Category Archives: Editorials

Rethinking Superhero and Comic-Book Movies

When I started this site back in 2007, movies inspired by known superheroes or comic books were still in their infancy as a genre.  Who knew that 12 years later we would see a genre that would not only grow exponentionally, but also dominate most cinematic discussions?  You can see the height of this naivete with my list from June 30, 2008, where I listed what I thought were the top 10 superhero movies of all time.  Marvel had just released what would end up being entry #1 of 22 in what is now known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU); Chris Nolan had just released the second entry of what would become known as The Dark Knight Triology; and DC was starting to dominate the animated movie front via Blu-Ray/DVD.  Streaming services were starting to be visualized, but not in wide production.  Additionally, movies and franchises like Kingsman: The Secret Service, Kick-Ass, A History of Violence were actually pulled from graphic novels and small comic-book series not known by most, with studios taking some risks in developing those properties.

If the period of the late 90s and early 2000’s was consumed with fanboys/fangirls angrily drawing battle-lines between Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter, then 2008 would see the rise of a war that looks to put those earlier battles to shame: the MCU versus the DC Extended Universe (DCEU).  With the events (on- and off-screen) of the past 3-5 years in both franchises, fans on each side have only gotten more steadfast in their positions and leave little room for those that enjoy both.  What is interesting is that lost in all of the debate would be the following:

  • Marvel has surrendered the animated movie arena to DC
  • While some movie-watchers bemoan the live-action offerings from DC, many do not realize that DC has been quietly producing 2-3 animated offerings per year over the past 10-12 years, with many being well-received.
  • Despite some missteps by WB and DC, the DCEU is realizing that the way to compete with Marvel is to frame their “universe” differently.  As the DCEU moves away from the idea that each movie must be firmly tied to the other movies, the storytelling and offerings improve, giving audiences credit for understanding that not every movie has to set up the next one and that not each one has to have crossovers.

As these thoughts have been bouncing around in my head, it does force me to rethink how I need to evaluate this genre that has exploded with content.  As a result, I will be revisiting my 2008 Top 10 list and framing it differently.  I will also build out lists evaluating Marvel and DC separately; to try to do both together is a fool’s errand of the magnitude of one of Don Quioxte’s quests.  This will give me some content to develop over the next 1-2 months in between movie reviews and other items.

As always, comments are welcome below…

Oscar Nominations: Can Cameron Be Dethroned?

Well, Oscar nominations were announced a few days ago and I am still mulling over the choices.  I liked most of the nominations, but still can’t believe the power James Cameron seems to hold over Hollywood?  Avatar was definitely a technological wonder, on par with how Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and Lord of the Rings changed movies during their time with effects.  The story, while decent, was flimsy when compared to the other nominees.

But I am getting ahead of myself….

For each category, I will give my thoughts and picks (yes, I am committing them a month early).  I will save the big categories for last – that’s right, I am a mean writer….

The categories I know nothing about

The two Documentary categories and the Foreign Languages category will have to do without my witty thoughts.  I know nothing about the nominees, therefore it would be wrong of me to speculate.  The same is true for the two Short Film categories and the Costume Design Category.


More than likely Avatar will win this one, but Inglorious Basterds did a great job in capturing the look and feel of Nazi Germany without resorting to fancy tricks.  Harry Potter has the same old feel and The Hurt Locker looks like any other modern Middle-Eastern war flick.

Most Likely:  Avatar

Who I Want: Inglorious Basterds

Art Direction

Again, Avatar is the strong favorite.  I liked the look of Sherlock Holmes, but it was nothing extraordinary.  Nine has to overcome a high bar because it is a musical, so everyone expects a spectacle.  I could see an upset here with Doctor Parnassus sneaking in.

Most Likely : The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus


Star Trek will walk away with this one.

Visual Effects

Only three films nominated and all are sci-fi/fantasy.  Any other year and Star Trek takes this one.  But once again we have the buzzsaw of Avatar.

Most Likely:  Avatar

Who I Want:  Star Trek

Sound Editing

All 5 movies are strong candidates.  I do like the inclusion of an animated feature.  This is one that Avatar will have difficulty in winning, which is fine.  It can lose some of these races.

Most Likely:  The Hurt Locker

Who I Want: Up, but it is close with Star Trek

Sound Mixing

Again, all strong nominees – well, maybe all except Transformers, which was as bad on the ears as it was on the other 4 senses.  Again Avatar walks away empty-handed.

Most Likely:  Inglorious Basterds

Who I Want: Star Trek, but IB is not a bad choice

Original Score

This is a very tough category.  For me, it comes down to the two animated features.  Fantastic Mr. Fox had a quirky whimsy to it, but Up is more timeless.  If Avatar wins this one, then Cameron has sold his complete soul.

