Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Top-Grossing Movies Directed By Women

According to Entertainment Weekly:

Worldwide: Kung Fu Panda 2, Jennifer Yuh Nelson ($637.6 million)

U.S. Domestic female co-director: Shrek, Vicky Nelson ($267.7 million)

U.S. Domestic, female sole director: Alvin and the Chipmunks The Squeakquel, Betty Thomas ($219.6 million)

U.S. Domestic, non-animation: Twilight, Catherine Hardwicke ($192.8 million)

Movieline analyzes the numbers and asks: Is there a "Smurf Ghetto" for women in Hollywood?

"It's almost as if Hollywood doesn't trust women with big live-action franchises, like the superhero sagas that are now the industry's bread and butter, or even with smaller genres, like horror movies (which tend to appeal to young women, after all), comedies, or prestige dramas of the sort that win Oscars."
Maybe, as has been said regarding the lack of females creating mainstream comics, they (multiple choice):
a. "Don't try hard enough"
b. "Aren't really interested in" genres like live-action blockbuster franchises or prestige dramas
c. "Aren't good enough"
d. "It's a mystery to me why more women aren't directing these movies! An absolute baffling mystery!"
e. "What do you mean there aren't successful females directing live-action blockbusters? Just look at Twilight! They could direct more Twilight!"

What is the answer to all this? Do we "get more female live-action blockbuster directors, stat!"?

As for the idea that Twilight might be, in some sense, considered a blockbuster live-action movie, one thing to keep in mind:

"As EW notes, the top domestic hit directed by a woman that doesn't involve talking CGI animals is 'Twilight,' which grossed $192.8 million. Sure, Stephenie Meyer's books were already huge, but Catherine Hardwicke's adaptation of the first novel was not only a smash, but it set the tone for the whole franchise through her visuals and casting choices. And what's her reward? She's canned by the studio because she wants to take her time on the second film and make sure it's good instead of rushing it to capitalize on a hot trend."
The next two three movies in the franchise were directed by men.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Horrors! Woman Signs Up With OK Cupid, Ends Up With Magic The Gathering Champion

I fail to see what is wrong with being set up with a Magic: The Gathering champ on OK Cupid, as did happen with this writer. Maybe that means I'm an awful nerd as well, and deserve to be called out by name on a major website as an awful, gross, terrible nerd that doesn't deserve to find companionship with normal people:
Just like you're obligated to mention you're divorced or have a kid in your online profile, shouldn't someone also be required to disclose any indisputably geeky world championship titles? But maybe it was a long time ago? We met for round two later that week.

At dinner I got straight down to it. Did he still play? "Yes." Strike one. How often? "I'm preparing for a tournament this weekend." Strike two. Who did he hang out with? "I've met all my best friends through Magic." Strike three. I smiled and nodded and listened. Eventually I even felt a little bit bad that I didn't know shit about the game. Here was a guy who had dedicated a good chunk of his life to mastering Magic, on a date with a girl who can barely play Solitaire. This is what happens, I thought, when you leave things out of your online profile.
A pic from Jon Finkel's (the Magic player in question) official Magic the Gathering card:

THE DUDE HAS AN OFFICIAL MAGIC THE GATHERING TRIBUTE CARD MADE OF HIM!! HOW FREAKING COOL IS THAT?! He looks like freakin' Jesus on that pic...or at least, some very powerful wizard.

Anyway...I realize some people look at me cross-eyed once they find out I collect comic books, so I get it. But still...gah! Methinks this just might have been blown out of proportion.

Welcome To The Future: Two ChatBots Talk To Each Other

Cornell Creative Machines Lab wondered what would happen if they hooked up two ChatBots to talk to each other. The result? Apparent A.I. "small talk":

This is what we have to look forward to, peoples: "I am not a robot. I am a unicorn."

Next stop: Skynet!!!!

