Spoiler-free: Marvel’s Daredevil

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I wasn’t originally planning to stay up overnight to watch DAREDEVIL, but frustration with my current WIP and a 20% off deal on beer at my local supermarket seemed to suggest that the world was conspiring to make me blow off a little steam. Which I did.

There won’t be any serious spoilers in this post, but I do want to talk about it in a general way. The show does several things very well:

In the first few episodes, Foggy is charismatic as hell. His relationship with Matt is funny and real, and the delight they take in their interplay contrasts powerfully with the pain in disillusionment they feel as the story progresses. And he’s not the only one. This show is really well cast.

Obviously, D’Onofrio has the flashiest role as Wilson Fisk, the crimelord villain of the piece, and he plays it against type. Instead of the smooth and commanding figure of the comics (and the previous movie), he plays Fisk as perpetually awkward and uncomfortable, without any of the presence and charisma of movie crime bosses. It’s a weird choice; it undercuts the power and efficacy of the show’s antagonists, making them seem less threatening.

But this isn’t really about the power fantasy of overcoming a seemingly unbeatable foe. There are power fantasy elements, obviously, but the show wisely undercuts them. For instance, after a (blessedly brief) origin scene which lasts less than two minutes, the show cuts to Matt Murdoch in the confessional, talking for at least three times the length of that “origin” scene about his dad, his father’s boxing career, and the violence he had inside him. The show is much more concerned with the characters’ histories, their damage, and their vulnerabilities than they are in feats of power.

Not that there aren’t plenty of fight scenes. There are, and they’re also well done. Guys who choreograph ARROW, take note.

Early trailers had a lot of viewers complaining that Daredevil was sporting all black with a Dread Pirate Roberts mask rather than the costume from the comics, but once the costume shows up, it doesn’t look nearly as cool as that black suit did. Sorry, I’m a DD fan, too, of a sort, but the simple black costume was way more effective than the devil suit.

But what really makes this show work is the paranoia and helpless despair the characters have to endure in the face of wealth and power in a thoroughly corrupt system. No one can be trusted. No one is safe. The hero can venture out in a mask and kick the crap out of bad guys, but he takes a helluva beating doing it.

Frankly, this is the first superhero show/movie to capture a winning noir tone since BATMAN BEGINS. Everyone, heroes and villains alike, are in tenuous positions. Everyone has loved ones they fear for. Everyone has powers working against them. Everyone thinks of themselves as the hero.

It’s a good show. I recommend it.

Daredevil and Binge Watching

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The Daredevil Netflix series premieres today. If you see me online, it’s because it’s boring and I’m looking for something else to do.

Or that I’m taking a break or something.

Anyway, I’ve never binge-watched a TV series before. I’ve done a few episodes at a time, but a whole season? First attempt. I hope I hate it, for the sake of my productivity.

Randomness for 3/15

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1) Movie posters redesigned using only circles.

2) Completely amazing: All the silences in an episode of Dr. Phil. Video.

3) An analysis of one of The Dark Knight’s action sequences, to examine why so many people found it incoherent. Video.

4) Concepts With Which Boys at Parties Have Asked Me if I’m Familiar: a Spreadsheet

5) Best OKCupid profile ever.

6) A brand new thirteen-story apartment building in Shanghai tipped over. Only one death, because the building was so new it was unoccupied.

7) Ten “Things You Didn’t Know” about Led Zeppelin IV.

Randomness for 12/21

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1) Get your rage on with this complete ranking over every Star Trek episode ever.

2) 22 pictures that prove we live in the future.

3) There’s an “atmospheric river” flooding California.

4) What colour is it? The time of day expressed as a hexidecimal color.

5) Pixel art illustrations that tell a personal story.

6) The relationship between coffee and mesmerism, and the importance of morning rituals. Video.

7) Unused audio commentary by Howard Zinn and Noam Chomnsky, recorded summer 2002, for the Fellowship of the Ring (extended edition) DVD.

Randomness for 9/26

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1) The 50 Dorkiest Songs You Love. NB: you don’t have to tell me you personally don’t love some or all of them. I know.

2) Edgar Wright – How to do visual comedy. Video. This is excellent and shows why I find modern comedy so incredibly boring.

3) Joaquin Phoenix’s Forehead (Rotated). Video. So weird and funny.

4) Anonymous Gods. The computers at Google automatically blur the faces of famous religious statuary.

5) Netflix’s new spoiler website. #spoilers

6) Malkovitch Malkovitch Malkovitch Malkovitch.

7) Robert Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, Charles Manson & the Birth of Cults

Rolling my eyes at THE BLACKLIST

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Probably the least effective promotional tool (for me, personally) is an image of James Spader in a fedora, but that’s all over the ads for the second season of THE BLACKLIST, his latest TV show. I had little interest when the first season aired (I watched two shows last year, both derived from comic books) but when S1 appeared on Netflix Streaming I felt a little poke in my curiosity bone, and I gave it a try.

The premise: Spader plays Raymond Reddington, one of those super-criminals who travels all over the world doing favors and generally playing fixit for other bad guys. He has a background in military intelligence and a mysterious, tragic incident that prompted him to disappear and become a baddie. Essentially, his backstory is a dead wife and daughter, the first two female characters fridged on the show. After decades on the Most Wanted List, he turns himself in to the FBI, volunteering to be an informant in exchange for immunity. He promises to give them criminals so secret the government hasn’t even heard of them, but he’ll only talk to one person, an obscure young agent no one has ever heard of.

The show is cheesy from the start, but it opens with mystery: What’s Reddington doing? Why this young woman in particular? What *really* happened to Reddington’s family? Is the young agent’s husband really who he says he is?

So it’s cheese, but it’s smart, fast-moving cheese. (Contrast that with FOREVER.) This is one of those shows where the cops get into gunfights all the time, shoot people, then brush it off. It’s also one of those shows where the criminals they chase are all evil masterminds of their fields. Usually, their so good that no one even realizes they’re committing crimes.

Sadly, they have a habit of fridging their female characters. Supporting character Agent Action-Hero gets to reunite with his ex only to lose her tragically. Tragically, I tell you? And the season finale threatens to bump off three series regulars, but only the woman is really gone.

They should be smarter than that.

The whole thing is exaggerated as hell. The mystery behind Reddington’s list, the over-the-top quality of the eeeevil plots, the constant uncertainty of who can be trusted, all reminds me of some best-selling thriller novels, and it’s been interesting to study.

But the second season premiered last night and I skipped it, because while it’s fun, it also feels like it ran it’s course. Still, it’s an interesting exercise in popular entertainment.

Randomness for 9/11

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1) X-men mashed up with The Smiths.

2)
Five Classic Authors Who Hated Their Book Covers (and One Who Got His Ass Kicked as a Result)

3) Scrublands: photographs of people who live off the grid.

4) Rupert Giles plans coursework for an MLS.

5) Everything you need to know about 5th ed D&D.

6) Beautiful animated gifs. h/t @keithcalder

7) “Every year, Americans spend nearly three times as much on candy as they do on public libraries.”