Crystal

Friday!

It’s gray outside this morning; and the temperature has dropped since the rain of the other night. Yesterday’s high was in the 60’s; today’s apparently will be as well. I don’t mind this–surprise!–because I was a bit concerned about it already climbing into the 80’s in March already, which didn’t bode well for this coming summer. So this cool break is a bit nice–and it’s also nice to not go get into my car and start sweating because the sun’s been shining into it all day plus it being hot outside. Yesterday was also a bit nice because 1) Paul was able to get his second vaccination for COVID-19, and I spent the day making condom packs and doing other, various work-at-home duties. As my fingers and hands worked through the condom packing, I spent some time thinking through what I need to do with the book this weekend, which is always helpful. I also got caught cup with this week’s episode of Superman and Lois, which I am greatly enjoying; the television adaptations of DC Comics continues to outshine the film universe. I am debating where I want to spend four hours watching the Snyder cut of Justice League–four hours is a big commitment–and I also discovered, browsing through my many streaming apps last night, any number of films to add to my watchlists.

(Aside–they are hanging new gutters on the house next door and I can see them going up and down those shaky, rickety extension ladders–whose bases are braced against the wooden fence between the properties. As they go up and down the ladders shake–which is one of many reasons I will never climb an extension ladder–and watching the corresponding movements/shaking of the wooden planks in the fence. I should also add that Michael, our neighbor to the front with his partner John, has retired from his job and has started working on the flower beds that run alongside the fence, which have been disaster areas ever since Katrina, and is doing a very nice job making them look pleasant and appealing and all cleaned up.)

As I looked through HBO MAX looking for something to watch for the rest of my condom packing, I came across Inside Daisy Clover, a film from the mid-60’s that is supposedly one of those “gritty insider looks at Hollywood”. It stars include Natalie Wood, Christopher Plummer, and Robert Redford; and I vaguely remembered Ruth Gordon was nominated for an Oscar for it. I also had a vague memory that the character of Daisy Clover was, in theory, based on Judy Garland, so I thought what the hell and queued it up. This morning, I cannot believe I sat through the entire thing–it was really that dreadful and pointless–and it really was squirm-worthy. When the story opens Daisy is fifteen, leaving in a trailer along the boardwalk at Angel Beach with her not-quite-all-there mother (Ruth Gordon) who has a great natural singing voice, records it and sends it to Swan Studios. Daisy has basically, for all intents and purposes, been raised by wolves, has no manners or filters, and while she is quite pretty beneath the grime and strange haircut (those eyes! Natalie Wood was so beautiful), her getting signed by Swan Studios and being groomed by studio head (Ray Swan–played to odious perfection by Plummer) seems a bit of a stretch. She is marketed as “America’s Little Valentine” and immediately becomes hugely successful. She also becomes involved with another star, Wade Lewis (Redford), who is heir to a vast fortune and a completely one-dimensional cad–which becomes really creepy on two levels–first, she’s supposedly a teenager (Wood was at least in her late twenties by then) and Wade is in his late twenties/early thirties, which is creepy to say the least (studio head Swan refers to her as “America’s Little Jailbait” in one cringeworthy scenes), and then, after he deflowers her, is ordered to marry her or be arrested for corruption of a minor. (The second creepy part is Wade lives on a sailboat anchored just off the coast; seeing Wood on a sailboat or heading to and from one on a motorboat, given how she died, is foreboding and squirm-inducing) They do marry; they spend their wedding night in a motel in some remote location in Arizona, and when she wakes up he’s left her there without a word, stranded. After her mother’s death, she has a breakdown of sorts on set and is unable to continue working, which delays the picture and puts her at odds with the studio–which has spoiled and indulged her so far, but not anymore. The movie’s ending is neither a conclusion or an actual resolution, not a real end; it just….ends. We don’t know what Daisy is going to do–but again, it’s cringy. Inside Daisy Clover could have been a chilling and realistic exposé of the old studio system; it could have shown how an innocent but strong-minded young woman is corrupted and changed and turned into a monster by the system because of her talent–the film does none of these. Daisy is still the same impulsive, emotionally needy mess at the end that she was at the beginning, and such an incredible waste of Wood’s talent. She plays the character without any depth or interior; she plays her like an uncontrollable brat, and the performance doesn’t really ring true. All I kept thinking as I watched was that Wood was miscast–the lip-syncing was especially bad–and about half-way through I thought, this script is terrible and the direction equally bad, but Liza Minnelli could have killed in this part; it was perfect for her. The truth was the title was a misnomer–at the end of the movie we’ve not gotten “inside” Daisy at all but rather skimmed over the surface….and to make matters worse, by the end of the movie she is only seventeen.