Most Likely: Up

Original Song

Disney has been missing from this category over the past few years, but I am not sure that even Randy Newman can help them grab the gold.  That said, Disney is about the only thing that could derail Crazy Heart.

Most Likely:  Crazy Heart

Screenplay Adapted

This is really a 2-dog race between Precious and Up In The Air.  The gold will go to Up In The Air as consolation for not winning anything else.

Most Likely: Up In The Air

Poised to Make an Upset: Precious

Screenplay Original

I see a dark horse rising with The Messenger or A Serious Man.

Most Likely:  The Messenger

Who I Want: Up

Supporting Actress

Mo’Nique is the heavy favorite and also satisfies Oscar’s desire to recognize someone not usually nominated.

Will Walk Away:  Mo’Nique

Supporting Actor

Christoph Waltz is the safe bet, but I see a dark horse.  Woody Harrelson has gotten  a lot of good press for The Messenger, but suffers from visibility.

Most Likely:  Christoph Waltz

For the Steal:  Woody Harrelson

Leading Actress

Sandra Bullock is riding a wave that is almost unstoppable.  Even if it is Meryl Streep that wins, this will be a huge upset if Bullock’s name is not read.

Will Walk Away:  Sandra Bullock

Leading Actor

Jeff Bridges finally gets rewarded for his career.  Tough break for all of the other candidates.

Will Walk Away:  Jeff Bridges


This is where the ex gets revenge.  One can only hope that James Cameron has no blackmail material on the voters.

Most Likely:  The Hurt Locker

Proof of No Backbone in Oscar: Avatar

Animated Feature

While I love Up, its spot should have gone to Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs.  Then Mr. Fox would have won this category.  But there is no way Oscar goes home with anyone in this category except Pixar.

Most Likely: Up

Best Picture

Thankfully, this is not a lock for Avatar.  The Hurt Locker is building momentum.  However, both should watch out for a Crash-like outcome from Precious.  Of course, I would love to see either of the Up movies win.

Most Likely:  Avatar (arrrrrgh)

Most Likely Upset: The Hurt Locker

Who I Want: Up or Up In The Air

So there you have it – my picks, as determined while sitting in an airport.  Cameron could have a Titanic-like night in one of two ways.  Way one is realistically with winning Oscar gold.  The figurative way is to walk away with only technical ones, thus “sinking” his dreams.  While many experts are putting stock in the fact that Avatar has no acting or writing nominations, one should be careful.  After all, Titanic had 11 nominations and only 3 wins, none coming from acting or writing.  Oscar would do itself a disservice to rehonor a film we saw in the early 90’s when it was called Dances With Wolves.

But, then again, look how long it took Martin Scorsese to earn Oscar Gold….

2000 – 2009: My Thoughts

Sure, everyone else posted their “top movie” lists for 2000-2009 last month; however, I wanted to do something different and I have it.  Instead of trying to pick 10 movies that to me represent the best of that time period, I would like to reflect upon the massive changes that have occurred.

Technology has had a greater influence on movies and how we enjoy them over the past 10 years than in the 80s and 90s combined.  In the 80s, we were coming out of the home video wars with VHS reigning supreme, and cable was still in its infancy.  ABC, CBS, and NBC would have bidding wars to become the first network to air certain movies that had been released in theaters in previous years.  This would bolster the lineups during sweeps months and everyone loved it.  Cable evolved in the 90s and stole the thunder of the networks by outbidding them to show these movies.  This led to the rise of TBS, TNT, and USA, as they used these movies to help build the channels; other cable channels would start following the same model.  The home video market remained the same for most of the 90s as VCRs became commonplace in homes and Disney started releasing its animation vault on VHS.  Blockbuster became the evil empire that nobody could knock off.  It was also during the 90s that theater admission prices started rising rapidly.  This was due in part to rising cost of movies, but also due to studios making sure they hit their profit margins with some people staying at home.

Towards the end of the 90s, two things appeared that changed the world of film forever: DVD and the Internet.

Sure, studios had experimented with laserdisc, but the price-point was never one that encouraged customers to buy.  After having DVD languish for the first couple of years, the studios tried a new ploy.  They started giving movies away for different promotions.  Buy this DVD player and get 5 DVDs free or buy this DVD and get this one free.  I rapidly built my collection between 2000-2002 using these promotions.  What forced me to go DVD, though, was Disney.  By releasing 6 animated features on DVD for a 6-month period, I was forced to switch to DVD to make sure I got them.  By 2003, VHS was pretty much dead and DVD was now commonplace.  However, the promotions had unexpected effect on Blockbuster – they actually helped reduce business since consumers were now building their own film libraries.

