Pitt doesn’t have the personality to fill it.

Briseis attempts to cut Achilles’s throat in the night. He awakes to catch her, challenges her to do it, and then makes love to her.

Harlan: That’s not misogynist at all. And there’s Brad Pitt’s ass again.

Aaron: This is stupid; one conversation over the nature of the gods and she suddenly wants to make love to him? This is like Rhett raping Scarlett into liking him. This is sixty years later, man!

I LOVE Lucy Pinder

Is it any wonder why? Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Masters of Animation: 1920s Cultural Interlude

Providing cultural/historical perspective in an animation history series that is, admittedly, haphazardly done.

In 1921, Mussolini becomes the leader of Italy's Fascist Party, while Germany smuggles drugs such as cocaine and heroin into the US. Insulin is isolated in Canada. Springfield, MA, gets the first broadcasting license for WBZ. The first Miss America contest is held. The Fleischers form Out of the Inkwell, Inc. Paul Terry forms the Aesop's Fables Studio for distribution through Van Beuren. Rollin Kirby's "On the Road to Moscow" is published by New York World; it will be the first cartoon to win a Pulitzer Prize. Rudolph Valentino in The Sheik and Douglas Fairbanks in The Mask of Zorro are the most popular actors in America. Winsor McCay releases 6 films. Pat Powers begins a weekly cartoon series called Paramount Cartoons at Paramount Pictures.

In 1922, the Reader's Digest begins publication. King Tut's tomb is discovered. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is formed. Walt Disney founds Laugh-O-Grams in Kansas City. Winkler Productions begins to distribute the Felix the Cat series. Harald Gray's Little Orphan Annie begins in the New York Times. Paul Winchell and Charles M. Schultz are born; Alexander Graham Bell dies at age 76.

In 1923, the first Nazi Party Congress is held in Germany; Hitler is jailed after a failed coup of the Weimar Republic and goes to jail. The German Mark becomes worthless (exchange rate in 1914, 4.2 marks per dollar; by 1923, 4.2 trillion marks per dollar). An earthquake destroys Tokyo and Yokohama. Vladimir Zworykin invents the Iconoscope. The Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio is founded in Hollywood. Felix the Cat makes his comic strip debut in The American Journal. Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments is released.

In 1924, George Gershwin writes Rhapsody in Blue. The first Winter Olympics are held in France. Hitler gets out of jail after serving 8 months on a five-year sentence; during his jail time, he has written Mein Kampf. Reel Colors Inc. produces the Historiets series in color. Radio waves are broadcast from New York to Manchester. The Fleischers develop the "bouncing ball" singalong cartoons. Columbia Pictures incorporates, MGM is formed by a merger of Metro Pictures, Samuel Goldwyn Studios, an Louis B. Mayer Pictures. Vladimir Lenin dies at age 54; his body is plasticized and put on display. Disney begins the Alice Comedies; the Fleischers begin the Song Car-Tunes.

In 1925, the Charleston became a dance craze and flappers begin to appear. The surrealists begin showing in Paris. The Great Gatsby is published. Charles Mintz creates the Krazy Kat cartoon series, animated by Bill Nolan. The Associated Animators Studio is founded by future Disney animators Dick Huemer and Burt Gillett. Robert E. Howard publishes his first story, "Spear & Fang," in Weird Tales. Charles Chaplin's The Gold Rush is released. The Fleischers experiment with sound cartoons. Walter Lantz and Rudolph Bray begin the Unnatural History series. Warner Bros. buys the Vitaphone sound system.

In 1926, Greta Garbo comes to America, the NHL expands, and the first fax is sent across the Atlantic. John L. Baird demonstrates television; John Barrymore and Mary Astor star in Don Juan, a film demonstrating the Vitaphone. The first teleconference occurs (Washington DC and New York). Amos 'n' Andy debuts on the radio. Amazing Stories begins publication. The future Queen Elizabeth II is born; so are Osamu Tezuka (creator of Astro Boy) and Norma Jean Baker (aka Marilyn Monroe). Rudolph Valentino dies aged 31; Harry Houdini dies at 52; Claude Monet dies at 86. Lotte Reiniger completes work on the sublime The Adventures of Prince Achmed, the second animated feature.

