The Joker – Questions Raised by the Clown Prince’s New Look

JOKER_LETO

Ok.

Well, it doesn’t look like any Joker we’ve seen before. But, to be fair, we need to judge this latest interpretation in its own context. No comparisons to Heath Ledger or Jack Nicholson here, folks.

Film is a visual medium and directors obviously know the importance of visuals. No respectable director would purposefully release an image that didn’t communicate exactly what they wanted to communicate.

So let’s give the benefit of the doubt and assume all my questions below are exactly what the director wanted us to ask.

I’ll start with the big one:

What the actual fuck?

Who is this guy? Why is he topless and covered in tats? Why does he look like an LA street gang member? Is he an LA street gang member? Why am I supposed to care about a shock-rock reject, emo gang member? Is this look supposed to suggest a kind of juvenile machoism? Is that why he looks like a bad video game character? But then why isn’t he physically intimidating? Why is he striking a pose that suggests vulnerability? Why is he so obviously striking a ‘pose’? Does he do this pose a lot? Is this pose totally him? Did someone go to take a photo of him and he was like “wait, hold on, I’m gonna do my ‘arrrghh’ pose cos that’s totally me”? Why didn’t the other person tell him that’s a bad idea? Did the person taking the photo not care about how silly this looks?

Why has he got tattoos? When did he get them done? Was it when he was too young to know better? Is he embarrassed by them now? Is that why he’s like ‘noooooooo’ cos someone’s taking a photo of him without his top on and he doesn’t want it to go up on Instagram and make him look like a prat? Did he design the tattoos himself, or point at a picture on the wall of the tattoo parlour and say, “that skull, please”? Did he get drunk and wake up with hahahahahahaha written across his chest and go, “ohhhh, man, I was so wasted last night, what a mistake”? Is he proud of these tattoos? Why does he want everyone to know he’s damaged in the head? Is he physically damaged or emotionally damaged? Is that a cry for help? Are we supposed to feel sorry for him? Because if we’re supposed to feel sorry for him, why does he look like such a douche?

Why the jester and gambling iconography across his body? What does that mean to him? What’s the point of tattooing those things on his body? Does he walk around topless at parties to show these off? Does he like to take his top off in public and make old ladies nervous? Has he got a lot of time on his hands to get this kind of stuff done? Does he think he’s a fan of the Joker from the Batman comics and wants to prove how much of a fan he is in order to appear ‘edgy’ in front of his mates, but actually he’s only read a couple of graphic novels and doesn’t really get the character? Has he such a lack of a personality that he needs to draw on common iconography found elsewhere and stamp it on himself to claim an ‘identity’? Did he lose a bet?

Does he want to fit in with the rest of the LA street gang he’s a member of and prove how much of a badass he is but everyone teases him because he’s such a try-hard and is that why he thinks he’s ‘damaged’? Does he shave his body hair? Why does he dye his hair bright green? Does he think it makes him look cool? What’s up with his eyes? Is that make-up? Does he know he looks a bit like Marilyn Manson? Is that intentional? Why does he look like he’s about to cry?

Why does he wear a big, ugly gold ring on his pinky finger? Was it a gift from his granny? Does it have sentimental value? Does he like bling? Did he steal it or did he buy it? Is that supposed to show off how rich he is? And why does he wear a single purple satin glove? Is he a Michael Jackson fan? Is something wrong with his hand? Was that the only glove he could find? Does he realise it looks a bit silly? And that it makes people think of Michael Jackson? Is that a comparison he is happy for people to make? Or did he not really think about it?

What happened to his teeth? Does he think that makes him look scary or did he spend all his money on gold rings and couldn’t afford proper dentures? Why do his top teeth look rotten? Does he not brush properly and is that why he has fake teeth? Were they knocked out? Was he bullied and is that why he feels ‘damaged’? Why did he choose that font to express how ‘damaged’ he is? Does he think it’s poetic or romantic? Is this guy a bit of a romantic? Does he write poetry in swirly handwriting? Does he have a Tumblr account? Did he get these tats to impress girls?

