Fred Rogers saved both public television and the VCR.
When the government wanted to cut Public Television funds in 1969, the relatively unknown Mister Rogers went to Washington. Almost straight out of a Capra film, his 5-6 minute testimony on how TV had the potential to give kids hope and create more productive citizens was so simple but passionate that even the most gruff politicians were charmed. While the budget should have been cut, the funding instead jumped from $9 to $22 million. Rogers also spoke to Congress, and swayed senators into voting to allow VCR’s to record television shows from the home. It was a cantankerous debate at the time, but his argument was that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family.
Read more facts about Mr. Rogers here. (From MentalFloss.com)
Nearly 70 years after “Batman” #1 first hit stands, there still is really only one name that perfectly fits the Dark Knight’s greatest adversary, a villain alternately portrayed as a harmless prankster and a vicious sociopath, a man who’s equal parts deranged, goofy, psychotic and comical: the Joker.
“Lightning in a bottle,” “Batman: The Animated Series” co-creator Bruce Timm said of the character. “Just a brilliant creation.”
What makes the Joker so brilliant, and why has he remained Batman’s greatest foe? We took a look at his various incarnations throughout history, up to and including his appearance in “The Dark Knight,” to find out.
Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger for the comic book’s first issue in 1940, the Joker — with his green hair, white skin and permanent smile — was based on photos of Conrad Veidt from the silent film “The Man Who Laughs.” Since then, he has remained the most prominent villain in Batman’s increasingly large gallery of rogues. This early version of the Joker was a straightforward mass murderer whose appearance alone seemed to set him apart.
“And it’s weird, because it’s not like Batman is the Human Torch, and his nemesis would be the Human Ice Cube,” Timm laughed. “A clown is not the antithesis of a bat.”
Except most bats, of course, aren’t this particular Bat — a man who has dedicated his life to ridding the world of evil, using cold, hard logic, an unwavering moral code and a strict adherence to the rules of justice.
“If you just told the Joker story, you’re talking about a guy with clown makeup on who’s psychotic,” comic-book legend Jeph Loeb surmised. “What makes him interesting is that it frustrates the hell out of Batman, who is a detective who needs to follow a series of clues in order to resolve an issue. It’s living in a very logical world. The Joker, meanwhile, is someone who doesn’t follow any rules. He’s a complete question mark capable of anything. All you get with the Joker is — ready for the pun of the year? — a wild card.”
The Joker spent his first few decades as that wild card, imagined mostly as a harmless prankster. This version of the character reached his nadir as portrayed by Cesar Romero on the “Batman” television show of the 1960s. His appearance never changed, but his motivations and crimes did. He ceased to be an anarchist and became, instead, yet another themed criminal.
It wasn’t until the ’70s and ’80s that the Joker went back to his roots (permanently it would seem), becoming both a vicious killer and a true mirror to Batman — someone who would go to any length to point out the absurdity of his enemies’ mundane lives, whether that meant capturing or torturing Commissioner Gordon, paralyzing his daughter, Barbara, or even killing the second Robin, Jason Todd.
But it was with Batman himself that the Joker would have his sweetest laughs.
“You had a bad day once, am I right?” the Joker asks Batman in the 1988 comic book “The Killing Joke.” “I know I am. I can tell. You had a bad day, and everything changed.”
“As cool as Batman is, he’s kind of a stuffed shirt,” Loeb said. “The Joker is somebody who can make fun of that, point out the absurdity that it’s a good idea when your parents are killed in the street in front of you to go dress up like a bat. It’s an incredibly insane plan.”
By the time Tim Burton’s “Batman” live-action film came around in 1989, the Joker changed yet again. This time he was given a backstory that made him the man who killed the Waynes. Played by Jack Nicholson, the Joker was a stone-cold killer, but also a little bit campy, a little bit frivolous, a little bit too funny, perhaps.
“We both come from the cartoon world originally. We had similar ideas. Tim [Burton] said [the Joker] should have a humorous dark side to him,” Jack Nicholson MTV News last year.
Dark and humorous, yes, but maybe also too heroic. And how could he not be as played by Nicholson?
“The Joker was portrayed in that film as someone who’s likable, as someone who acts as a wish fulfillment part of us. It really is the idea that within us all is that notion that if you could get away with murder, you would murder someone,” Loeb asserted. “I find that message to be extremely disappointing in terms of human nature, but you can’t deny that that’s what makes film interesting.”
It would be 19 years before the Joker was given another shot at big-screen glory, in this summer’s “The Dark Knight.” Played by the late Heath Ledger, this Joker doesn’t crack jokes, he cracks skulls. He’s the embodiment of anarchy, an evil made all the more terrifying because he’s made real. His plan? Show Batman how absurd the world is by blowing up just about everything that he can.
Whether it’s been Romero, Nicholson or Ledger behind the makeup, however, and whether he’s been a maniac or a prankster, a clown or a killer, one thing has always remained constant with the Joker: the laugh — a laugh that with each breath seems to say he’s the only sane man in an insane world.
So, why so serious? Because for nearly 70 years the joke has been on Batman. (Reprinted from MTV Movie News)
Improv Everywhere recruited 16 sets of identical twins for their latest project. Twice, they loaded the twins onto a subway train for a performance. Eight sets participated in the first outing, ten in the second, which is the one in the video. Get more details and see lots of photos at Improv Everywhere.