In 1927, Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic. PanAm Airlines is formed. Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Norma Talmadge, and Constance Talmadge are the first stars to leave their footprints at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Philo Farnsworth invents a fully electric TV. Charles Mintz takes Oswald the Lucky Rabbit away from Disney (the character is taken away from Mintz by Universal). The Fleischers begin producing Ko-Ko the Clown cartoons for Paramount. Cecil B. DeMille releases The King of Kings. The Jazz Singer is the first film with sound sequences. The Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences is formed. Alfred Hitchcok's first movie, The Pleasure Garden, is released in Britain.

In 1928, the FCC issues the first television broadcast license to a station in Washington DC; the first station to go on the air is General Electric's WG4 Schenectady. NBC becomes the first nationwide radio. Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin. The first RCA/GE TV sets are 3 and a half inches wide. Out of the Inkwell studio is declared bankrupt; Max Fleischer creates the Fleischer Studio. Buck Rogers makes his debut in Amazing Stories. Maurice Sendak and Stanley Kubrick are born. The MGM lion logo appears for the first time before White Shadow in the South Seas. The first Mickey Mouse cartoon, Plane Crazy, appears; it is shortly followed by the first cartoon with synchronized sound, Steamboat Willie.

In 1929, the Vatican became a state, Chicago saw the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, the Geneva Convention was signed by 28 nations, New York's Museum of Modern Art opened, and the stock market crashed. A Zeppelin flew across the world, and Bell Labs demonstrated color television. EC Segar introduces the character Popeye the Sailor in his Thimble Theater comic strip. The first Academy Awards are given (the first Best Picture is Wings). Walter Lantz and the Fleischers begin producing sound cartoons. Hal Foster begins the Tarzan comic strip. Herge's Tintin begins its run in Belgium. Wyatt Earp, 80 years old, dies in Hollywood. MGM's first musical, The Broadway Melody, is released. Blackmail, England's first sound movie, is released; it is directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Fleischer begins the Screen Songs series; Disney begins the Silly Symphonies. Hugh Harman and Rudolph Ising create Bosko, the first popular Warner Bros. character.

In 1930, Philo Farnsworth receives his patents and someone invents masking tape. Ub Iwerks leaves Disney for MGM. Chic Young's Blondie appears in the comics; so does Mickey Mouse. Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu is adapted into a comic strip. Phil Roman and Roy E. Disney are born; so are Sean Connery and Neil Armstrong. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Lon Chaney die.

Masters of Animation: 1930s Cultural Interlude

Oddly enough, the last post I've done for my Evaluating Disney/Masters of Animation series was in the middle of January; since then, I've written nothing. I plan to get to Evaluating Disney: 1938 this week, and then something must be said about Leon Schlesinger and Warner Bros. Animation (at the very least, a summation of the 1930s; I've not seene every Warners cartoon, and I'm not sure I can get to each and every one in the same way as Disney's to give a year by year examination).

For now, just for the hell of it, I want to make a brief overview of what's going on here in the 1930s, as Walt Disney was changing the face of pop culture and film, and even animation itself. Here's the world of the Great Depression in terms of pop culture.

In 1931, abstract art began to get noticed. The Atom Smasher was built in Britain; America put up the Empire State Building and put away Al Capone. Stereo recordings were just beginning. Chester Gould's Dick Tracy began its so-far endless run in the newspapers, debuting in the Detroit Free Press. James Dean was born; so was Mikhail Gorbachev. Thomas Edison, considered by many the inventor of the movie camera, died at the age of 84. Argentina produces an animated feature, Peludopolis. Flip the Frog, Betty Boop, and Merrie Melodies all premiere.

In 1932, we had the Olympics, the advent of the Drive-In Theater, the rise to power of Hitler, and the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby. The Academy Award for Animated Shorts come into existence. Casey Kasem (among other things, the future cartoon voice of Robin, the Boy Wonder) is born. Animation giant Raoul Barre dies; George Eastman, the inventor of Kodak, commits suicide. The Soviet Union sees an animated feature, Master of Existence, using puppet animation. Goofy appears in his first Disney cartoon. George Pal makes his first Puppetoon movie. Disney's Flowers and Trees wins an Oscar.

