Saturday, November 24, 2012

There Is Nothing Inside Monkeys

So I'm finally reading Tintin in the Congo, the one that's supposed to be ridiculously racist. To be fair, though, it only has that reputation because it is ridiculously racist. Not even "not that racist at the time, but now we know better." No, it is totally racist even for its time. Even Herge himself later came to feel that way. Yes, the Congolese characters are drawn like cartoon caricatures of black people, but the attitude that Herge approaches the people with is actually more disgusting. It's the imperialist white man educating these African children out of their superstitions and, at best, noble simplicity for their own good. It's White Man's Burden crap, done simplistically, and it is just ugly to read. No fun at all. Even without the racism this would be the least fun Tintin adventure, because he's such a condescending little cuss in this. The attitudes towards hunting and white "ownership" of nature are also pretty repulsive.

Good for Herge for eventually coming to be embarrassed by this.

Anyway, that out of the way, I'm here to point out the most bizarre non-racism thing in this adventure, in a Comics Make No Sense sort of way: Did you know there is absolutely nothing inside of monkeys?

Let me set the scene. Tintin's faithful pup Snowy has been kidnapped by a monkey and taken into the treetops. (It's obviously a chimp, but they keep calling it a monkey.) Tintin quickly hatches a plan to recover his pal.

First, kill another animal.

Tintin's brilliant first step: kill another monkey. Proceed to step two.

Cut open the monkey and wear its skin.

I know it seems like it would take a long time, but apparently there is literally nothing inside of monkeys. No bones, no organs, no muscle, no flesh even. It just slips right on like a suit. Weird that scientists don't make a bigger deal out of the fact that monkeys are just full of vapor and playfulness inside, and murdering them, cutting them open and wearing their skin is something a young man can do quickly on a whim. I guess keeping a lid on that knowledge is probably what keeps us all from going on a simian murder spree.

Also, note that despite being a sentient costume, you apparently cannot see through the monkey's eyes. So Tintin's going to have some work to do in order to blend in with all the other monkeys in order to rescue Snowy.

Well, to blend right in with all of the other pith helmet-wearing, hunting rifle-toting monkeys, anyway. I guess it wouldn't do for Tintin to go without the rank and dignity of a hat while pretending to be a monkey. It's a privilege thing. (Honestly, it's a crap shoot as to whom Tintin treats better: this monkey, or the Congolese.)

And it was all worth it! Look at that monkey, he's not taken by surprise at all!

This is one of a surprisingly large number of instances in this adventure of Tintin treating animals with highhanded disregard. He shoots an elephant in the face, slaughters fifteen antelopes in a comedy scene, and feeds a leopard a sponge and then tells its owner to make it swallow a blackboard to stop the bloating. Clearly, the man is an expert on the care and biology of animals.

Here's my favorite, though:

That snake is all "Dude! I'm just an animal going by instinct trying to grab a meal in a harsh survival environment. Why's it gotta be like that? Stop cutting me!" And Tintin is so calm, he's just "Fuck the Congo, give me my dog." Fuck the Congo probably would've been a good title for this story, too.

So... not my favorite Tintin adventure.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Film Week

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

CATFISH (2010)
This was a surprising movie. It's one of those character-piece-documentaries, about a photographer who is contacted by an 8 year-old prodigy, a child painter who paints his photographs. He soon becomes friends with her older sister and the two fall in love. The only catch is, they only know each other from Facebook and phone calls, and after a while it all begins to unravel and the whole thing turns out to be... well, not a hoax, but a woman escaping into fantasy and, unfortunately, breaking a young man's heart in the process. What's interesting to me about this movie is that the filmmakers seem to want to laugh at/get creeped out by the woman who did this, but the photographer just wants to talk to her and figure out why she did this. When he confronts her, it's not with yelling and swearing and anger, but with an attempt to understand, and that means a lot to me. I found myself oddly moved by it, and that to me outweighs the controversy over whether or not parts of the movie are staged or what. What I see in the movie is what I see in the movie, and in the age of the character-piece-as-documentary (examples: How Much McDonald's Can Morgan Spurlock Eat?, Watching Morgan Spurlock Aggrandize Himself by Pretending to Be All Concerned About bin Laden, and Morgan Spurlock Gets a Movie Studio to Pay for a Spa Day), that's all I really care about. ***1/2