Why is the photo taken at a completely flat level against a plain background and why is he tilting a little? Why does it look like he’s going “woooooaaaahhhh”? Why does the style, tone and shadowing look like something from a glossy magazine shoot? Is that what it’s supposed to look like? Or is this supposed to be something like a mugshot taken by the police? Did the police ask him to take his clothes off, but told him to keep on the glove and the ring? Why would they do that? Or did they arrest him while he was walking around topless? Why does he walk around topless? Does he not wear clothes? If he usually wears clothes why have they released a photo of him not wearing clothes? Is it just so we can see his stupid tattoos?

Why is he holding his head like that? Does he have a headache? He looks like he’s freeeeeeeaking out. Did he ingest some bad ‘shrooms? Why is he like “nooooooooo what have I done!?”? Why does this look like a bad album cover?

Why is he not far enough away to look hauntingly remote and mysterious, yet not close enough to look intimidating and intense? Why is he perfectly positioned to look like a normal, average guy with stupid tattoos and make-up pulling a funny face? Is the point that he’s just a normal guy with stupid tattoos and make-up pulling a funny face? If that’s the point, are we supposed to get excited?

Why did they take a good actor, cover him in so much distracting shit that it completely buries any characterisation he might be trying to pull off, and then make him do a pose that looks like something out of a shitty music video?

Do they want us to think the movie is going to be shit?

Shutter Island Review

Shutter Island has been given some lousy reviews by people who are clearly idiots. It’s a superb movie and only a misguided sense of self-importance will interfere with your enjoyment.

Directed by Martin Scorsese, Shutter Island’s premise sees US Marshall Leonardo DiCaprio investigating the mysterious disappearance of a dangerous patient from the eponymous prison for psychos. We soon discover DiCaprio is a man struggling with his own demons and that there’s far more to the island than the question of a missing woman…

Most people agree the film seeps style like sweat from my over-toasty testicles. Some of the shots are absurdly stunning and a damning reminder that your own hideously composed and unspectacularly lit life is attractive to nobody. The cast are excellent, albeit in that “acting like I’m acting in a movie” way. This is carried off well, however, and I thought it provided a sense of timelessness. I think the popularity of this film will only increase over the years.

The main beef people seem to have with the movie is the so-called “twist” ending. This is bullshit. It’s all M. Night Shyamalanayan’s fucking fault. He popularised the idea that a “twist” means plopping in some nonsense ending which has barely any impact on the rest of the movie (Sixth Sense being the one exception, but for other reasons I’ll explain in a bit). Let’s have a look…

Unbreakable. Samuel L. Jackson is the bad guy and has the exact opposite powers of Bruce Willis. That’s stupid. Since when do super-villains mirror the abilities of their heroic counterparts? How unthreatening is a baddie that is chronically weak? Jackson’s frailty is a result of a medical condition. Unbreakable Man is given no such explanation for his abilities. The two could be completely unrelated. Twist? Fuck off.

The Village. Stuff happens. It turns out they’re in the present day. The film ends. Did the fact that they were living in the now affect anything that happened before we found out? I can’t remember, so I’d guess probably not. Still, you didn’t see it coming, did you? Does that make it good? No.

The thing with the end of the world, or something. Bees? I dunno, haven’t seen it. I’ve only heard it’s shit.

Signs. Fuck me. Worst film ever. The aliens couldn’t hack water? What a twist! Literally had no idea you’d pull that out your ass, Mr. Shyamalanananynan.

Lady in the Water. Can’t even remember what happened. The twist was that everyone in the apartment block could be crowbarred into being characters in a story, right? Ah, who cares.

These are “twists”. They are also all cheats. The idea is that if you sit through an hour or so of unbearably lame film-making you’ll be rewarded with something that makes you go, “oh”. It’s cheating because the “twist” could be anything. There were no clues; the reveal doesn’t force you to reassess what you’ve already seen; it doesn’t challenge any preconceptions you may have had.

Take Sixth Sense. An excellent example of a game-changing reveal. OMG, Bruce Willis is a ghost! Brilliant. Didn’t see that coming. Though, on a second viewing, you realise that it’s obvious, particularly astute people could have figured it out and, in fact, what you’re watching only really makes sense knowing this. You never see Bruce interact with anybody other than the kid! That’s genius. You would’ve thought you’d notice that and, watch it again, it’s almost painfully obvious. That’s why it’s such a kicker.

It doesn’t so much as “twist” the plot as to explain it.

Yeah, I guess that’s the distinction. A twist screws with your mind, while an effective reveal unscrews it.