In 1933, Hitler declares himself dictator of Germany and puts up his first concentration camp at Dachau. President Roosevelt declares the only thing to fear is fear itself and passes the National Recovery Act. Detroit's WXYZ radio station premieres The Lone Ranger and Alley Oop appears in the comics. Charles Darrow trademarks the board game Monopoly. Popeye the Sailor begins for the Fleischers; Ub Iwerks debuts Willie Whopper and the Comicolor Cartoon series. Lillian Friedman becomes the first woman animator to work at an American studio (Fleischer). The first Mickey Mouse watches appear (priced $2.75). The great animator Richard Williams is born. Pat Sullivan, the producer of Felix the Cat, dies. King Kong premieres. Disney's Three Little Pigs wins an Oscar.

In 1934, Salvador Dali has a showing in New York; he will call Disney a great surrealist. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow are killed by police officers, as are John Dillinger, Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd, and George "Baby Face" Nelson. Ub Iwerks builds the multiplane camera three years before Disney does (he builds it out of Chevrolet parts). Bill Tytla and Norm Ferguson begin work at Disney. The Hays Code takes effect in Hollywood; Fleischer struggles to redesign Betty Boop and launches the Color Classics series; Charles Mintz launches Color Rhapsodies; Burt Gillett leaves Disney to attempt to revitalize Van Beuren Studios. Of the many new comic strips making their debut, Milt Canniff has Terry and the Pirates, Will Gould has Red Barry, Lee Falk has Mandrake the Magician, and Alex Raymond has Flash Gordon, Jungle Jim, and Secret Agent X-9 (written by Dashiel Hammett) all at once. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century debuts. Comic books begin with Dell's Famous Funnies #1, a reprint series. Legendary Czech animator Jan Svankmajer is born. Legendary American animator Winsor McCay dies; so does Marie Curie. There are two animated features in the USSR: The Tale of a Priest and His Servant Balda and The Tale of Tsar Durandai. Donald Duck makes his first appearance, Van Beuren begins the Rainbow Parade series, and Harman-Ising begin the Happy Harmonies series. On a Moonlit Night is the first sound cartoon produced in India. Disney's The Tortoise and the Hare wins an Oscar.

In 1935, Ma Barker is killed by police, the Dust Bowl sweeps across America, Social Security is enacted, the DC-3 airplane goes into service, Germany and Britain begin televised public broadcasting, and Mussolini invades Ethiopia. Polyethylene, the artificial heart, Kodachrome, and RADAR (it used to be an acronym) are invented. Krueger is the world's first canned beer. Universal Pictures shuts down their animation studio, forcing Walter Lantz to go independent. Charles Addams begins his New Yorker cartoons, which include the Addams Family. New Fun Comics is the first comic book to feature original material. Isao Takahata, the director of My Neighbors the Yamadas, is born; so is Elvis Presley. T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) dies in a motorcycle accident. The Soviet Union puts out another animated feature, The New Gulliver. Disney switches to color completely. Porky Pig makes his first appearance in I Haven't Got a Hat. Disney's Three Orphan Kittens wins an Oscar (despite its obvious inferiority to The Band Concert).

In 1936, Jesse Owens won 4 gold medals at the Olympics and President Roosevelt got re-elected. Germany invades the Rhineland and the Spanish Civil War begins. King Edward VIII abdicates to marry Wallis Simpson. Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy debut on the radio. Germany begins to produce Volkswagen cars. The Magnetophone begins the era of magnetic tape recorders. Tex Avery becomes a director for Warner Bros. They are joined by Carl Stalling and Ben "Bugs" Hardaway, who have left Ub Iwerks, who was forced to close his doors. Oscar Fischinger, an expressionist and one of the true experimental animators, flees Germany for the US. Disney leaves United Artists for RKO (who dumps Van Beuren, which is forced to shut down). Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf is performed for the first time. Flash Gordon becomes a movie serial. Lee Flak's The Phantom debuts in the comics, Ka-Zar the Great appears in a pulp magazine. Jim Henson is born; Rudyard Kipling dies. Republic Pictures is formed. The USSR has another animated feature, The Argonauts, and Italy has one, too: The Adventures of Pinocchio. Disney's The Country Cousin wins an Oscar. Go figure.