Channel 4 in the UK has painstakingly recreated the set of Stanley Kubrick horror film The Shining, complete with look-a-likes of the crew and cast members including Shelley Duvall, for a TV ad to promote a More 4 season of the director’s films.More information can be read here. (From the Guardian)
The new issue of Empire magazine has this new promo photo of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine for 20th Century Fox’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, opening May 1, 2009. Directed by Gavin Hood from a David Benioff, the action-thriller co-stars Liev Schreiber, Ryan Reynolds, Taylor Kitsch, Will.i.am, Danny Huston, Dominic Monaghan, Daniel Henney and Lynn Collins.
Leading up to the events of X-Men, X-Men Origins: Wolverine tells the story of Wolverine’s epically violent and romantic past, his complex relationship with Victor Creed, and the ominous Weapon X program. Along the way, Wolverine encounters many mutants, both familiar and new, including surprise appearances by several legends of the X-Men universe. (From ComingSoon.net)
While walking back to my Boston hotel after a surprisingly well-attended Tuesday afternoon showing of Bryan Bertino’s horror thriller The Strangers, I found myself musing on what’s scary and what’s not. Whatever it is, The Strangers had enough of it to do incredibly well at the box office. But what makes such a little film with only one star (Liv Tyler) work in the first place? That the question interests me shouldn’t amaze anyone, since I’ve worked in the scare-’em-silly field for years. And it must be of vital interest to Twentieth Century Fox, which this summer releases two movies in the genre with much higher budgets: The Happening and The X-Files: I Want to Believe. The Happening was better than I expected, but it wasn’t as scary as The Strangers. As for The X-Files (out July 25)? Children, I have my doubts.
One thing that seems clear to me, looking back at the 10 or a dozen films that truly scared me, is that most really good horror films are low-budget affairs with special effects cooked up in someone’s basement or garage. Among those that truly work are Carnival of Souls, Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Night of the Living Dead, and The Blair Witch Project. All cost almost nothing to make and earned millions, while their sequels and remakes were crap (Dawn of the Dead in both its incarnations being the exception that proves the rule).
Horror is an intimate experience, something that occurs mostly within oneself, and when it works, the screams of a sold-out house are almost intrusive. In that sense, a movie such as Blair Witch is more like poetry than like the ”event films” that pack the plexes in summer. Those flicks tend to be like sandwiches overstuffed with weirdly tasteless meat and cheese, meals that glut the belly but do nothing for the soul. Studio execs, who not only live behind the curve but seem to have built mansions there, don’t seem to understand that most moviegoers recognize all the bluescreens and computer graphics of big-budget films and flick them aside. Those movies blast our emotions and imaginations, instead of caressing them with a knife edge.
The scariest sequence I can remember is in Night of the Living Dead. The cemetery-visiting heroine, Barbara, is chased back to her car by a lurching zombie with white hair and dazed eyes. She locks herself in only to discover her brother has taken the keys. The zombie reaches down, finds a rock, and begins to bash it strengthlessly against the car window. The first time I saw this (and twice after), the scene reduced me to jelly.
Of Fox’s two summer creepshows, give the edge to The Happening, partly because M. Night Shyamalan really understands fear, partly because this time he’s completely let himself go (hence the R rating), and partly because after Lady in the Water he had something to prove. And, happily, Happening plays as a relatively small movie. The new X-Files movie, on the other hand, looks big…but horror is not spectacle, and never will be. Horror is an unknown actress, perhaps the girl next door, cowering in a cabin with a knife in her hands we know she’ll never be able to use. Horror is the scene in The Strangers where Liv Tyler tries to hide beneath the bed…and discovers she can’t fit there.
One more problem: Big movies demand big explanations, which are usually tiresome, and big backstories, which are usually cumbersome. If a studio is going to spend $80 or $100 million in hopes of making $300 or $400 million more, they feel a need to shove WHAT IT ALL MEANS down the audience’s throat. Is there a serial killer? Then his mommy didn’t love him (insert flashback). A monster from outer space? Its planet exploded, of course (and the poor misunderstood thing probably needs a juicy Earth woman to make sexy with). But nightmares exist outside of logic, and there’s little fun to be had in explanations; they’re antithetical to the poetry of fear.
That’s why I can’t imagine that anything in X-Files will match Liv Tyler’s exchange with one of the masked home invaders in one particularly terrifying scene of The Strangers.
”Why are you doing this to us?” she whispers.
To which the woman in the doll-face mask responds, in a dead and affectless voice: ”Because you were home.”
In the end, that’s all the explanation a good horror film needs. (Reprinted from Entertainment Weekly)
When it comes to food, America gets a bad rap. It’s a common refrain that America has no cuisine to call our own. We’ve got apple pie and hot dogs, but that’s about it. (And when you really get down to it, the Germans invented hot dogs, and the British were eating apple pie like 1,000 years ago.
But the truth is, America does have a cuisine to call it’s own. Over the past 232 years we’ve invented some of the most creative, daring, and yes, downright craziest dishes the world has ever seen. Sure, they can be overly greasy, a little too cheesy, and sometimes fried a few times too many. But they’re ours.
Please click here for the list. (From EndlessSimmer.com)