This is why Shutter Island should not be dismissed for having a “twist” that didn’t make you shit your pants. Most people I know who’ve watched it say they were disappointed because the reveal was obvious. I suspect they did not guess quite as much as they think, but I’m sure they had an inkling. I also say I kind of had it guessed (though, as I’m sure most people do, I use the scattergun approach to solving the riddles in this type of film – when watching whodunnits I annoy the hell out of my girlfriend by claiming most characters as the murderer and then saying “told you so” at the end). This isn’t a bad thing though. You can figure it out because the makers of the film are not trying to trick you or cheat you.

Here’s why Shutter Island had a more satisfying reveal than Sixth Sense: logical consistency. Because Shutter Island isn’t deliberately setting out to confuse you, the clues to what’s going on are barely clues at all. All the lines of dialogue, the way every character behaves, everything you see is in keeping with the rigid structure of the premise. Admittedly, it’s an elaborate premise, which makes the consistency of the logic and the characters all the more important. Shutter Island pulls this off brilliantly, never once lying to you in an attempt to make a punchier ending.

Sixth Sense on the other hand, and despite my previous praise, is a wee bit tricksy in this respect. It’s all forgivable of course, but marks Shutter Island as a more intelligent piece of work. The most notable example of Sixth Sense’s failing is Bruce Willis’ relationship with his wife. We see him go home, try to get into his study, turn up late to a meal… but we never see what he does when he’s not on camera. Does he not exist when he isn’t on camera? If so, why does he exist during these scenes if not solely for the benefit of the audience and the big reveal at the end? If he does carry on his life as normal when the camera’s not following him, then he surely would’ve tried talking to somebody while walking the streets and been confused while they ignored him. Does he drive from A to B? Is he in a ghost car that people don’t try and drive through? And why is he even helping the kid? Was he sent by God? If so, why didn’t God tell him he was a ghost and explain to him exactly how to help the kid before he sent him?

Lots of questions. Shutter Island is not as crass as that. It doesn’t chuck you any red herrings or cheeky “look how clever we are” scenes. If you think through everything that happens in Shutter Island logically, the only plausible conclusion is the one we’re given. I don’t really see how people could be disappointed by this. Unless they’re stupid.

My biggest gripe with Shutter Island would probably be the way it was marketed. I don’t think I’m the only one who started watching it after being led to believe it was a horror. I’m sure that’s how it was advertised on TV. It’s not a horror. Not even close. It’s an intelligent pulp thriller with a nostalgic vibe and, at times, a chilling atmosphere. It’s a gripping whodunnit (or whodunwhat) packed full of emotion and character.

I’m too fussy to give anything a proper rating, but on my CrunkScale I give it a 1st: “there’s nothing I would want to change about this movie”.

King’s epic The Dark Tower to become Hollywood fodder [filed under: oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, please don’t fuck it up]

Dark Tower cover, J. Scott Campbell - Eldelgado

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower blew my fucking mind.

Unless my worryingly patchy memory is misfiring, I think I first read The Gunslinger (prime instalment of the seven-book epic tale) during a summer of effective unemployability. A time in which I drifted between will-sapping part-time agency jobs and waited for an eccentric millionaire to stumble across me in the street, recognise my awesomeness and sponsor my desired life of creative decadence. This never happened. What did happen was a short and brutally tedious stint performing menial data entry work for Bookpoint – a national book distribution service and a jobs behemoth in the Didcot area, swallowing many thousands of young lives over the decades (some unfortunate ones never did escape). This was possibly the worst job I’ve ever had. But as with all painful experiences, I sought some slight slither of light to sustain me through the darkness. My options for enjoyment were few, however; just about the only resource I had at hand was an extremely long list of books.

Rather fortuitously, it was this never-ending inventory of novels (and their damned ISBN numbers) where I found my salvation. Disassociated titles tickled my mushy brain pipes and gradually sparkled my imagination. None more so than The Dark Tower; in particular, The Gunslinger. I suppose most readers pick books based on word of mouth, favoured authors or heavy marketing. With shying away from all things King in the past, no prior inkling of the series, and, even now, never meeting a single other human being who has read any of the books, this is a rare example of purchase by mental attrition. Unable to resist, I went and bought The Gunslinger from WH Smiths. And then I bloody well read it.

