Wednesday, December 31, 2008


The death earlier this month of pin-up queen Bettie Page was the second half of a double loss this year; the first half was the death of comic artist and Bettie Page champion Dave Stevens, who I hadn't realized until now died this past March at an unfairly young age. Stevens was the originator of The Rocketeer, an infrequently-appearing comic that became a movie at one point. He had modeled the hero's love interest curve for curve on Page, and by doing so played a significant part in re-igniting Bettiemania. A book just came out celebrating his work. Along with Brian Bolland and a handful of others, Stevens helped to bring a refined, meticulous element into comic art in the late 70s and 80s, and we won't see pages like his again anytime soon.

Monday, December 22, 2008


Once I thought of printing this slogan on a bumper sticker; as with any good idea, I did not think of it first. Please remember this holiday season to honor Mithras and the Invincible Sun with the rites they are due. For an excellent article on the Greco-Roman mystery cult origins of Christmas, try this; or go here for Steven Fry's game-show take on the same topic. It continues to amaze how no one really knows where this once-widespread religion originated; Persia, as was commonly thought? Syria? Anatolia, as Ulansey theorizes? India?


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Opinion wanted? Opinion given.

I am thrilled with the look, feel, and news regarding the new Star Trek movie. The writers have said all of the right things, as has the director, who said this...

"First of all Star Trek is an incredibly optimistic world that Roddenberry was basically positing that not only do we live, but we thrive." Abrams said "And not just racially, but inter-species. The idea of ‘Star Trek' is trekking through stars and trekking through space and discovering the final frontier and it is something you take for granted or may think is silly, but when you actually think about that notion it is a very optimistic one. So part of what I love about the world of Star Trek before you even get to this film, I live its optimism."

Right thing to say.

For too long, the essence of STAR TREK has been caught up in mid-to-low production values. Yes, it could be argued, that's part of the charm. Many of us appreciate that. But if you have a good story with good characters, excellent production values never hurt. I think of David Goyer when I think of this. Recently, I watched the NICK FURY TV movie he wrote. Not bad. A relatively faithful whack at the mythos from the writer of DARK CITY, BATMAN BEGINS, and THE DARK KNIGHT. But low production values can sometimes be their own Peter Principle. You're only going to rise so high until you kick in some more scratch. Witness BATMAN BEGINS, on which no expense was spared to bring his vision to the screen.

(Yes, yes, I know. Limited budgets can sometimes fuel imaginations. As a director, let me tell you, having a bootload of money can stimulate the imagination a great deal, and can be more fun than "less is more." Money can't buy creativity, but it can really help release it.)

Now, I think there's room for Roddenberrian philosophy and slam-bang action. The original Trek mixed the two very well, and moments of the subsequent incarnations did, too.

So, there is a false dilemma if someone posits that they can have "Star Trek" or they can have well-funded action.

If this film pulls it off, George Lucas can finally be kicked in the pants. For too long, he (along with Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell) has been pushing STAR WARS as the science-fiction franchise with meaning. It (almost) instantly attained mythic status in the popular culture. It wasn't just science fantasy, we were told, it was important myth.


STAR TREK, on the other hand, was all about William Shatner impressions and mouth-breathing fans and bad special effects on tiny sound stages.

Well, maybe that's going to change.

The first, best change is the new cast. With a new cast, these characters become bigger than the original actors with whom they have been inextricably linked for forty-two years.

Now, we even get an origin/hero's journey monomyth to get the Campbellites off our cultural backs.

If this approach to STAR TREK gets the same jolt that Bond got from CASINO ROYALE and that Batman got from BATMAN BEGINS, we really can enter a new era. These characters can potentially attain the status enjoyed by characters like Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes. And, now that the dust has settled and everyone agrees that (seasons 3-7 of) DS9 was post-TOS Trek's finest hour, we can come back to the table appreciating TNG, but finally admitting that this mythos is as much about the characters as it is about their universe. This is a story about family. This is a story where one of the high concept special elements is the notion that humanity has shed its prejudices and superstitions. People always approach that idea (because it threatens them out of their lazy pessimism and charges that they, too, have the potential to clean up their act) of an evolved humanity as STAR TREK's weakness. They don't understand that it is as much of a "cool gadget" as the transporter and warp drive. It is the science fiction equivalent of Superman's heat vision. It is the "cool factor."

And better than heat vision, it's a cool factor to which we can actively aspire. It is a call to action. It is a reassurance that, just as we kicked sexism, racism, widespread illiteracy, and slavery out of the pool (in the more enlightened regions of the world), we can do the same thing with our other cultural shortcomings.

With slam-bang action, too.

From interviews with the director and writers, they seem to revere Roddenberry's ideas a lot more than Rick Berman did. Good for them.

And the final reassurance is Nimoy. They asked Nimoy to direct GENERATIONS. Nimoy said, "No. Not with that script."

Nimoy doesn't need money. He's retired from acting. From all accounts, he is very happy taking pictures of naked, fat women.

Nimoy has always been the "integrity cop." Always a thorn in Roddenberry's side when Gene wanted to cut a moral corner. Always a thorn in Paramount's side when they tried to sell off the images of the actors without paying them. Yes, he participated in STAR TREK V, as an actor, but that was to stand by his friend, Bill Shatner, and try to shepherd him through his first movie. And a lot of V's problems have to do with Paramount shortchanging Shatner like they'd never shortchanged Nimoy.

So, when Nimoy approved of things, I felt good. He's the last guy to sell out for the money. And I don't think the writers are sell-outs, either. If they were, they'd have jimmied Shatner in. But they couldn't, so they didn't.

Now, does the new film mess with continuity? Yeah. But Shakespeare had the characters in JULIUS CAESAR talk about clocks, so continuity reverence is nice, but good stories can be told without it.

STAR TREK may finally be getting the respect it's earned. Who's to say that Chris Pine won't be Jeremy Brett to Shatner's Basil Rathbone?


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?