"Anonymous" Helping Time Warner Sell Licensed "V For Vendetta" Masks

The hacker group Anonymous, who takes a stand against such things as large global corporations (and Scientology!), might be unwittingly helping an entertainment/media conglomate push lots of merch. Via The Hollywood Reporter:

"During public protests and appearances, members of the group wear masks of 17th century Englishman Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament.

It is the same mask worn by an anarchist challenging an authoritarian regime in V for Vendetta, the 2006 movie from TW’s Warner Bros. studio. Since TW owns the rights to the image, it is paid a licensing fee with the sale of each mask, the Times said."

The article quotes a spokesman from NY's Rubie's Costume, who says that they sell about 100,000 of the licensed "V" masks a year.

Oh, *Capitalism* -- you always find a way!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

My Hurricane Irene Update

Well, almost two days indoors due to Hurricane Irene, but I'm doing OK. I have a little bit of cabin fever, but at least I'm getting some writing done:

Last night, we hunkered down for the hurricane-apocalypse, sleeping in the hallway to get away from all the big windows. I think despite this being my first hurricane, I dealt with it quite well:

Of course, it was impossible to explain to the cats what was going on, but seeing us sleeping on the floor next to bottled water, their carriers, and several go-bags, they began to get slightly curious and unsettled:

Irene didn't hit us as hard as we thought it would, though there was some flooding in the neighborhood and reports of several cars crushed by fallen trees. Oh, and the part about being stranded on the island of Brooklyn/Queens/L.I. because all the public transportation was shut down and the bridges were closed; that part I took especially close note of, filing it away in my brain in case of, well, I don't know...maybe...

Special thanks to my husband, who played Spider-Man: Web Of Shadows non-stop during this entire event.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

This Ain't No Tumblr 8/27: Irene, Superman, And Time Enough At Last!

We are currently watching the little-seen 1988 Ruby-Spears Superman cartoon:

The cartoon is absolutely true to the 80s John Byrne take on the character and its mythos; quite good, though Lex Luthor as a beefy thuggish villain isn't my fave interpretation (I'm partial to the Michael Rosenbaum version, with a touch of that crazy Super Powers green armor).

Currently waiting out Hurricane Irene, the rain is coming down quite hard now but this isn't supposed to be the worst of it. My husband calls Irene my "time enough at last!" moment, referencing the Twilight Zone episode where an obsessed book reader finally gets all the time he wants to read -- following the Apocalypse.

The only problem is, he accidently steps on his glasses and can't read any of his books.

Friends, I have bought a lot of comic books lately, with very little time to read them. All told, I came back from Baltimore Comic-Con with more than a half-a-long-box full of comics (they don't look like a lot when they're in individual shopping bags, but it adds up). I am still a fan of digital reading (even though like poor Mr. Bemis in that Twilight Zone episode, I recently stepped on and crushed my Color Nook charger), but sometimes the mood just strikes me to buy physical books.

What did I buy at Baltimore Comic-Con? A lot of 1980s DC and indie titles. Was that period the high-water mark for graphic storytelling or what? DC's Andy Helfer/Bill Sienkiewicz/Kyle Baker The Shadow, Alan Moore/Rick Veitch's Swamp Thing, obscure First and Eclipse books, even the 1980s incarnation of The Mighty Crusaders. Started the trip reading Veitch's visionary work Brat Pack for the first time; that would be a whole series of posts in themselves to comment on.

Though since we are on the subject of Veitch and 1980s Superman, here's a pic I wanted to put on the blog for a while, via Veitch's blog:

Oh, and here is a cool pic I found on Reddit:

Also, quite by accident, I found this website where users can submit pics of their slabbed "pedigree" comics:

I guess I can see what the attraction is there for hardcore collectors...but it's also a little bit weird. I'm a perfectionist, so having a slabbed copy that was like 9.4 when somebody else had 9.5 would drive me crazy.