In 1937, the Hindenburg explodes in New Jersey, Amelia Earhart is never heard from again, and Adolf Hitler holds the Nuremberg rallies. Nylon is patented and Spam is named. The first cartoonists' strike is held by Fleischer artists. MGM drops Harman-Ising to form their own animation studio (they hire away many Terrytoons artists and attempt to hire Friz Freleng away from Warners at double his salary). Detective Comics #1 debuts Dr. Occult, created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Burne Hogarth replaces Hal Foster on the Tarzan comic strip; Foster has left to create Prince Valiant. Dr. Seuss publishes his first book, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. Don Bluth and Lorenzo Music are born; Jean Harlow dies at age 26. Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is the first American animated feature; also debuting this year are two more features, The Romance of Reynard (France) and The Seven Ravens (Germany). Mel Blanc begins his long life of work at Warner Bros., and Daffy Duck debuts in Porky's Duck Hunt. Disney's The Old Mill wins an Oscar.

In 1938, US unemployment is 8 million. Hitler conquers Austria; Britain's PM Neville Chamberlain chooses to appease him for "peace in our time." Orson Welles terrifies Americans who are too stupid to check other radio channels for verification with The War of the Worlds. Irving Berlin's "God Bless America," written in 1918, is performed for the first time. Vladimir Kosma Zwoykin patents the Cathode-Ray Receiver and the Cathode-Ray Transmitter. Chester Carlson demonstrates Xerography. Harman-Ising closes; Terrytoons finally bow to the public desire for color cartoons. Siegel and Shuster's Superman debuts in Action Comics #1. Ralph Bakshi is born. The US Army debuts the General Purpose Vehicle, or G.P.--as in, "jeep." Disney's Ferdinand the Bull wins an Oscar.

In 1939, the atom is split for the first time. World War II begins; Hitler signs a non-aggression pact with the USSR, then invades Poland and Czechoslovakia. Bill Hewlett and Davd Packard invent the Audio Oscillator. NBC begins to broadcast television. Will Eisner's Wonder Comics #1 sparks a lawsuit over the Superman copyright, which Siegel and Shuster have sold to DC Comics for $130; Superman Comics #1 becomes the first comic book devoted to a single character. Bob Kane and Bill Finger's Batman debuts in Detective Comics #27. Martin Goodman publishes Marvel Comics #1, which introduces the Human Torch, Namor the Submariner, and the first comic book appearance of Ka-Zar the Savage. The Sandman first appears in New York World's Fair Comics #1. The father of motion picture special effects, the great Georges Meilies, dies destitute in Paris while selling chocolates in a rail station. Sigmund Freud also dies. John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, the Great American Novel, is published. The Soviet Union releases another two animated features, The Silly Little Mouse and The Little Gold Key; the Fleischers release Gulliver's Travels. Goofy gets his own cartoon series. Disney's The Ugly Duckling wins an Oscar.

In 1940, Hitler was very busy: he invaded Scandinavia, used the blitzkrieg manuever to save time and materials conquering Belgium and Holland, took a surrendering Paris, flew over London, and bombed the Vatican, just missing St. Paul's. Churchill became PM of Britain and began the counterattack. The US draft begins. The prehistoric Lascaux cave paintings are discovered. Will Eisner returns to comics with The Spirit. Ub Iwerks returns to Disney. Lex Luthor is introduced in Action Comics #23; the Joker and Catwoman are introduced in Batman #1; Robin the Boy Wonder is introduced in Detective Comics #38. Brenda Starr makes her debut in the Chicago Tribune. Joe Simon and Jack Kirby begin working together on comics. The Justice Society of America (my personal favorite superhero team of all time) debuts in All-Star Comics #3; the Spectre first appears in More Fun Comics #52, while the Flash, Johnny Thunder, and Hawkman make their first appearances in Flash Comcis #1, and the Green Lantern first appears in All-American Comics #16. Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #1 appears. Buck Rogers becomes a movie serial. The comic strip Apple Mary, which debuted a few years ago, is retitled Mary Worth. Captain Marvel enters the world in Whiz Comics #2 (there is no number one). Charles Mintz and Earl Hurd die; so does F. Scott Fitzgerald. Terry Gilliam is born. Disney releases two animated features, Pinocchio and Fantasia. Tom and Jerry first appear in Puss Gets the Boot; Woody Woodpecker first appears in the Andy Panda cartoon Knock, Knock. Gone with the Wind is released to massive success. MGM's The Milky Way, directed by Rudolph Ising, becomes the first non-Disney cartoon to win the Oscar.

And there we are; placed in some perspective. Should I do this again? I think I'm going to go back and do the previous couple of decades...

Monday, April 03, 2006

Troy: The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, Part 2

Menelaus goes to see his brother Agamemnon at court and whines about Helen’s abduction. Agamemnon does not want to bring Achilles into the battle, but Nestor counsels him to unleash the warrior on the field.

