& many comic books, some read during this awful awful movie.
Going to see a "free" screening of the forthcoming movie Blindness, courtesty of the Museum of the Moving Image as part of the Variety Screening Series, is an excellent example of the economic concept of opportunity cost.
I had walked out of the director's (Fernando Meirelles) earlier, wildly overpraised and stunningly bad movie City of God. I hate to walk out of movies, but not only was it very bad, but it was in a foreign language so I couldn't kind of rest my eyes and maybe listen a little to it even if I didn't care about what was on the screen. This one was in English, so even though I knew I was in for a long night after the first half hour, I decided there was just enough light at my seat (which was on the aisle, near one of the lights in the aisle that didn't go down all the way so people could walk to the bathroom and concession stand without killing themselves) to read comic books during the movie.
So let me interrupt this review of the movie to talk about comic books:
Ex Machina 38, 3 slithy toads, is the latest issue in an always entertaining DC/Wildstorm series about New York, 9/11, people talking to machines, politics, relationships and much much more. This issue derives some from the 2004 Republican convention in New York as the superhero mayor is under pressure about his participation. It has some flashbacks, some flash forwards, some intriguing asides, and was vastly more entertaining than the movie.
Un-Men 13, 1 slithy toad for old time's sake, is the last issue of this Vertigo season that started off intriguingly though I'm guessing with not too many readers since it is now expired, but kind of lost its way after the first story arc. I read this issue thinking it might be my last because it was just getting to be kind of confused and hard to follow and not good enough to put in the effort to follow, and then got this inkling that maybe I didn't have to worry since this was like The Exterminators and Infinity Inc. and other DC series that had recently ended. The Exterminators also died creatively in its final issues but put up a good fight; it goes with some fond memories from me. Infinity Inc. I read for only a handful of issues.
DC Universe: Decisions #1, 2.5 slithy toads. Perfectly adequate, maybe even a little more, an extra point or two for being one of the few series I can remember other than Paul Chadwick's Concrete to take even a vaguely real world approach in a superhero comic book to politics. The Justice League lends a hand when a conspiracy to assassinate presidential candidates is discovered, using suicide bombers who clearly had no idea what they were doing at the time (maybe a point or two off for that one depending on how it plays out). Green Arrow ends up endorsing the candidate he is supposed to be guarding. Light weight, fun, I'll stick with.
Now, back to the movie...
It's based on a novel by Jose Saramago that came out in the mid 1990s. Some kind of something starts to make people go blind, but not in the usual way. They see white instead of black, one character describes it as all the lights being turned on when we think of blindness as all the lights going off. The eye doctor the first victim sees also comes down with this as does his receptionist and someone at the pharmacy one victim goes to and a kid in the waiting room and etc. etc. The government sends them into quarantine, where they are treated like poor people being evacuated from New Orleans during a hurricane. The people in ward #3 start to extort things, first watches and then women, in exchange for food. Things get bad and worse and worser still, buried bodies piling up (down?) in the courtyard, until suddenly the guards all go away, the victims can roam free in a miserable post-Blindness ward where looting for groceries can be hazardous to your health, and then the whatever-it-is goes away and victim #1 regains his sight.
Problem #1 for me was that I didn't care about any of the characters, which was also a major problem I had with City of God. Movie starts out with guy getting ill, a guy whom we don't know anything about at all, and then in a six degrees kind of way the people he's in contact with and they're in contact with and they're in contact with all go blind. Then we kind of get a very long and very boring reenactment of Lord of the Flies, only it's blind people in quarantine instead of kids on island but either way it's no more than something I read in high school 30 years ago and hardly need read again to get the point of it. So that's problem #2. Problem #3 is all of the plot loopholes. The movie is just intent on this Lord of the Flies stuff so it doesn't need to explain anything about the blindness itself which would divert from Lord of the Flies. It doesn't need to explain why the eye doctor's wife is so in love to join him in quarantines which no one else who isn't ill tries to do which makes Joan of the Seeing of Arc, but which we're hardly supposed to notice. It doesn't come close to defending the idea expressed at one point that it is a thing of great virtue and courage to volunteer to get raped by Ward 3 so that the guys in your ward can chow down. The one thing it does away with real quick is to explain how nobody notices the doctor's wife can see. One soldier remarks on her ability to find a shovel when he's hotter/colder-ing her away, and his CO says "the blind adapt quickly." So we can stop worrying about that.
The 7:30 screeing started late, the credits go on forever like those in Superman The Movie so the 1:50 movie becomes 2:00, I usually like to stay for the Q&A at these things except I haven't had dinner, but I end up staying a little while and stand in the back while Danny Glover and Mark Ruffalo from the cast join the screenwriter Don McKellar (also in cast) and the director for a discussion led by Variey reporter Gordon Cox.
The stunning thing to me is that they purposely intended every misguided element of this movie. The director starts to say how wonderful it is that it takes place in an anonymous city with anonymous characters you won't care about because it enables the movie to give its full devotion to the stuff about civilation's veneer fading so quickly in the harsh conditions of the quarantine wards. And in order to do this, they paid Mark Rufallo for a week to learn how it is to be blind, even though the blindness in the movie is nothing but what Hitchock called a MacGuffin. I was too appalled to continue listening, and went down the street to the Tribeca Whole Foods to grab some chow, and then I finished up some more comics while eating and heading home.
The opportunity cost of this movie was very high to me. I had to traipse to one of the most distant movie theatres in Manhattan. I did enjoy the walk thru Greenpoint and Williamsburg and over the Williamsburg Bridge, which took no more than five minutes more than the usual route of heading over the 59th St. Bridge and then straight down 2nd Ave. to the Sunshine. It was a nice fall day. I gave up almost 4 hours of my life to the screening, 2 for the movie and 45 minutes to the late start and the discussion, and then they insist we get there by 7PM to be sure our seat won't be given away even though they don't even start checking the guest list until 7:05 and there are empty seats. And all the other things I could have done with those 4 hours... It's even more tragic to think of the millions of dollars spent getting a talented cast to film a movie in five or more cities on three continents from Brazil to Guelph Ontario to Japan. That, too, has an opportunity cost.
House of Mystery #5 continues a hard to describe Vertigo series that updates the old horror anthology title DC published many many years ago. I like it; and no doubt it's another of those Vertigo series that my friend Larry at DC will say is being enjoyed by myself and six other people. But I like it. 2.5 slithy toads. Will stick with.
Air #2, 3 slithy toads, is another of those strangely intriguing Vertigo comics. In issue #1 a stewardess falls in love with a rakish man who may or may not be a terrorist being chased by another group of men who may or may not be terrorists themselves, and now she and a steward colleague and a matronly grandmotherly landlady type all go off to the land of Narimar that may or may not exist in the northern reaches of India, where the boyfriend is being held by the chasers who may have some Device in the neighborhood.
Greatest Hits #1 is a Vertigo series that does not work. Great concept: imagine the Beatles as a superhero quartet. Instead of giving concerts in Shea they fight riots in Newark in 1967. I cared more about the filmmaker son of one of them who may or may not participate in a documentary which may or may not be this comic book in an effort to escape creative exile 8 years after a Sundance hit. I don't care enough about him and he isn't major enough in the story to buy the next 5 parts of this miniseries. 1 slithy toad.
Simpsons Comics #146 gets only 1.5 toads. It's an off issue of this long-running comic, but the on issues are so good that I'm always willing to buy the next. Marge becomes a roller derby performer, Lisa has to teach her life lessons with the help of a banished derby queen from many years ago. enh.