I'm currently reading: Animal Land, by Makoto Raiku

Rather, I just finished it. The story of an adorable abandoned baby adopted by an adorable fox-like creature, I really dug the manga and am looking forward to the next volume. But it is rather on the extreme end of the kawaii spectrum -- so if cuteness gives you diabetes, take it slow with this one, reading only a few chapters at a time until your body acclimates.

Well that's it for now -- hoping the power stays on and we get thru Irene relatively unscathed -- be dry & safe!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How January Jones Got "Heigled" -- The Case Of The Monstrous Mad Men Mom

Mad Men actress January Jones was recently criticized by her 11-year-old former co-star in an interview for being "really serious about what she does" and "not as approachable as the others." This is apparently Big News, as a quick consulation of Google finds over 180 news stories about the child actor's accusation that Jones is apparently very serious about her job.

Why all the hub-bub, bub? Would we see so many headlines if, say, Mad Men actor Jon Hamm was said to be serious about his job, and didn't stop to pat his child co-stars on the head and give them lollipops and packs of Yu-Gi-Oh cards every time the cameras stopped rolling?

This is because it's my belief that humans largely operate from deep, primal, parts of the brain and have certain instinctual reactions and expectations. Women are expected to be nurturing -- not by the entire population, but a good percentage of it. Fertile young pretty women of child-bearing age such as Ms. Jones have even a greater expectation placed on them to be this never-ending fount of nurture and care. When this expectation is frustrated, and a female like Jones tends to be serious and concerned more with the quality of her job than demonstrating a pseudo-motherly attitude towards little (and big) kids -- she gets demonized.

As the media operates largely by pushing the right primal buttons on the populace, an item like this child accusing Jones of essentially not being a nuturing female is ripe for sensationalist headlines. These articles position January Jones as some sort of inhuman monster -- essentially a "bitch" -- who can't even spare some time to be nice to a cute little kid. She might as well have stolen their candy too.

The "mirror darkly" reflection of this media phenomena is, of course, the Casey Anthony story. Here is another attractive young female -- this time being accused of not only not being nice to a child, but killing one. While there are unfortunately tons of similar news stories involving murdered children every day, this case particularly seemed to captivate the world. Now, why is that? In the end -- at its very core -- it's the same situation as Jones. By not being "approachable" to little children, Jones has, to the primal human brain, committed a crime similar to actually killing one.

It's the Lady Macbeth archetype, essentially:

"I have given suck, and know
How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me:
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums,
And dash'd the brains out"
Lady Macbeth is The Monstrous Woman: cold, a schemer, willing to murder babes, willing to even "unsex" herself if it means getting rid of anything that makes her vulnerable. She and Casey Anthony are the exaggerated fear of the unmotherly female made manifest, comic book caricatures of what January Jones, by being "really serious about her job," represents to the ancient lizard portion of the human brain.

Of course it goes without saying that the real irony here is that Jones has been typecast in such a Bad Mother/Ice Queen role -- and I mean, literally. She plays The Monstrous Woman in Mad Men, the Cold Mother -- and Emma Frost in X-Men: First Class, the emotionless woman with skin as hard as diamonds.

And in addition to being publicly criticized by a boy, she has also recently been called out by an actor who often plays a boy-like character, Zach Galifianakis. In response to being told that Jones called him "the most naturally funny man she’s ever met," he said:

"I was at a party — I’d never met her — and she was like, ‘Come sit down.’ So I sit at her table and talk for 10 minutes, and she goes, ‘I think it’s time for you to leave now.’ So I say, ‘January, you are an actress in a show and everybody’s going to forget about you in a few years, so f---ing be nice,’ and I got up and left."
While other actors might be similarly curt for a whole host of possible reasons, this anecdote by Galifianakis regarding Jones also made headlines, and for, at the heart of it, very similar reasons as the one concerning the Mad Men child actor.

