Today’s Sketch is two admittedly rushed sketches from the Portland Art Museum. (I had my camera with me and that always plays havoc with my ability to draw.) Two examples of neoclassical sculpture, The Dead Pearl Diver by Benjamin Paul Akers and Medusa by Franklin B. Simmons. New England art museums are full of pieces like this and I frequently find myself thinking of them (unfairly) as the rich’s answer to clowns on black velvet.
For the most part I spent it like I had every other year. That is to say treating it like just any other office day while waiting for the sun to set. (I’m happy to say I was actually much more productive than I have been in past years.
Unlike last year I left at six rather than right before actual sunset which gave me about two hours to take in the scene. Usually the crowd begins to get to me in about fifteen minutes, but this year I it wasn’t quite as crowded as it has been in past years and this time I brought a book. With that I enjoyed watching the festivities. The band Pickwick was playing and it was fun watching the going ons I was almost tempted to sample the fair grub but quickly decided against it. (Nothing kills the appetite faster than six dollar corn dogs.) Despite the fact the day had some of the best weather we’ve had all “summer” I was beginning to get cold from just starnding around. (nest time I think I’ll add a sweatshirt to my kit.)
I was glad when the fireworks came. It’s not like I wasn’t having fun but lets say you know you’ve been somewhere too long when you get in the line to the port o johns just to pass the time. THe fireworks as always were spectacular with the exception of the music. I don’t know why I always let this get to me, perhaps it’s a subconscious need for ritual, but this is the one day where I expect patriotism to be proselytized blatantly, this is the day where I want gravitas, dammit! So while the fireworks were nicely choreographed to the music why did it have to be that music? Not counting the “God bless America” crescendo the only “patriotic” song in the lineup was by Neil Diamond! As I asked last year, Where’s the Copland? Where’s the Sousa? Bernstein? I’ll even settle for music that’s overtly jingoistic even if it’s not specifically about this country like the 1812 overture.
Pause for breath
Anyway after the show I waited until the park closed to leave on the hope that the congestion on the Burke-Gilman trail would thin out. It didn’t but it was worth a try. All in all a very pleasant way to spend the holiday and I hope everyone had a wonderful time as well.
Let me tell me tell you what I was expecting from the Amazing Spider-Man… Nothing… Zip… nada… Certainly I was expecting good adrenaline rush, fight scenes and special effects but you can get those in a Michael Bay film. I’ll be honest I hadn’t even been bracing myself with the prejudice of lowered expectations. If it hadn’t been for the free pass I hadn’t been planning on seeing it in the theater.
Have I ever mentioned that sometimes it’s nice to be wrong?
The Amazing Spider-Man, directed by Marc Webb, was a very pleasant surprise. I hadn’t been looking forward to the reboot of the franchise. Not because I liked where the Sam Raimi trilogy ended with but because I really didn’t want them to start over again. I had hoped that for once I had hoped that Hollywood had faith in the average viewer and tried something different, a complex and new story that challenged everyone. That being said the execution of the origin story was very well done and given gravitas. The sci-fi techno-babble of Peter’s origin story convincing and Martin Sheen’s performance as Uncle Ben made you really believe his death would inspire Peter to be greater than he could possibly be.
I’m not going to say it was perfect. After all, while I liked how they did it, the origin story was still a retread and suffered in the same way all superhero films that deal with the hero’s origin suffer. They always feel like two short film’s sewn together. The first being the origin and the second being the hero’s first encounter with their first real villain. The second acts of these stories always feel slightly tacked on no matter the spectacle. Also it was fairly obvious this film is intended to be the first of a series and I’m not completely sure how well they pulled this off. I’ve noticed more than once that a lot of these series starters (at least the ones that are intentionally the beginning of a series) suffer from a certain indecisiveness. You can tell that they want this to be the first step but at the same time they never seem to be sure whether they have convinced the production company to commit. Because of this, despite dropping hints of more stories, they remain self-contained and whenever this happens they seem to trip up every single time. The other problem I had was this was one of the most blatant examples of “Dawson Casting” I’d seen in a while. (Yeah Gwen, we really believe you’re seventeen)
But what ever I may think about certain characters being too old, it was the cast of this film that made everything work Andrew Garfield played Peter Parker/Spider-Man as a awkward intelligent young man but not as the usual cliche science nerd who is nothing but a doormat until he gets bitten. Emma Stone was excellent as Gwen Stacy making us care for her and worry (provided the next couple of films follow the comic books.) Sally Fields was wonderful as a loving, worrying and long suffering Aunt May. (She may not guess her nephew’s secret but his weird hours and occasional bruises makes it clear to her that he has one. ) Rhys Ifans as Dr Connor served as a flawed roll model who’s breakdown both mentally physically to become the film’s villain. But all in all I think my favorite performance was Denis Leary as Captain Stacy who acts as both an antagonist and as kind of a counterpoint to Sheen’s Uncle Ben in molding Peter’s development as a hero. Even the smaller parts were impressive, well thought out and not the usual clichés the best example of this was Chris Zylka as Flash Thompson instead of writing him as the usual Jock/Bully (even though he clearly was) the writers suggested that he and Peter had a history that was not entirely antagonistic.
All in all while The Amazing Spider-Man may not had everything I was hoping for. It was a very enjoyable way to spend two hours and seventeen minutes. And definitely will get a positive ranking on my live action comic book movie list. (Despite thinking all of the skinks accompanying the Lizard were a little too active for the New York climate.)
For the most part I’ve been completely neutral about the new Spider-Man movie. Sure having my ear close to all of the comic geek gossip so I’ve heard all of the complaints and hoopla about rebooting the series with a new actor, and being interested in the business of media I knew all about why Sony will keep making Spider-Man movies so the rights won’t go back to Marvel now that Marvel Comic films are the big thing. Seeing the trailers have made me suspect it’s better than what the detractors are saying however as a fan and student and film I know all about the art of the trailer and how one can make something like Plan 9 from Outer Space.
But pro or con I hadn’t heard anything that would talk me out of my original plan of waiting for the Library to get the DVD.
But then I got a free pass… So what the heck.
Free passes are always a mixed bag. Sometimes they’re a great deal other times with the bad films (I am still recovering from the scars of Time Machine) free was not enough.
For the most part for me free passes are a social event. You get there with two hours to spare. (While an hour and a half is probably enough experience tells you that anything less than two is a crap shot) You run into friends who also have passes, you meet people with similar interests and in a little bit the line turns into a bit of a mini block party. Provided there’s no big jerks there it’s frequently more fun than seeing the movie.
Anyway that’s what I’m hoping it means I’m going to be shutting down the office a little earlier than normal. But I need more excuses to get out, exercise and get fresh air. Besides it’s been a while since I’ve seen anything on IMAX.
I’ll let you all know what I think of it.