Monthly Archives: November 2011

Comic Book Movies

Frank Miller Is A Cryptofascist, You Say?

That Action Guy sent me a link this week which probably merits some discussion. It’s about Frank Miller and how he’s a cryptofascist, and how cryptofascism abounds in Hollywood.

The film 300, directed by Zack Snyder, based on a Frank Miller graphic novel of the same name, is just what you would expect from the heavily freighted right-wing filmic propaganda of the post-9/11 period: the Greeks, from which our own putative democracies are descended, must fight to the death against a vast but incompetent army of Persians (those hordes of the Middle East), who are considered here unworthy of characterisation – in fact, every character in the film is unworthy of characterisation – and the noble Spartans (the Greeks in question) achieve heroism despite their glorious deaths on the field at Thermopylae, by virtue of the moral superiority of their belief system and their unmatched courage. Ruthless enemy! From the Middle East! Heroic, rugged individualists! A big, sentimental score! Lots and lots of blue-screen! Endless amounts of body parts spewing theatrical blood!

It’s a barely watchable film, but what from Hollywood these days is not similarly unwatchable, when so many high-profile releases are based on a medium, the comic book, made expressly to engage the attentions of pre- and just post-pubescent boys.

That sums up why I’ve lost a lot of energy recently when it comes to writing about film. Hollywood movies have become the refined sugar of the cultural staple we have. Now, I do confess I have that metaphorical sweet tooth – I like action movies. Yet lately, I’m kind of sick of the monotonous refinement of these action movies that aim to deliver the greatest adrenalin rush and spectacle. Talking about these films like ‘300’ or ‘Thor’ ends up being an exercise in differentiating the finer points of different chocolate.

Still, the article goes on to hammer how it is that Frank Miller is a fascist, which is to say, if you watch the films based on his comics, they’re bleeding obvious. The problem with post-modernism and the triumph of the thousand striated plateaus where everything is just text is that now we have to discuss McDonalds and fine cuisine alike, comics and Shakespeare alike, Rap Music and Mozart alike, and so on. On the one hand, if the flattening of the critical landscape allowed the proper appraisal of things I like that were poopoo-ed before, (like say, ‘Blade Runner’ and Frank Zappa), then I guess we’re going to have to endure the legitimisation of such intellectual non-luminaries as Frank Miller along the ranks of authors of great works.

And pardon me if this sounds like sour grapes but, come on. He’s a graphic artist who likes nasty turns in his stories. He’s the cultural equivalent of a Bogan, except we’re all egalitarian now and we have to at least give the ass hole his due and space in the public dialogue. To be blunt, I don’t mind Frank Miller is a cryptofascist, because I’m what you might describe as a reconstructed cultural technocrat and I think his cryptofascism is idiotic next to the true lights of our contemporary cultural space. Sure his stuff is fun, but it’s not like it’s profound. he’s just another guy toiling at what Woody Allen described as “the kids’ table”. He’s just the clown at the party to entertain the kids, putting on scary masks. he’s not even part of the moral decay of Western Civilization. Calling him a cryptofascist representative of Hollywood’s propaganda machine gives him way too much credit. Unless of course you’re the sort that thinks ‘300’ is great cinematic art.

He’s no Frank Zappa, and ‘300’ is no ‘Fight Club’. Everything else to be said is only deserving of a  jaded yawn.

Hanging Out At The 15th Japanese Film Festival

The 15th Japanese Film Festival finished on Sunday night. I worked the Q&A as interpreter for the panel discussion and watched the closing film. It was a pretty good festival this year except the glaringly awful ‘Space Battleship Yamato’. Afterwards at the wrap party for the festival and I ran into YK, a cinematographer I know from way back when. YK was incredulous why they even made the film, let alone showed it at the festival

I pointed out that it made money in spite of itself, but YK was for totally flabbergasted at how awful it was. He said he saw the original Anime in 1977 and it was great. So why did they have to make it again and then make a hash of it? Good question. some times the comic book sensibility leads the film industry into really bad decisions. I just want to point out here that it’s not just American Cinema that is contracting into some infantile state as it peddles its wares to the lowest common denominator.

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