Friday, August 23, 2013

Sour Note Symphonies

If stale beer on mouldy linoleum had a soundtrack, it would be country music. Holy shit. There are some guys working on tearing up the floor in the kitchen right now and they brought their own little radio which they've tuned to the local country station. Somewhere in my mind was an awareness of how bad country music is but I'd kind of forgotten. It's like a slow French kiss with Karl Malden's two week old corpse in the middle of a dead wheat field on a very dry and hot summer day. It's like discovering you accidentally put tar on your peanut butter and honey sandwich instead of honey and then realised the peanut butter is two years out of date. It's stupefyingly bad.* I'm just glad I can't hear it when I have my own music playing in my bedroom here.

I suppose this is close to how repulsed most of the internet seems to be by the fact that Ben Affleck's been cast as Batman for the sequel to Man of Steel. Maybe I'd care if I had bothered to see Man of Steel. It's unlikely I'll feel too compelled to see the sequel. So mostly I'm just amused. This really is incredibly bad casting. And, as I did in my review of Argo, I have to qualify this by saying I don't hate Ben Affleck. I didn't hate Argo, either, though I didn't especially love it. He's simply not . . . Batman. A lot of people are pointing out that this was like when Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker, except it really isn't. Heath Ledger had Brokeback Mountain under his belt at that point, a movie in which, whether they admitted it or not, everyone who saw it knew Ledger had given a beyond brilliant performance. And it was a character unlike any Ledger had played before.

Ben Affleck has always pretty much just played Ben Affleck. I guess the most un-Affleckian role he's played was the renegade angel in Dogma but even there he seemed like a douchier version of Affleck. He was basically identical to his character in Mallrats.

It gets even funnier when one is reminded that Zack Snyder wants to model this Batman and Superman relationship on the one in The Dark Knight Returns, that Affleck is supposed to be playing an aged Batman. Affleck is one of those guys who's probably going to sound youthful when he's 80. He just has a boy voice and he always will, like Mickey Rooney or Leonardo DiCaprio. Or Frank Miller.

Frank Miller, who in the 80s wrote The Dark Knight Returns, is rumoured to be a consultant on the Man of Steel sequel. Miller's never quite equalled the heights he reached in The Dark Knight Returns and in the past decade his writing has sometimes been simply embarrassing. Still, I'm amused imagining him trying to digest this casting.

Again, I don't hate Ben Affleck. I loved Chasing Amy. If you're casting a regular, young, not especially bright nice guy, I say go with Affleck. Nothing about any of his previous roles suggests he could portray someone who, haunted by the violent deaths of his parents, channels intense and weird issues over decades into an obsessive endeavour to battle crime.

Though if Affleck is blamed for bringing down the movie industry for this, I'd say that's unfair. It's true, this movie the studio will certainly bank on to be a blockbuster will almost certainly be a bomb, and Spielberg and Lucas recently predicted a couple more disasters like that would radically change the industry and I think they're right. In fact, I think Man of Steel is a demonstration of how the industry is already changing--the studio basically gerrymandered its opening to insure a profit with product placement and early screenings. Lucky for them, too, since it dropped off the top ten in the box office with shocking speed. The inclusion of Batman in the next film is a sure sign the studio is fully aware that this Superman could never stand on his own in a sequel and it's a sign the studio believes it can't acknowledge this Superman can't stand on his own. They're bluffing in a high stakes game against Marvel here and they're in the process of losing big.

Betting on Affleck is like buying stock in Sears. What safer bet could there be than the director and star of the recent Best Picture winner? Apparently minds were too slow to learn anything from the fact that Heath Ledger didn't win Best Actor for Brokeback Mountain. Anyone want to watch Crash (2004) again? Yeah, I didn't think so.

*I'm talking about modern radio country, I should say. I kind of like Johnny Cash and forays Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan take into country.

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