Otto's Coffee Shop
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Friday, July 30, 2004
No Excuse

Sorry posting has been so light around here lately. With no Internet connection at home (seriously, anyone know a decent dial-up provider I can use for a month with no strings attached?), a long commute and -gasp- actually working while at work (I know this may shock some of you, but I actually do work), blogging has taken a back seat for a bit.

Mrs. Coffee Shop is out of town this weekend, though, so maybe I'll find time to rip myself away from the booze, drugs and porn of the faux-single life to finish a couple of half-started posts that I can put up on Monday (or throughout the week). Then again, I may just catch up on my sleep and forego the blogging, booze, drugs and porn altogether.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Comics: Huge Week

Ever since I started ordering my comics via mail order, I've found myself checking Diamond's Shipping List much less regularly than I used to when I was an every Wednesday kinda guy. But today, I had a moment to kill, so I thought I'd check the list and see what I can expect in this month's big box o' comics. All I have to say is "hokey smokes!" Were I an every Wednesday guy, this Wednesday would kill my wallet:

Crisis on Multiple Earths v. 3 (feeding my Earth 2 fetish)
DC The New Frontier #5 (how do I love this book? Let me count the ways)
Powers TPB v. 6: The Sellouts (didn't this finish like a year ago?)
B. Krigstein Comics HC (I've been waiting for this one forever, it seems like)
Bone Collected Edition (Never read it, so I hope it's good)
Cerebus v. 16 (Now it's time to read the entire second half)
Finder v. 6 (love this series!)
Kyle Baker Cartoonist v. 2 (Is this the one with the Nat Turner bio? I love Baker, but these books seem somewhat inconsequential)
Paul Auster's City of Glass (I love Auster, and I've heard a lot about Mazzucelli's art on this adaptation)

Luckily, all of these books have been paid for in advance, so I'm not concerned about how I'm going to afford them. Now all I have to do is explain how *we* afforded them to Mrs. Coffee Shop when the box shows up next week.

Movies: Spider-Man No More!

Sorry I haven't been posting very much lately; I promise to post more regularly when I finally get an Internet hook-up at home. Speaking of which, does anyone know of a relatively cheap dial-up provider I could use for six weeks or so until September, when my Dee Ess Ell is finally hooked up? From what I can tell, both Earthlink and AOL require service commitments, which I'm unwilling to get involved in since I only need access for a short period.

I spent the weekend doing more work around the house: unpacking, sorting clothes to give to Goodwill, finally getting our living room furniture which we bought a month ago. I did come across one gem when sorting through my clothes to get rid of: a gen-u-wine t-shirt from Ottos' Malt Shop, the college hang-out from whence this here blog derives it's name. I think I'll be hanging on to that one for a while longer yet.

I also saw Spider-Man 2 (finally) and, well, I was underwhelmed. Don't get me wrong, I think Raimi and his writers and actors "got" Peter Parker and his world pretty well. My problem is with the Spider-Man sequences. While I am by no means a hardcore Spider-fan, what I've read of the wall-crawler shows that Spider-Man is Peter's way of letting loose. Spider-Man has fun. He quips. Constantly. That's his schtick. Peter's life sucks (even though I think Raimi laid it on a little thick for a two-hour movie), but Spider-Man loves what he does. I think Spidey only quipped once in the whole movie, and that was during the bank robbery sequence, so it just didn't feel like Spider-Man. Maybe the reason why they played him more like Spidey from The Electric Company was because Maguire can't seem to talk without his voice cracking, but whatever the reason, it really bothered me that Spidey seemed so serious.

I do have to give them credit for giving the CGI Spider-Man sequences more weight than they had in the first one (my one real complaint about that movie upon subsequent viewings).

Some of the casting was likewise spot-on: JK Simmons' JJJ stole every scene he was in (then again, Simmons' Schillinger stole every scene he was in on Oz, so that was expected). Rosemary Harris played Aunt May almost better than she was ever portrayed in the comics; she's got her problems, but she provides a firm center for Peter that I never felt was there in the comics, where she seemed to exist only to be sick or to be put into danger. Other casting wasn't quite there. Bill Nunn's Robbie Robertson struck me as a comic relief yes-man (with powdered white hair no less) instead of a serious journalist. As for James Franco's Harry Osborn, well, the less said the better.

And the leads? Alfred Molina is great as Doc Ock, though I wish they hadn't played up the mind control/duality business again, since they did that with Normal Osborn/The Green Goblin in the last installment. In fact, I was surprised at how little they used Doc Ock, given how over-used scenery chewing villains usually are in superhero movies. Kirsten Dunst's MJ was pretty good. It's a different MJ than the life-of-the-party supermodel from the comics, but Dunst does a good job in the role. Tobey Maguire? He's okay, I guess. The voice cracking bugs me, as do the weepy eyes whenever he sees MJ, but I don't know who could capture the necessary nerdiness of Peter better than him.

I suppose my only other comment on the movie is that Spider-Man is a different creature than Batman or Superman (aside from the obvious hyphen). Batman and Superman stories can work in sporadic episodes: you have the main characters who can be introduced and given back-story pretty quickly, they fight the baddies, but they never age, and they never stop doing what they do. They're really pretty stagnant characters and, aside from the Clark-Lois-Superman triangle, there isn't much in the way of a continuing story.

Spider-Man, on the other hand, was created as a soap opera. His stories are serial in nature. He changes, matures, learns, develops relationships (which also change); in short, things happen in Spidey's world. Raimi spends a fair amount of the movie developing the relationships (the soap opera), setting up the elements which create strife/heartache in Peter's life (his constant living paycheck to paycheck, Aunt May's pending eviction, MJ's engagement to John Jameson, etc). But it feels like he's trying to fit an entire season of Dawson's Creek into two hours. Oh and they have to have a couple super-villain battles, too. I think that's why Spidey works best for me in shorter, but more regular installments. The nineties cartoon was probably one of the best non-comics Spidey stories ever because it was allowed room to breathe and develop.

If they want to continue with the Spidey franchise on the big screen, here's what I think they should do (and I know that this would be pretty unprecedented): recast the leads and lock them into several year contracts (it's no secret that neither Dunst nor Maguire want to keep doing these movies beyond the next one). Shoot 10-13 episodes of an hour long TV show (maybe HBO would be willing to put up the budget?) which build up the soap opera and possibly the villain's backstory. Air 2/3 of the episodes leading up to a big screen movie in which we see Spidey and the villain unleash on one another, then air the final third of the episodes 2-3 months after the movie comes out, showing the fallout of the actions in the movie. The movie would stand on it's own as a summer action tentpole, and would be the main action set piece for the Spidey franchise, but it wouldn't get bogged down in soap opera. The show wouldn't have much in-costume Spider action (to keep the budget down), but it would build all the soap opera elements (maybe adding in Gwen Stacy, and building up a Flash Thompson and a Betty Brant) which would all come to a head in the movie. Then, in a year or two when the next movie is ready to go, shoot and air 10 more episodes of the series as build up.

Hey, it could work!

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