America’s little jailbait, indeed.

It is a shame; Hollywood did some amazing films that exposed stardom and the Hollywood machine quite expertly; think of Sunset Boulevard and even though it was set in the theater world, All About Eve. Quite frankly, both book and movie of Valley of the Dolls handled the same subject–the coddling of talent resulting in the creation of a monster–much better.

I started reading The Russia House by John LeCarré yesterday while I waited for Paul to get his shot and then wait to make sure there was no reaction to it; it’s quite good–the writing in particular and voice are exceptional; it’s also world-weary, snarky and funny–and am really looking forward to getting back to spend some more time with it. It will depend on how the work goes, of course; my priority around my day job is going to have to be the book until April 1. (although…April 1 is the day before Good Friday and in theory, I could use that three-day weekend to finish the push to finishing the book; or I could finish on time and spend that weekend relaxing and preparing myself for the next project on the list)

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you tomorrow morning.

All The Way

And now it’s Thursday, and the work-at-home before the weekend part of the weekly cycle begins. It’s beautiful outside my widows this morning; all bright and sunny and clear blue sky as far as the eye can see. It might be cold out there–I’ve not checked–and I am liking the idea that the temperature inside is not an indication any more of what it might be outside. Huzzah for new HVAC system!

I was very tired when I got home from work last evening–I also had to run a few errands on my way home–and I watched the second episode of Superman and Lois (more on that later) before falling into another wormhole on Youtube. There’s a very interesting series of videos on a channel called “Dave Knows Wrestling” (I think) about the history of professional wrestling as well as critiques of current trends and so forth present currently in that world. I don’t know how accurate any of this is–I’ve spotted errors in numerous history videos, and it’s the Internet, so take everything with a grain of salt–and then I found a wonderful Youtube channel which looks at queer representation in the culture back in the day; Matt Baume is the guy who does them, and they are quite lovely, looking at the evolution of how queer people were represented on television back in the day. I watched his videos about gay characters appearing on shows like Cheers, Phyllis, Mary Hartman Mary Hartman, The Golden Girls, and of course Frasier, as well as episodes centering same-sex attractions, kind of like a television version of Vito Russo’s definitive The Celluloid Closet. (I’ve actually been hoping someone would either update Russo’s book or do a sequel. Someone probably has an I just don’t know it; I am hardly the font of all knowledge, no matter how much I would like to consider myself to be exactly that.)

I did wonder, though, while I watching one of his videos about drag artist Charles Ludlam appearing on one of the final episodes of a one-season sitcom starring Madeline Kahn called Oh, Madeline, if he knows about a very short-lived Norman Lear sitcom based on the play The Hot L Baltimore, which was about a seedy residential hotel and the people who lived there–Conchita Farrell played a hooker–and it also had a gay couple. It didn’t last very long and I would imagine it would be difficult to find archival footage of the show; but it was also a great idea for a sitcom or a modern dramedy; it would be interesting to see what someone like Shonda Rimes or even Ryan Murphy could do with an adaptation of the play into a series. (I really should be running a television network.)

As Constant Reader will remember, I enjoyed the premier episode of Superman and Lois and really loved this new take on the Superman mythos. Clark and Lois as parents, moving back to Smallville to become a closer family unit with their twin sons, is pretty terrific, and the casting is absolutely perfect. I worried the quality and likability of the show might begin to siphon off in future episodes, but the storytelling is quite excellent and I love the nuanced look at what is happening in small towns like Smallville–or what has happened to them. I also like they didn’t go with the usual “Lex Luthor is our big bad guy and enemy of Superman” trope; rather there’s a threat from an off-worlder (referred to by his computer as “Captain Luthor”) and the real, Earth big bad is a billionaire named Morgan Edge–who was introduced into the comic books series during the 1970’s. I am enjoying this so much that I am thinking I might want go back and finish watching Arrow, give The Flash another chance, and start watching the other Arrowverse shows. Batwoman looks terrific, and so does Stargirl, and I am also still hoping for a third season of Titans. I never did get to see the second and final season of Krypton; I enjoyed the first season (I always loved whenever the comics would explore something about Krypton, and John Byrne’s mini-series The World of Krypton is still one of my all-time favorite comics) and still hold out some hope that Warner Brothers and HBO might bring it back for another season….there was so much to still be explored.