Surprising, funny, even touching. Mark Duplass stars as a man whose brother has died. He's in love with his brother's girlfriend (Emily Blunt, much more bearable when films aren't insisting that she's breathtaking and funny) and feels guilty about it. She offers to let him stay at her family's cabin, where he runs into her lesbian sister, Rosemarie DeWitt (love her), and sleeps with her, only to have Blunt show up. Sounds like a forced farce or a trite, male wish-fulfillment fantasy, but somehow it manages instead to be very much about human personalities, messy complications, and self-revelation. It's also very pretty to look at, I should mention. ****

This film starts off in 1980 with several happy, healthy gay men reading the first story in the New York Times about some kind of "gay cancer," and then follows these characters in scenes through the next decade--dropping in on them once in each year--and shows us what happens as AIDS disrupts, unsettles, reorders, and sometimes ends their lives. I think it gets a little bit preachy at the very end, but after going through AIDS in the 80s, how could it not? The movie wants us to understand and do something, damn it. It had such an effect on people and on society, in so many ways. I remember being in 6th grade, in 1986, and having that day when the boys were put in one room and the girls in the other, and we all had sex education. What I remember most from that day is watching a film strip about AIDS that was very informative, showing us in animated detail how it attacked the immune system. It was very scary. This film really reminded me of that, that terror I felt, as AIDS takes this community apart but also bands it closer together. This film is emotionally devastating and uplifting at the same time, not really letting us off the hook for the details or the tragedy of its characters, while ending on a cautiously hopeful note. I'm glad I didn't see this film until I was an adult. I never went to a funeral of someone I cared about until 2000, and the way I relate to death is so much different and based on the last 12 years of terrible experience. I lost it in the scene where Bruce Davison tells his lover that, after two years fighting this disease, it's okay to let go. That's as powerful a scene as I've ever seen. ****

Random Links

:: There's been a lot of talk online about this whole "Fake Geek Girl" meme. It's sexist and despicable and since I already wrote a bit about it on my Positive Cynicism column, I won't go into all the reasons I despise this wave of bullying. But here are some excellent thoughts on the issue: first from Fortress of Soliloquy, then from John Seavey.

:: Some more links in modern sexism and feminism (all via The Mary Sue):
:: Six-Year-Old Girl (Board) Gamer Calls out Guess Who? on Its Gender Inequality; Hasbro’s Response is Both Hilarious and Awful
:: First Time Lionsgate Has Two Films Make Over $125 Million In The Same Year They Do It With Female Leads (A note on this story, because one of the films is Breaking Dawn 2: as I predicted way back, after Universal publicly dropped Kristen Stewart from the Snow White and the Huntsman sequel in light of her obviously fake cheating scandal with the director, Rupert Sanders, they now want her instead of the director for the sequel, because her movie just made scads of money and the fake cheating scandal had no effect on the opening. Good thing she got back with her fake boyfriend, I guess. Girl knows how to work the publicity angle of the most gullible audience. Respect.)
:: This Newspaper Editor’s Statement on Why He Doesn’t Like Female-Starring Movies Is Just… I… I Have No Words

:: The 100 Most Depressing Movie Death Scenes

:: Astronomers discover a planet so massive it defies classification

:: "Superman is an immigrant, a survivor, and a democratic, progressive hero."


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Kevin Clash Resigns from Sesame Street

As I predicted earlier, Kevin Clash's future does not involve Sesame Street. I'd figured that his leave of absence would wind up being permanent and probably not commented on by Sesame Workshop, but with Clash's original accuser recanting his recantation and a second accuser coming forward, Clash had to fall on his sword and resign. He can't be seen to be part of the show at all, because whether or not the accusations are true, Sesame Street can't be seen to have someone accused of molesting children on the staff of a partially public-funded program. It just isn't possible.

I don't want to speculate on the possible truth of the allegations. I mean, I hope they're not true, but I have to not talk about it. My first instinct is to respond with snark and anger and say things about the accusers. I want to deflect this news and not deal with it because it's bad news that I don't like hearing or thinking about. I think that's a very human reaction, but it's not the reaction I want to have. I don't want to be mad just because I love Kevin Clash, and I don't want to leap to his defense and start calling names like those idiots who were overturning vans to defend Jerry Sandusky last year. I don't want to be in that kind of denial.