I’ve said this was during the summer. I can’t say with certainty that’s true. I do distinctly remember a warm, ochrey backdrop to my life during that short period, but this may have just been me channeling The Gunslinger’s world into my own. It had that much of an effect on me.

King’s first steps into forging his own Lord of the Rings (mine would have more elven porn) began when he was 21, although the version I read had been rewritten by a writer, far older and presumably far wiser. The book was perfect. Even the introduction, On Being Nineteen (And A Few Other Things), had me completely enthralled (and, incidentally, compelled me to bother reading the introduction notes of every novel I’ve since come across – just in case). The tale of the world’s last gunslinger, Roland of Gilead, was, and I believe still is, unlike anything else I’ve ever read. The Gunslinger is raw, wild, free… In the aforementioned introduction, King writes about a popular novelist writing for the audience. Possibly that’s true of the later (arguably more polished) books in the series, but number one strikes me more as a passionate eruption of talent, magnificently unfettered and unrefined. The mystery, the knowing references, the uncompromising progression… It’s the kind of don’t-give-a-fuck story any aspiring writer would want to pin down onto paper. If I may again refer to the introduction, King repeatedly references a “mean-ass Patrol Boy”. This guy wants to knock you into line and take a baseball bat to the shell of spirited enthusiasm you wear in your youth until it becomes a broken husk of its former self, in a process commonly known as growing up. I wonder if he looks back at The Gunslinger, compares it to the still excellent but somewhat more domesticated later novels, and has as much fondness as I do for the work of King, the Pre-Patrol Guy version.

I write all this after reading an article on The Guardian’s film blog, revealing plans for a The Dark Tower movie, directed by Ron Howard. This could be an absolute disaster. Ron Howard’s directed some great films and can beckon some excellent actors (though he had better not cast Russell fucking Crowe as Roland), but I worry he met his Patrol Guy a long time ago. There’s talk of producing “compelling television” with some “cool twists and turns”. For sure, Stephen King as a pop novelist is definitely geared towards those type of movies and The Dark Tower has plenty of moments which would be cinematically awesome. But I honestly can’t see how a film could capture what makes people love The Dark Tower so much and still appeal to a wider audience. Honestly, the ending alone, while, I believe, is perfect considering the nature of the story, would satisfy just about nobody. If you know the ending isn’t going to work, why even bother starting from the beginning?

And that question leads neatly on to my biggest concern. A multiverse-jumping epic spanning seven books squeezed into three movies? A hell of a lot is going to need to go (and let’s hope they don’t shove in any wargs). I have a feeling The Gunslinger, as I know and love it, will be mercilessly culled. I’ve read a review on Amazon suggesting newcomers to The Dark Tower series actively skip this book. It’s true that much of what takes place in The Gunslinger has little bearing on future events. And I can envision how the bits that are vital to the story could be incorporated in different ways. Although I understand all of this, to cut it out would still be a tragedy. Roland’s evocative first outing frames the epic in its entirety – even as the heroes dip in and out of different worlds, timeframes and realities, that warm, ochrey glow still flickers in the background, reminding us about who Roland really is when the shit’s about to hit the fan and there’s no-one to turn to ‘cept his twin revolvers and wits. The Gunslinger is the beam that holds the other books together. Get rid of it and the story becomes nothing more than a quartet of weirdos fighting robots and walking long distances (note: this is massively understating the sheer awesomeness of what actually happens in books 2 through 7 and I feel guilty for playing them down… but I hope any Dark Tower fans reading this understand what I’m getting at!).

Like the pic at the top? I’ve got a sprinkling of more Dark Tower fan art on my Tumblr blog.

Jennifer’s Body review – Amanda Seyfried rules, Megan Fox drools (blood, that is)

Dead Fox by JT-Pixel

Image credit: Dead Fox by JT-Pixel

Before we begin, let me get this out of the way:

Megan Fox is hot. Truly hot. Astoundingly hot. If you thought she looked good in Transformers and, um, Transformers 2, you haven’t seen anything yet. I was genuinely agog during some of her best moments. And there isn’t much time wasted between those moments. This film is stuffed full of scenes designed solely to show some oogleable aspect of – well, the title kinda gives it away. Let me not stress this enough: Megan Fox is fit.

Good. I’ve said it. Now, I can get on with the movie review.

Continue reading