All of which might place Jones in a similar precarious position as actress Katherine Heigl, who after several public criticisms of her by similarly boy-like actor Seth Rogen and his friend director Judd Apatow, has seen her career permanently damaged, her reputation being that of "a bitch." Some of those complaints revolved around her calling the movie they all made together, Knocked Up, sexist. Specifically, Heigl said the movie "paints the women as shrews" whereas the men are portrayed as "loveable." What silly Heigl didn't realize was that not only does not being a nuturing female sour the primal male (and female) brain towards oneself, but pointing out the mechanics of it all also sours said hive mind (with enlightened exceptions, to be sure, which includes no doubt Dear Reader).

Which is all to say, I guess, that if you subscribe to the Primal Lizard Brain Theory Of Why People Do What They Do, this post I just wrote is somewhat of a boner-killer.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

This Ain't No Tumblr, 8/17: 1960s Animated Spider-Man, Nikola Tesla, The Big Lebowski, and More

Right now me and the husband are winding down from a long day at work, watching the 1960s Spider-Man cartoon on Netflix Instant. A decent cartoon, but I don't have to tell you how bizarre some of the art is in it:

I was going to show you some pics from me and my husband's Big Lebowski Adventure, but first for something completely different:

Why Nikola Tesla, you might ask? Well, when we were standing in line to get into yesterday's Big Lebowski reunion screening, we realized we were waiting right at the same spot as this plaque commemorating the famous inventor's death.

So, did Tesla die in the building in question? At that very spot?? I don't know, but considering my husband is a fan of Tesla (he makes an appearance in his webcomic High Moon, and inspired his issue of Deadlands), it was kinda weird!

The Lebowski Fest reunion of the original cast (to celebrate the release of the new Blu-ray) I attended really deserves a full post on its own, but here is a preview:


Aren't you excited for more?!

But instead, let's go with this new promo photo of the Always Sunny In Philadelphia cast for now, including a somewhat larger Mac:

It sort of really freaks me out that actor Rob McElhenney gained so much weight for his show. Yeah, he said that if Christian Bale can do it, he can do it...but come on, Bale is almost superhuman. A comparison of McElhenney before and after:

I'm currently reading: Parasyte Vol. 3 by Hitoshi Iwaaki

It's crazy how fast I devour these volumes. It's like I actually feel guilty reading these, they go by so fast and I enjoy them so much. What is it like to enjoy a comic so much it feels like you must be committing a sin?

Well, that's it for now -- I bid you a Depardadieu:


Monday, August 15, 2011

Angry Apple Fan Is Angry (Video)

Is it wrong that I find these complaint-filled videos so soothing as background noise?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

This Ain't No Tumblr, 8/14: Freakazoid!, Arrested Development, Mt. Everest, and lots of Rain

A rain of apparently Biblical proportions has descended upon NYC, hunkering me and my husband down for a day largely in front of the TV, eating Indian food for breakfast and watching Freakazoid!.

Except for an episode some time back, I've never really watched Freakazoid!, though it comes very recommended by several people whose opinion I respect regarding such matters. Created by the Batman The Animated Series team of Bruce Timm and Paul Dini -- as well as Steven Spielberg --  it's sort of like The Tick crossed with Animaniacs, with a dash of The Mask for good measure.

Next, it's time for a bunch of Arrested Development episodes. We're at my absolute favorite episode, featuring Annhog, "PopPop in the attic," and various characters reenacting Charlie Brown's sad stroll:

Speaking of AD, I came across this cool Bluth Family Coat Of Arms (via):

And now for something completely different:

Currently reading: Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer

The book is about a doomed 1996 Mt. Everest expedition. I was inspired to read it after reading this fascinating article and this forum discussion about dead bodies of mountain climbers abandoned all over Everest. Some of these bodies are apparently quite old, still in their parkas, and are used as identifying landmarks for other climbers.

Have a lovely Sunday, and stay dry wherever you are (unless your intention is otherwise).