I feel betrayed, angry and uncomfortable. And I'm just a fan. The worst I have to deal with is disillusionment. I think I'm getting off pretty light in this whole deal.

Pumpkin Update #3

Danforth... is that a smile or merely the rictus of death? Did you find peace at last as the squirrels continued to eat your head, or did you never even understand what happened to you? Who will ever be able to say?

Monday, November 19, 2012

80s Revisited: Batman

Batman (1989)
Directed by Tim Burton; screenplay by Sam Hamm and Warren Skaaren; produced by Jon Peters & Peter Guber.

For a while, this held some kind of record for the number of times I'd seen a movie in the theater. This came out the summer I turned 13, and I just kept getting to see it over and over and over again. You know, I just realized: I always think that the last movie I saw in a theater with my entire family (both of my parents and my sister) was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but this came out a month later and I remember all four of us seeing it together... I guess this must be the one. Anyway, I saw it repeatedly. I remember one time riding my bike around town and finding money on the ground with absolutely no one around and being thrilled because it was just in time that I could see a 10 PM show of Batman.

I was already a huge fan of Batman from growing up, and I'd never actually read any of the Batman comics. When I was a kid, I was firmly in the Marvel camp. Marvel was fun; I used to try and read DC books at the barbershop and I always thought they were so boring and would read Uncle Scrooge instead. (Why my barber carried Playboy and National Geographic but no Marvel books, I do not know.) I was a fan of Batman from Super Friends and the Adam West TV show. And I was extremely excited for this movie to come out.

I read all about it in Starlog. I started collecting the trading cards based on the movie before the movie was even released. After the movie came out, I played both the Danny Elfman score and the Prince album over and over again, got the Nintendo game based on the movie for my birthday, quickly read the novelization by Craig Shaw Gardner, and that Christmas, my parents gave me the VHS. I slept Batman. I breathed Batman. I quite literally ate it: I loved the breakfast cereal that tied in to the movie. Tasted like the Mr. T cereal.

So, what I'm saying is, I loved Batman and I was very caught up in that summer's hype over it. I'm astounded to think that all of this happened over two decades ago. It still seems so much closer.

Over the years, I've let the film fall by the way for me. Occasionally I'd see it and my opinion would diminish a bit, and I wouldn't really find myself becoming engaged by it. I felt like it didn't really hold up, and I've never actually bothered to buy it on DVD, something my 13 year-old self would've found unthinkable. Maybe I'd just seen it too many times? After years of not having sat and watched it all the way through, I saw it was going to be on this weekend and decided to see it for the first time in years.

The first thing I'll say is that I practically have the entire film memorized. Still, today, first time seeing it all the way through in probably a decade, and I still remembered every line, every plot beat, every flourish of the score... practically every edit. There are things about my own family that I struggle to remember, but Batman? Nope, got it. It's all there. So if you think that familiarity colors my post, fair enough. I'll give you that one.

I'm just going to come out and say that, even though seeing this movie was like revisiting an old friend that I hadn't talked to much in years, I still think it doesn't hold up. My fondness for this movie is, honestly, nostalgia for a time and place and a version of me that I don't much like to think about: the one who was pulled, kicking and screaming, into a level of maturity he wasn't ready for. That was the summer my parents finalized their divorce. Soon we'd be moving out of the house I'd lived in for 10 years. I had gained weight and was being bullied in school by damn near everyone there. I had just gotten through seventh grade, which was awful. My only friend lived far enough away that we couldn't just get on our bikes and hang out together. It feels now like the last summer I had before all of the misery got overwhelming, and remembering that time period makes me sad. I had grown up a little--just enough to put into perspective what had faded away or been torn away. But soon I'd be forced to grow up even more. It wasn't the best time of my life, but it was the calm before the endless storm of my high school years. Batman was one of the last things that I loved as a child.

So, being objective, it's possible that the reason I avoided it over the years is that I don't like to think about that time in my life so very much.