So I am working from home today, and am about to head into the spice mines. I have some data entry to do and there’s always condom packs to make, of course; not sure what I want to watch while I make them today; not really in the mood for a movie. I was thinking about revisiting Megan Abbott’s wonderful television show Dare Me–hey, I’m writing about high school students currently, and why not watch a show developed and produced by one of our best writers based on one of her amazing novels? I was also thinking, for the times when I am not in the mood for a slasher/horror or a Cynical 70’s or a teen movie, that I should find an old television program and watch it from the beginning and binge it all the way to the end. Paul and I never finished watching The Sopranos, for one example–Katrina interrupted our viewing–and I have never seen The Wire, either, for that matter. Alas, my education in television classics is just as inadequate as my education in film and literature…something to consider, of course.

And on that note, I have data to enter and condoms to pack, so it’s best for me to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader, and I will see you again tomorrow.

Style

Friday morning, and I had an absolutely lovely night’s sleep, thank you for asking. It’s the final day of the work week, the weekend looms, and as always, I have a million and a half things to get done before Monday. I somehow managed to fall behind on the writing again–by the time I was finished with my work-at-home duties yesterday I was exhausted again–and as such, didn’t write another word. So I need to get my writing going again today, knowing I am at least two chapters behind that need to be caught up, and yes–NO PRESSURE THAT AT ALL, is there?

I have some copy edits for an essay that dropped into my inbox this morning, which shouldn’t be too terrible an issue to deal with over the course of the weekend–then again, I’ve not really looked at them, either, so it could be absolutely horrifying once I open the document–but again, I don’t see that I won’t be able to get caught up on everything that must be done this weekend. What I really need to do is make a to-do list; I’ve been meaning to all week and yet somehow have not managed to get around to it yet. Gah. But that’s the kind of week this has been; 2020, after dragging all fucking year, seems to have now speeded up time now that it’s coming to a close, continuing to prove itself to be a shit-bag of a year.

Given how much optimism we all had for 2020 and what we ended up receiving, I am a bit afraid of 2021, to be completely honest.

I did manage to get some things done yesterday, and I managed to watch Superman whilst making condom packs yesterday; the 1978 version with Christopher Reeve. I hadn’t seen the movie in years–I saw it originally in the theater and then watched again when it was on HBO in the early 1980’s–and wasn’t really prepared for the impact it would still have, many years later, on a rewatch. As I watched, my nimble hands breaking off condoms in groups of four and shoving them into little plastic bags, along with a packet of lube and instructions on how to properly use them, I found myself catapulted backwards in time and remembering the time period. The movie’s slogan was You will believe a man can fly and you also have to remember the late 1970’s was when films–and special effects–were changed forever after Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Superman was the acme of super-heroes; perhaps the most famous, the most loved, and possibly the very first comic-book hero with superpowers, and bringing him to the big screen with a huge budget and special effects to make it look like he actually had powers was a huge deal. It was a huge hit, set the stage for several sequels, and showed Hollywood that comic book heroes were big-ticket items–it can easily be argued that there would be no MCU, no Arrowverse on television, and no Batman movies had there never been Superman first. The first sequel was also a huge hit, but the franchise began to run out of steam with the third, and the fourth was misbegotten from the very beginning.