Saturday, August 13, 2011

This Ain't No Tumblr 8/13

This morning me and my husband are watching old Filmation Aquaman cartoons on Zune:

Really love the simple, streamlined design and bright colors. Mera has a pink seahorse, of course.

You have to be a pretty hardcore public television fan to get this PBS logo tattoo (via NPR Tumblr):

A first look pic of Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover (via EW):

And here's a pic of 343 hot-air balloons all launched at the same time in France, vying for the world record (via Laughing Squid):

Currently reading: Black Jack Vol. 15 by Osamu Tezuka:

Quite possibly my favoritest comic ever.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Video: Crazy Power Rangers Fan Goes Crazy

...just a little something to lead into the weekend:

Gerry Conway On JLA Detroit & DC Retroactive

I'm super-proud of this Creator's Commentary MTV Geek writer Charles Webb did with classic JLA writer Gerry Conway about his new DC Retroactive: Justice League of America 1980s comic. If you've ever heard of "Justice League Detroit," this is the article for you.

Conway imagines what a modern-day Justice League Detroit would be like:

"As you say, parts of Detroit are even in worse shape today—along with the rest of the country. My opening description of Detroit was meant to provoke the reader to make an ironic internal comparison with the America of today versus the imaginary America of Ronald Reagan's era. If there was a JLA Detroit 2011 I hope they'd be pissed as hell that the country is in the situation it is now, and that their adventures would reflect that reality."
He also discusses the oft-maligned character Vibe, who Conway describes as -- to quote Curly from the Three Stooges --"a victim of soikumstance."

Check it out!

Updates From The Land Of Val

Just some updates, because some people have asked --

I had proposed a collaborative webcomic effort a few months ago called "Dangerous Minds." It was just an artistic thing among some writers and artists -- with monetary proceeds, if any, going to all participants evenly. My dream was to perhaps get Kickstarter funding for the anthology. Given the current (needlessly excessive) negative climate towards such comic projects, however, I have decided to put this project on hold.

I'm still very creative and have a lot of ideas, but at this time -- other than a creator-owned comic project or two that are sort of hanging in the air -- I'm focusing mostly on straight prose writing, leaning towards YA and non-fiction material. It seems like the most appropriate and satisfying option for what I want to say. Before I wrote comics I wrote a massive amount of prose and poetry (as well as academic papers), and I want to revisit that vital and meaningful time in my life.

Further, I really love my job and the fact that every day I'm doing my part to introduce comics to new and younger readers. As my (understanding) husband can attest to, I still go to the comic book store each week and buy a fresh stack of comics and manga. If I ever figure out Google Plus, I'd love to discuss some of what I'm reading with my friends.

My twin passions now are looking backward to the sci-fi/comics fandom culture of the 70s and 80s -- which I consider to be a fascinating and relatively diverse period -- and researching what the Millennial generation (and beyond) want in their pop-culture entertainment.

So in short, I lead a very busy and happy life -- and probably have never enjoyed reading comic book material so much since I was a kid.

Lastly, a recommendation: comic fans who are looking for talented female writers should check out the latest offerings in Young Adult fiction. There is some amazing stuff being done in this genre, full of strong female characters -- and far beyond what stereotyped version some may have in their heads, thinking it's all just "Twilight."

YA, manga, anime, and hobby gaming (which, admittedly, I've only dipped my toe into as of this writing -- but color me intrigued) have all opened up many new worlds and possibilities for me -- and I'm blessed and excited to have these new fandoms and hobbies to explore, even if I started exploring them at the ripe old age of thirty-mwamphmmf...

Well, that's it. And, just because you've been so awesome, here is a photo of a freakishly tiny puppy:

You're welcome.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Video: Angry Gamer Guy Is Angry

If you're short on spare viewing time, 3:39 is epic; he starts speaking in tongues.

...though I would suspect the conveniently-positioned Slave Leia poster gives away that this might just be a put-on. It's so hard to tell anymore.