No, Batman doesn't hold up for me, but I don't think it's all bad, either. The problem is that I think it doesn't know what kind of movie it wants to be. Remember how this was supposed to be the realistic, adult version of Batman that took the character back to its dark roots as a crime comic? A lot of people said that not only in 1989, but pretty much for the next 15 years. It's hilarious now when you look at it and see how comic it really is. Comic as in funny. This is a deeply silly movie that too often thinks it's serious. And the tone shifts make the movie uncomfortable, fitfully brilliant, and overlong. It's also largely plotless, relying a little too heavily on its atmosphere to carry what's less of a story and more of a situation.

What story there is really revolves around the Joker, the character Tim Burton is most invested in for whatever reason. Batman's not about Batman so much, but about a gangster named Jack Napier who is a little crazy, and then goes off the deep end when Batman accidentally drops him into a vat of chemicals and turns him into the Joker. The Joker is a "homicidal artist," a character unhinged from reality. And Jack Nicholson is excellent in this movie. I often see him charged with overacting and hamming it up and going too far over the top, but that's less his fault than the film's. There's no tether here; there's no anchor in recognizable reality. How can you go over the top when you have no bottom to start from? Jack may play it as a cartoon character, but that's why his performance works. If Batman is psychological grimness, the Joker is completely the opposite. He's barking at the moon while Batman is skulking around under it. Batman has no energy; Joker has nothing but.

I said there's no anchor in recognizable reality, and that's really the film's biggest problem and biggest strength at the same time. It's great looking--designer Anton Furst really carries a lot of the film's atmosphere with his gorgeous sets, a sort of mash-up of Gothic, Art Deco, and several different time periods. It's beautiful to look at, and utilized very well by the film's cinematographer, Roger Pratt, who also shot Brazil. But it's also jarring how a film basically taking place in 1989 (I mean, it does have the Prince songs in it--songs which I actually do like and think mostly work in the movie, particularly the "Partyman" and "Trust" sequences) has cars left over from the late seventies, rich people dressing up like it's the 1940s, and a cheesy flashback to Bruce Wayne's parents' murder that basically takes place in 1939. It's a jumble of all of the major eras of Batman, but also places the film in no time at all. It's a great idea, but it's approached in a very 1980s sort of way (as opposed to something without a time in mind), so it doesn't really come off. There's some great work here, but the film itself doesn't do a good job of supporting it.

And as I said earlier, the film's not really about Batman. It's about how Gotham City reacts to the presence of Batman. Batman himself is just sort of a force/mystery figure, which would be fine if Bruce Wayne were interesting, but he's not. Michael Keaton downplays everything in both roles, and comes off as a block of wood. It doesn't help that he has no chemistry with Kim Basinger--who is just terrible in this movie--and in scenes where he's supposed to be introspective he's completely unreadable. He's boring, both as Bruce and as the Bat. I kind of blame the film for this, too; Tim Burton seems to be totally uninterested in who Batman is or what motivates him, and is more interested in how he affects Gotham City. Why should the actor know what to do with a character the screenwriters and director seem to have no interesting take on? What's so intriguing about Bruce Wayne that captivates Vicki Vale so much? He's got no personality, and on their single date, Alfred provides all of the interesting conversation. Most of Michael Keaton's scenes as Bruce Wayne, especially when he's with Vicki Vale, just suck all of the momentum out of the film. I had previously assumed they made me fitfully bored because I was 13 and not interested in the romance; nope, turns out they're just a black hole. When she asks "Are we going to try to love each other?" it connects to nothing, because the romance just doesn't exist.

As for Robert Wuhl and his plotline... why did they bother? Do you even remember it's there? He plays Alexander Knox, the reporter trying to uncover the truth of the Batman, and his story just seems like it's either an afterthought, or like it was originally the main plot but kept getting pushed so far to the sides during rewrites that it's become inconsequential. It's like that reporter character that's always in 1930s horror movies; the "gee whiz" American guy whose sole function seems to be to use his cynicism to reassure the audience that things aren't going to get too European here. No foul on Robert Wuhl, whom I always found likable (loved him in Bull Durham just the year before). But the movie starts like he's going to be the main character, then forgets about him. The whole thing only seems to exist now to get Vicki Vale into position to be the movie's heroine/damsel in distress. And all Kim Basinger does is, well, distress. And lots of screaming that just gets incredibly irritating by the halfway point.