Meanwhile, the Internet was growing.  Not only from the proliferation of websites promoting a movie and websites (like this one) dedicated to talking about them, but from a piracy standpoint.  Why go pay $10 when I can stream it on the computer?  With the advent of digital editing in film, it became easy to leak copies of a movie days and months ahead of release schedules.  Maybe Spielberg is on to something by continuing to insist on editing his films by hand.  From a retail standpoint, Blockbuster never saw Netflix coming.  Allowing consumers to order DVDs at first and then later offer streaming choices, Netflix has made Blockbuster as unimportant as many of the “mom and pop” video stores it once crushed.

The Internet also helped force one of the nastiest Hollywood-based strikes that had ever been seen.  Writers and actors quickly realized that their material was being shown thousands of times more than their royalty checks indicated and studios did not want to cough up the extra profits.  This led to a stand-still that affected TV and movies; thankfully it ended within about 6 months and there was hardly any lapse in product.  The long-term effects are to be determined; the only one I have seen is the sharp rise in ticket prices.

Towards the end of the past 10 years, theaters started adding 3-D options and IMAX options.  I didn’t mind the 3-D – sure it was only $1 more and it added something to the experience.  I do mind now when the up-charge is now $3-$4 and there has been NO CHANGE in equipment or technology.  Then theaters started adding IMAX.  Growing up, IMAX was something to behold – a movie screen 4-6 stories high and a seat so close that you became immersed in the world.  What AMC and Regal have done is unforgivable: charging people an extra fee for an IMAX experience when it is not.  Taking a normal screen and pushing the seats closer does not make an IMAX experience.  Sadly, what will end up killing the theater business, particularly in this economic climate, will be the forcing of these up-charges and the elimination of student discounts.  It is high schoolers and college students that spend the most on movies; by eliminating their paltry $2 discount, the theaters are killing the golden goose.

So what’s ahead for 2010-2019?

I don’t know, but I fear it will include a downsizing of movie theaters as the Internet moves things more and more to the home…

For The Last Time, The Balcony Is Closed

Last year, I wrote an editorial regarding a dispute between Roger Ebert and Disney regarding the use of the “Thumbs” — In it, I expressed a desire to see Roger’s wish fulfilled of the everyone reuniting.

Unfortunately, it did not happen…

As noted in Roger Moore’s blogAin’t It Cool News, and Roger Ebert’s site, “Ebert & Roeper” (formally “Siskel & Ebert”) is no more.  Disney, Ebert, and Roeper could not come to agreement on several matters.  Roeper’s parting is noted in this article in the Chicago Sun-Times .

So it is with a whimper that an institution that changed the career paths for many reviewers and inspired many fans like me to enjoy the theater experience ends…

I do hope that Roger Ebert continues to inspire a love for movies for many and that he finds another way to reach the TV audience.

Unfortunately, I am upset at Disney for letting this die.  While I have been happy with most of the post-Eisner decisions, this one boggles me.  First they play hardball with the people who own the trademark and gave them this fruitful enterprise.  Then they refuse to come to terms with Roeper.  While I may not be a big fan of his, Roeper has done alright holding down the fort for Roger.  Disney had a prime opportunity to celebrate the ending in style if they wanted to end things — now it is marred with backstage talk of contract squabbles…

Until Gene and Roger are reunited in Heaven, the balcony remains closed…

That Old Familiar Tune

Back in November, I wrote an editorial as a response to’s article about the death of the movie theme song.  TAM readers easily noted that movie music means a lot to me.

So why does movie music deserve a second editorial?

Well, this one deals with the reuse of music within movies and TV.

Don’t get me wrong — I am aware of music having a finite number of ways of being arranged.  It is also unavoidable in movie series such as Star Wars.

So, I am sitting there one night, watching Moonlight on my DVR.  For those that do not know what that is, Moonlight was a show on CBS last season that dealt with a vampire detective that helped people (Hmm sounds like a show called Forever Knight or even more recently, Angel).  As the two lovebirds are enjoying a romantic moment, a song starts playing and it took me a few minutes to realize that it was from the Buffy TV soundtrack (not the musical) and was used in a similar situation.

Of course I got upset at this and started thinking about all of the times it has happened in movies.

At this point, I cue the rolling eyes of Spaldy since she knows what I am going to discuss next.

In movies, there is one example that rises above all others: John Williams.

I love his music and own several of his soundtracks.  One of those CDs is the Hook soundtrack.  Great music that really works with the music.  Which brings me to Harry Potter.  As much as I do enjoy the music, I can’t help but be irritated each time I hear the main theme, which is very similar to Hook.  I guess he figured that since Hook did not do well at the box office or in the music business, that no one would notice him ripping off major portions of it.

So why discuss this stuff?

Because, as an audience, we should care.  As much as we get upset at recycled movie plots, we should be equally upset at obvious recycling of music.  The music helps tie the story together and, at times, helps flesh out the emotions the director and writer wanted us to feel.

Think about that the next time you hum a tune from your favorite movie…