On this rewatch, Christopher Reeve was even more perfect than I remembered, and Margot Kidder, whom I always believed was miscast, actually fit the role much better than she had in my memories. But what made the movie work–just as how the Patty Jenkins Wonder Woman worked–was how Reeve, at that point a complete unknown whose biggest role had been on the soap Love of Life, fit the role like a hand in a glove. He looked the part, had the right body for the part, and he just was Clark and Superman–and the physical differences between the two different characters–entirely dependent on how Reeve held himself, stood, and his posture–I could see how you wouldn’t see one as the other. Obviously, there were some flaws–how on earth did Lois Lane afford a penthouse with that glorious view and patio deck on a reporter’s salary? How did reversing the Earth’s spinning turn back time so he could save Lois–and didn’t turning the clock back change a lot of other things as well? DC was still in its Golden Age–the Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot was still some years in the future–and so this film fits into that comic book era; they were trying to update the comics and giving their characters more of modern flare and new costumes for the most part at this time, before realizing their universe was so convoluted and confusing they needed to start over. This was the period when Wonder Woman had gotten rid of her powers; when Supergirl was poisoned, which led to her powers becoming unreliable and actually coming and going beyond her control; when two more Green Lanterns turned up on earth in addition to the original; and Green Arrow going more in a Batman-like grim direction.

But it was an uplfiting movie, putting a clear-cut hero on the screen, and it is to Reeve’s credit that he made Superman’s integrity, code of ethics, and kind concern for all humanity from a two-dimensionality to a fully fleshed out, completely believable character that you root for. The John Williams score was excellent, and it really was perfectly cast–I apologize to Margot Kidder for hating her performance for all these years. It was also interesting to see the New York of the 1970’s (passing off as Metropolis), and remembering the way the culture saw the city in that decade (the Cynical 70’s Film Festival has also done a really good job of this); in some ways the perception of New York hasn’t really changed much since then, but it isn’t the same city today that it was back then. It was, I think, in the latter half of the 1970’s that Hollywood began to turn away from the cynicism of the decade and began making movies with happy endings or that were more uplifting in general–Star Wars, Superman, Rocky–the melding of those polarities in film deeply influenced the films of the 1980’s.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

And the Walls Came Down

When I was a kid and into comic books (and in all honesty, I never tired of comic books; getting out of them was generally an economic decision as well as one of time), one of my absolute favorites was Teen Titans.

The Teen Titans were all the sidekicks of the major super-heroes; kind of a junior Justice League: Robin, Wonder Girl, Aqualad, and Kid Flash, later adding more members like Green Arrow’s sidekick, Speedy. They were teenagers, and as a kid, I could relate to them more than I could to the adult super-heroes (which, of course, didn’t stop me from enjoying the adult super-heroes). Eventually, they were relaunched as the New Teen Titans, in the mid to late 1970’s (I could be wrong about these dates, but it’s what I remember). The News Depot on Commercial Street in Emporia had about four or five magazine racks (they didn’t sell hardcover novels, only paperbacks), and the last rack, closest to where the books started, was where they stocked the comic books. I remember The New Teen Titans from buying them in Emporia, which is where I get the dates from.

This new iteration of the Titans included non-sidekick heroes: Starfire and Cyborg and Raven and Jericho. In the early 1980’s Dock Grayson progressed from Robin to Nightwing, becoming an adult–and one of my absolute favorite heroes.

I love this new iteration of Dick Grayson. (I also remember when the news broke in the late 1980’s that DC was killing off Robin and being initially traumatized at the loss of Dick Grayson–and then remembered there was a new Robin–Jason Todd–and that MY Robin was now Nightwing and sighed in relief.)

I never watched any of the animated series–which I really need to correct–but I subscribed to DC Universe solely because they were launching an original, live action Titans series, and it was from the Greg Berlanti production team, which had done so well with the Arrowverse series. (I eventually stopped watching these shows, but will undoubtedly go back to them at some point.)

I watched season one during a period last year when I was going to the gym again–between New Year’s and Carnival–and watched an episode every day I went while walking on the treadmill. I enjoyed the show, but wasn’t sure if it would be something Paul would like–he tired of the Arrowverse before I did–and I have never pushed my love of super-heroes on him too much (he does watch the films with me). I liked the show, but it never really grabbed me; I thought it was incredibly well done, and of course, the actor they hired to play Dick–who was no longer Robin but also not yet Nightwing–was gorgeous.


That’s Brenton Thwaites in the remake of The Blue Lagoon. But don’t let the fact he appeared in that keep you from watching Titans–he’s actually quite good in it. And he’s not that baby-faced anymore.

Much better.