That the film works at all really is because of the sets, Jack Nicholson's Joker (who is so hilariously likable and silly that you end up rooting for him, since he's really the main character), and Danny Elfman's marvelously grand score, which should be totally preposterous but actually gives the film a great deal of its character. Elfman, more than anyone involved (except Jack), really gets the tone here. It's not a dark, adult, serious movie in any way, and that it still has that reputation is confounding to me. It's grand, silly, even campy. It's like the Adam West TV series, but where only half of the actors are in on the joke and the director doesn't have a sense of humor so much as an appreciation of a sort of tame version of weird. I'm glad I saw it at 13 because it really is a movie for kids. It's goth camp. To take it seriously would just be to court frustration.

My biggest problem with the movie--besides Basinger and Keaton--is that the film doesn't embrace its campy spirit enough. It should revel in its tilted angles, its cartoony dialogue, its immobile rubber suits and its carnival lunacy. It shouldn't take Batman so damn seriously. Doing that destroys the tone. It should be perverse and ridiculous at the same time. It should be funny--as it is, unintentionally--that Batman doesn't seem to win any fights except by accident. The climb up Gotham Cathedral, followed by the waltz in the belfry, and then the Joker's chattering teeth and last ditch "You wouldn't hit a guy with glasses, would you?", all accompanied by Danny Elfman's score, is nearly perfect. It's almost exactly the tone the movie should have had: a sort of dementedly hilarious version of a Tod Browning movie. Instead, it's an average product designed more to make money than to be enjoyable, but it almost gets to be more subversive than it deserves and has some truly great aspects to it.

I have to say, though, I still enjoy this more than the Christopher Nolan movies. That's because of Burton's approach, which is not to take the idea of Batman too seriously. It's not caught up in symbolism, but unfortunately, it's not caught up in its characters. But it understands that, at the end of the day, superheroes are inherently silly. They're power trips for 12 year-olds. They appeal to someone too young to exercise any power or real agency, and give them a world where ideals like justice haven't given over to adult pragmatism and weariness. The problem, I think, is when comic book fans grow up and too often run from the idea that it's okay to enjoy things that are silly for what they are. So we get a parade of grim and gritty reboots that just shine a light on the inherent ridiculousness of a superhero. Making Batman serious only turns him into a sociopath with severe issues, a gy who uses money that could be spent on bettering the society he lives in to instead dress up in bat drag and punch criminals over and over again to soothe the pain of mommy and daddy getting taken away. He breaks the law, but only in order to force everyone else to adhere to it. That's not fun, it's just sick, and it's what happens when a filmmaker comes along, enshrines immaturity, and calls it realism. Sadly, that's what most fans seem to want to see.

I'm not one. I can handle that I used to put a lot of stock in silly things. And I can still enjoy them now, even if I know how silly they really are.

Happy 50th Birthday, Jodie Foster!

Kristen Bell Mondays

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Song of the Week: "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want"

The Smiths, 1984. This song perfectly expresses passionate wanting and yearning in less than two minutes without getting treacly or cloying. Remember when being succinct was a virtue?

Superhero Flicks

Another film list commentary post. I saw some people doing a post where you do a one-line review of every superhero film you've seen. Just one line for each movie. So, using this list, I go forward to waste my time and yours, because what else are Sunday afternoons for? (I decided to leave off the animated films, just cuz.)

