When Dominic and I recorded the most recent episode of Hard NOC Life, I mentioned the 25th anniversary of Batman Forever (as well as the 15th and 31st anniversaries for Batman Begins and Batman ’89, respectively, but more on the latter in a second). June used to be a big month for Batman movies. I mention those anniversaries as a launching point for a broader conversation about being a different kind of fan and accepting different interpretations of our favorite characters. And for the last few weeks, I had started reconsidering how I felt about certain films, including the double feature of Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, both directed by Joel Schumacher, who died of cancer on June 22.
The superhero genre — as we know it — was first birthed over seven decades ago in the pulpy pages of the 10-cent comic books. Mint copies of which that are now worth thousands, if not millions, of dollars. Not only are the books themselves more valuable, many of those original heroes are even more popular today than they were at their inception. Even the heroes who weren’t popular then have been resurrected to much critical acclaim today. We call this period of superhero storytelling “the Golden Age” of comics, but we are currently living in a new golden age of superhero storytelling, except the heroes have migrated from the four-color page to the fourteen-screen multiplex.
The fact that we can count on a new comic book superhero movie (or three) every year until infinity and beyond is both a blessing and a curse for the nerd contingent. For every billion-dollar grossing blockbuster that stars men in tights saving the universe — and it is almost always men — there are critics from both within and without nerdom that bemoan the genre’s grasp on pop culture and predict its demise every year. “Superhero fatigue,” it’s called. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is the latest film from writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu — best known for heavier, more melodramatic fare like Babel and 21 Grams — and it takes on the superhero genre, and the fatigue that may or may not come along with it, like no other film before it.
File this under “Things You Didn’t Know You Needed.”
Since another Oscar season has come and gone, and since — once again — nary a superhero flick was even in consideration, I’m sharing my Superhero Oscar list with you.
For the last several years, I’ve been keeping a running tally of all of the Batman and Superman alumni who have either won or been nominated for an Academy Award. This all started in 2006 when Nicole Kidman handed George Clooney the statue for his supporting turn in Syriana, and I realized, “Hey, these two were in (admittedly crappy) Batman movies!”
So I did what any Batfan with an internet connection and access to IMDB would do, I compiled a comprehensive list of all the cinematic Bat-actors and their Oscars. And it’s a long one! Last summer, in advance of the release of Man of Steel, I created a similar list for the cinematic Superman alumni as well.
The critics have been salivating over Alfonso Cuarón’s latest effort, the ambitious science fiction thriller Gravity. And don’t get it twisted: Gravity is pretty darned good. It’s visually and narratively haunting — one of the few contemporary movies that succeeds in marrying a high-concept story with the audience’s (admittedly low-brow) yearning to see things blow up. Also, Gravity is one of the year’s few films that fully takes advantage of 3D technology to establish the various environments that the characters encounter (although I confess I chose to watch Gravity in standard projection because 3D makes my head hurt).
So yes, Gravity is pretty darned good.
But, I just can’t shake the feeling that it could have been so much better.
Spoiler Alert! Please don’t read on if you don’t want Gravity spoiled for you.
When Warner Brothers announced that Ben Affleck was going to be the new Batman in the Man of Steel sequel, I had mixed feelings. Like Jenn said, I thought it was a very questionable casting choice considering his horrid display of acting chops in Pearl Harbor and Daredevil. Then again, I agreed with Keith that Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms, and I think that he has been slowly gaining street cred since he won the Oscar for Argo.
Then I immediately became nostalgic and pictured every single actor who has ever played Batman on the big screen. While their memorable Batman roles came to mind, I also thought of other films they have done that I really liked. As a nostalgic nerd of the ‘80s and ‘90s, of course those roles popped into my head first. A prime example is Michael Keaton, the first actor to grace the big screen as Batman in Tim Burton’s films from 1989 and 1992, respectively.