Harlan: Is that really supposed to be Agamemnon’s hair? He looks like one of those powdered courtiers from Amadeus.

Aaron: Yep, you’re seeing it now. Lots of hugging, too.

Harlan: Well, it’s nice that people can be so familiar, since the modern ideas of homosexuality don’t really apply for that time period.

Cut to somewhere or other, with Achilles teaching his cousin Patroclus to fence (?). Odysseus (Sean Bean) shows up and tries to talk the Myrmidon leader into joining the war against Troy.

Aaron: Finally, a real actor.

Harlan: I like the way they play to Odysseus’s slyness, trying to appeal to Achilles’s vanity. I’m not sure that Odysseus can really promise a thousand ships. Was that number meant to be literal in the legends?

Aaron: It’s hard to say, really. But Achilles is such a vain prig, once again, that I don’t really know who the hero is here.

Harlan: Well, the Trojan War doesn’t really have one side of heroes against one side of villains. It’s the great thing about Greek myths; they didn’t judge other cultures, they judged people. So there are good men on both side.

Aaron: True, but in American film, it’s a little different. There isn’t any real focus here, except for Brad Pitt, and he’s too unlikeable. Maybe they should have cast an actor instead of a movie star.

Achilles is counseled by his mother, Thetis (Julie Christie).

Aaron: Julie Christie is still so beautiful.

Harlan: So, she’s just some kind of prophetess, and not a Nereid? It's potentially interesting, the way they don't personify the gods.

Aaron: Again, this is all an appeal to Achilles’s vanity. There’s no other motivation for him in this story except for that.

A thousand ships sail on Troy in what is meant to be an impressive shot.

Harlan: Good special effects...

Aaron: No they aren’t. There’s so much computerized action going on that I can see the pixels. Many, many pixels.

Harlan: Well, you couldn’t gather a thousand ships for real...

Aaron: Remember model shots? Models at least exist in the physical world, and they have depth and weight. Photograph a thousand model ships at the right angle and it would have been much more impressive; hell, photograph 50 models and just clone them on a computer and replicate them to look like a thousand ships. That’s the real brilliance of The Lord of the Rings: puppets and models. Physical existence and verisimilitude over video game graphics. And boy, does this music suck; who is this, James Horner?

Hector and Paris return home to Troy and parade through the city before being greeted by King Priam (Peter O’ Toole) and his court, including the mighty Glaucus (James Cosmo) and Hector’s wife, Andromache (Saffron Burrows).

Aaron: The computer-assisted shots of the city look better, but since they don’t have to physically move, like people and boats, there’s some leeway.

Harlan: The city walls are far too high. They didn’t have catapults, or crossbows, or siege towers in the Late Bronze Age. What would be the point of building walls so high? The Late Bronze Age people weren’t into monumental architecture on the scale of this film; the citadel walls were only 27 feet, not 50.

Aaron: There was a ditch, too, about 1200 feet out that made approach by chariot impossible.

Harlan: The setting is like a mash-up of ancient cultures. The jewelry those women are wearing is from a millennium earlier. And those horrible statues are almost from the Stone Age. Really, those kinds of kouros statues wouldn’t have stood in the squares of Troy at this point. There’s no unity of design at all.

Aaron: Maybe the filmmakers think Troy is in Egypt. Big walls.

Harlan: Priam seems to favor Paris over Hector, doesn’t he? And yet, so far Paris has yet to display anything but bad taste in women and terrible judgment.

Aaron: Priam has that same pretty, girly hair. Maybe if it looked a little more loose and tangled, instead of meticulously styled.

We also meet Paris’s cousin, Briseis (Rose Byrne).

Harlan: Okay, that’s just wrong. Briseis was from Lyrnesses, not Troy, and she wasn’t related to the royal family. And Achilles took her before he even made it to Troy. What the hell?

Aaron: You gotta love compressed events.

Harlan: The adaptation is just so far off...

Aaron: Well, more importantly, it’s just such a boring, stupid, ridiculous movie.

Harlan: Where is Cassandra? Polyxena? Hecuba, for crying out loud!

Aaron: Women aren’t really coming out of this too well, are they? They play such important, key roles in the myth, too. Listen to that--that music’s got to be James Horner, it’s got that thing where he arbitrarily rings every bell for no reason, and those simplistic flourishes.