Batman (1966): Delightfully silly.
Superman (1978): Perfect; still the best superhero movie ever made.
Superman II: I've always liked it, but the Richard Donner Cut is superior if only for the restored scenes between Christopher Reeve and Marlon Brando.
Swamp Thing: Would be forgettable if not for Adrienne Barbeau's classic nudity.
Superman III: Superman is only a guest star in his own movie.
Supergirl: Nice score, anyways.
Howard the Duck: Stupidly fun and perfectly harmless.
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace: Insipid.
Batman (1989): Doesn't hold up, but Jack Nicholson gets it.
The Return of Swamp Thing: At least this one knows it's ridiculous.
The Punisher (1989): Why even bother mentioning it?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990): Dopey but fun.
Captain America (1990): Totally forgettable.
Darkman: Over-the-top awesome.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze: Swing and a miss.
The Rocketeer: Completely awesome; should've been a couple more of these.
Batman Returns: Wonderfully creepy, and fixes the tone problems of the first movie.
The Fantastic Four (1994): Kinda charming in a homemade way, and has a better grasp of the characters than the 2005 version.
The Crow: Rough, but masterful.
The Shadow: Silly, but fun as hell.
The Mask: Very cute, and the only time where Jim Carrey going over the top didn't annoy the shit out of me.
Batman Forever: Ed Begley, Jr.'s wonderfully OTT delivery and "Kiss from a Rose" are the only things worth remembering here.
Tank Girl: Cartoonish fun.
Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie: I have no idea why I saw this and barely remember it.
Black Scorpion: I love Joan Severance...
The Crow: City of Angels: Well, at least Iggy Pop is having fun in this pointless retread.
Barb Wire: Did I really watch Casablanca as a science fiction movie with tits?
The Phantom: I fucking love this movie.
Black Scorpion II: Aftershock: Mistake to tone down the nudity and sex, that was what made the first movie watchable.
Batman & Robin: Crowded, noisy, and just not any fun to watch; what's the point of campy excess if it isn't at least fun?
Spawn: Cheap and weirdly overrated, much like the comic book its based on.
Steel: Gets a lot of flack online for a movie that's so totally unmemorable.
Star Kid: Charming, but forgettable.
Blade: Better than I thought it would be.
Mystery Men: One of my all time faves.
X-Men: Meh.
Unbreakable: Basically The Dark Knight: self-serious, overlong, boring, inconsistent, with an ending ruined by incomprehensible pretension.
Blade II: Quite enjoyable, indeed.
Spider-Man: As perfect a Spidey movie as I could have asked for.
Daredevil: Arbitrary.
X2: X-Men United: Less meh than the first one, but still pretty meh.
Hulk: Troubled, but with flashes of brilliance.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Extremely stupid.
Hellboy: Very, very good.
Spider-Man 2: A high point in comic book cinema, and better than the first movie.
Blade: Trinity: Tries way too fucking hard and accomplishes nothing (and turns Blade into a supporting character).
The Crow: Wicked Prayer: Unwatchable.
Elektra: Just flat out sucks.
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl: Headache-inducing.
Batman Begins: Pretty good but highly overvalued.
Fantastic Four (2005): Unlikable in almost every conceivable way.
Sky High: Hella fun.
V for Vendetta: Pulp masterpiece.
X-Men: The Last Stand: I love that it pissed off the fans, honestly.
Superman Returns: Dire.
Spider-Man 3: I love it, even at its most excessive.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer: All of the awfulness of the first, with the added humiliation of completely wasting the Silver Surfer in his first movie appearance.
Underdog: Silly, but cute.
Iron Man: Just fun as hell; Tony's like Bruce Wayne without all the whiny angst and psychological bullshit.
Wanted: Takes itself so seriously for such a dumb premise.
The Incredible Hulk: A lot of good moments, but mostly just okay.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army: Fantastic, and looks like nothing else on screen.
The Dark Knight: Dull, pretentious, overrated, and seeks to add great import, realism, and grit that only highlights how truly ridiculous it is, but there's one great, justly praised performance trapped in all of its neofascist nattering about the meaning of symbolism that turns the characters into cyphers.
The Spirit: A live action cartoon; stupid-fun and not pretentious.
Watchmen: Excellent; the genre satire that The Dark Knight is too convoluted to be.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine: Painfully stupid.
Kick-Ass: Extremely stupid and lacks the courage of its convictions, but greatly fun, anyway.
Iron Man 2: Okay movie hampered by forcing all of the Avengers subplot into a story that was already overly full.
The Green Hornet: Fun and forgettable.
Thor: Seems like it should be really stupid but it's incredibly fun.
X-Men: First Class: Except for Michael Fassbender, a complete piece of shit that once again takes these characters way too fucking seriously.
Green Lantern: Joyless.
Captain America: The First Avenger: Absolutely loved it.
The Avengers: The Marvel Comics movie I never dreamed I'd get to see.

Sudden Thought That Brought the Mood of an Otherwise Bright Conversation Down

"Huh, I suppose Hooch must be long dead by now."