When Season One opens, the Titans have disbanded and scattered. Dick is now a detective with the Detroit police department, trying to distance himself not only from his teammates but from his own past, with Batman. But he still suits up from time to time and wreaks havoc on the criminals of the city–but he’s concerned that he can no longer control his rage, which is part of the reason he no longer wants to be a masked vigilante anymore.

The primary driver of the Season One plot is Rachel, a young girl with strange powers she doesn’t understand and she’s afraid of; in the first episode her mother (or so she thinks; played by Sherilynn Fenn from Twin Peaks) is murdered and she’s been having dreams in which she sees the death of Dick’s parents…and with her own mother murdered and going on the run, she tries to track Dick down. (Rachel is, I assume, eventually going to become Raven.) Teagan Croft plays the part well.

Teagan Croft as Rachel Roth

Kory Anders, a gorgeous and perhaps the best written part on the entire series, is chasing Rachel as well–but cannot remember who she is or why. As a long-time Titans fan, I knew she was Starfire–and she forms a great bond with Rachel, as well as Dick–they sleep together; I do remember them as a couple from the comics. Brilliantly played by Anna Diop, she also gets the best lines, and perhaps the coolest super powers.

Anna Diop as Starfire

We also meet Beast Boy, aka Gar Logan, when Rachel escapes from some villains trying to capture her and winds up at the mansion where the Doom Patrol live (this is kind of a backdoor pilot for The Doom Patrol series; I am interested in watching the show, which was produced after some recasting–and they brought in some big names: Brendan Frasier, Timothy Dalton, and Matt Bomer); after Dick and Kory catch up to her there, Gar leaves with them and they continue their adventures.

Gar quickly becomes my favorite character on the show.

We also meet Hank and Dawn, aka Hawk and Dove, who now live in DC and are a couple–Dawn used to be with Dick (which plays out more in backstory in season two) and both are great characters, played very well by Alan Ritchson and Minka Kelly.

Hawk and Dove

Those who are paying close attention will recognize Ritchson–he guest starred on Smallville a few times as Aquaman. He’s also gorgeous.

We also get to meet Wonder Girl, Donna Troy, played quite well by Conor Leslie.

Conor Leslie as Wonder Girl

The entire first season really revolves around the mystery of who Kory is, and why so many people are out to either capture or kill Rachel. Oh, I also forgot, we also meet new Robin, Dick’s replacement, Jason Todd.

Curran Walters as Jason Todd, Robin 2.0

He’s pretty–almost cartoonishly so–both Paul and I thought that he actually looks like a comic book character.

So, the Titans essentially reunite, Season One ends with a cliffhanger involving the big bad, and Season Two begins with not only the big bad being defeated, but an evolution of Rachel’s powers–the former Titans take off, while Dick brings the new Titans (Gar, Rachel, and Jason) to Titans Tower in San Francisco to train and become the new team. Not a bad first season, not bad at all.

But Season Two? Season Two is epic.

I won’t spoil anything–but there are two big bads–CADMUS Labs (aka Lex Luthor) and Deathstroke–played by Esai Morales (in the Arrowverse he was played by Manu Bennett; not sure why the switch, or if the two universes aren’t connected after all, despite Greg Berlanti’s involvement). We also meet Conner Kent (Superboy), Rose Wilson, Jericho Wilson, and Bruce Wayne/Batman.

Even better? KRYPTO.

I think this is from one of the recent reboots of the comic book universe, but Conner is a clone, developed from a combination of Superman’s DNA and Lex Luthor’s and grown at CADMUS Labs. I’ve always loved Superboy–which is one of the reasons I watched every season of Smallville–and was very happy to see this addition to the cast.

I also greatly loved the mute character of Jericho from the comics, and was delighted to see him added to the cast, and played by Chella Man–and even cooler, the actor is trans.

Chelsea Zhang is pretty badass as Rose, too.

We also all too briefly meet Aqualad, played by Pretty Little Liars’ Drew Van Acker.

Season Two not only has the two big bads, but also explores in greater detail–which we didn’t really see much of in season one–the two great tragedies that led to the break-up of the original Titans team, and why Dick was questioning being a caped crusader in the first place….plus we see Dick transition back into being a hero, being reborn as Nightwing.

It’s very well done, and I highly recommend it, if you’re into super-heroes.