Harlan: So, Priam calls her "Helen of Sparta," and then Paris corrects him by saying, "Helen of Troy." Jeez, for the last person in the audience who doesn’t get that this is about Helen of Troy, they spell it out for you. I love the way filmmakers assume everyone is an idiot...

Priam and Hector argue over what Paris has done, but Priam refuses to send Helen away. Priam says, "It is the will of the gods."

Harlan: Way to play off having to make a decision...

Aaron: Maybe he wants all the latest hair and fashion styles from Sparta... Hector is the only one with any reason in Troy. He can see the danger coming, and he’s noble enough to say that he refuses to let suffering come to his country just so his brother can get the girl.

Paris offers to take Helen away to hide from Menelaus.

Harlan: Well, at least he makes the offer.

Aaron: Suddenly he’s noble? Even though he’s stolen another man’s wife?

Harlan: And notice how they play it like she has no free will of her own? Like, Paris likes her so she just goes off with him, and she’s not to blame even though she made the decision. God, listen to her whine about herself, she’s so insipid.

Aaron: Couple that with Priam’s surety that Apollo will protect Troy, and you have a perfect trio of idiots defending this town.

Harlan: More of the film’s casual misogyny; they’ve only mentioned two gods, Apollo and Poseidon. Wasn’t Athena the patroness of Troy as well?

Aaron: She had a temple there, of course, but Apollo is the main patron, I think. The film is casually misogynistic, though, like most American films.

Morning, and the arrival of the Greek ships. Achilles and his Myrmidons attack Troy on their own without approval from Agamemnon.

Aaron: I’m just saying, all James Horner does is cannibalize himself, and that flourish is straight out of Star Trek II. And Krull. And Braveheart. And there's a lot of Willow in there. And Aliens, always Aliens.

Harlan: All right, I get it. What I’m more concerned about is the fact that all of the armor and weapons are steel, not bronze. This is the Bronze Age, damn it.

Hector makes a speech to his troops as they ride into lines, prepared to defend the beach.

Harlan: They always have to make a speech. Seriously, did they have spear riders back then? Hey, horse boy, check your notes.

Aaron: Um, individual mounted soldiers don’t appear in the historical record until 1000 BC. So, probably this is too early to have cavalry.

Harlan: I knew it.

Aaron: I like the way they try to make this look like D-Day, but it’s a little too pompous here. The filmmakers aren’t presenting something as much as they seem daring you not to be amazed by their artistry.

Achilles and his Myrmidons advance on the beach through the use of the phalanx formation. Ajax is the second Greek to land at Troy.

Aaron: I believe the phalanx was actually invented by Epimanondas some seven centuries after the Trojan War, and then modified by Philip of Macedon.

Harlan: Look at the terrible portrayal of Ajax. He’s all huffy and violent, obviously jealous of Achilles and trying to live up to him. It’s pathetic. Oh, for the noble Sophoclean Ajax...

Aaron: Cool war hammer, though.

Harlan: Well, yeah.

Achilles advances as far as the Temple of Apollo, then lets his men loot the temple and cuts off the head of the wooden icon of the god.

Aaron: This film is just tailored to America’s marketability, isn’t it? They eschew religion completely for the last 45 minutes, and now we’re supposed to believe that all will come to ruin because Achilles angered Apollo? At least that horrible, idiotic statue is gone...

Harlan: How did Achilles take all of this ground with just 35 guys?

Aaron: Where do you get 35?

Harlan: Well, Agamemnon just said he had 50 men, and I counted at least 15 who died by arrow fire as soon as they hit the beach. And yet, it seems like his Myrmidon supply is self-replenishing.

Achilles refuses to fight Hector without an audience.

Aaron: WHO CARES?! Why doesn’t Hector just kill him now and avoid all of the destruction Achilles will cause? Instead, he lets Achilles talk him out of fighting. This sense of old-fashioned nobility they keep trying to infuse here comes from 1950s America, not Ancient Greece.

Harlan: This movie does really seem designed to push an American neo-conservative agenda.

Aaron: He’s the victor, and still Achilles just broods and mopes. Even holding his sword up to hear the soldiers call his name, it seems so unimportant to him. Does he love the glory, or not? Just pick one motivation, please.

Harlan: I know, it’s like Achilles feels the weight of having to be a character that loves war, but is meant to teach the audience that war is wrong.

To be continued.