Brainiac On Banjo #040: Stream On, Big Media, Stream On…

Brainiac On Banjo #040: Stream On, Big Media, Stream On…

Frequent readers of Brainiac On Banjo (seriously; there must be something better for you to do) have been absorbing my incessant prattle about streaming media for a while now. Yeah, I think it’s important. Streaming is bringing about the biggest sea-change to the entertainment world since we dropped the atom bomb.

“Really?” you might ask. “Bigger than television? Bigger than VCRs/DVRs? Even bigger than microwave popcorn? Why?” Well, that’s a fair question, and thank you for asking.

It took television a while to become big. In constant dollars, tiny TV sets cost a lot of money, the image was low-resolution and often full of “ghost” images, and the youngest person in the room had to stand by the set holding the antenna in the proper position in order to watch anything. The sundry video recorders, mechanical and virtual, freed the viewer from a strict allegiance to the clock, and microwave popcorn saved Indiana from certain economic doom.

Steaming has taken time-control one step further: content creators no longer have to fight for a Donald Trump-sized handful of open slots on the broadcast networks. Cable television no longer is a monopoly unless it is your only source of wi-fi. It’s launched an employment boon for actors, producers, writers and other such entertainment reprobates. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #040: Stream On, Big Media, Stream On…”

Beat JENeration 33: Avengers: Endgame, Let’s Get Spoil-y

Beat JENeration 33: Avengers: Endgame, Let’s Get Spoil-y

As promised, I have a few thoughts.

Now, if this column’s title didn’t give you pause, let me reiterate that I’m not holding back. Onward ho to Spoiler City we go!

But also, c’mon, if you haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame by now, I have to wonder if you even care about spoilers.

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Beat JENeration #032: Avengers: Endgame (No Spoilers)

Beat JENeration #032: Avengers: Endgame (No Spoilers)

Well, shit.

Um.

It’s currently 11:42pm Thursday night, PDT and I know the internet is full of all kinds of spoilers (because I already looked up some pressing issues), but it doesn’t feel right to say anything yet.

Even though I haven’t seen a theatre that crowded ever. Well, maybe in the 1980’s, on a holiday weekend. It was crazy. And I loved every second of it.

I think it’s safe to also note that I got a bucket of popcorn and a large drink and didn’t finish either for the first time in I can’t even tell you. I just got too caught up in the movie. That probably has never happened before.

I liked it very much. I will see it again tomorrow. Probably also another time within the next week.

It just doesn’t feel right to say anything else. Except maybe that I wish for you all to see it spoiler free.  Continue reading “Beat JENeration #032: Avengers: Endgame (No Spoilers)”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #031: The Best of the Worst!

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #031: The Best of the Worst!

What’s good about writing these listicles is that I’m able to cover a ton of ground in a short(ish) amount of time. As such, I’ve covered the worst of the worst when it comes to comic book movie villainy. It stands then, that I should swing the pendulum the other way to detail my favorite ne’er-do-wells of cinematic comic bookery, right? Well, once again, you don’t have a say.

The Rules: Much like last time, when I formed this ranking, I took into account a few criteria. I’m covering only the main antagonist of comic book films starting from 1978’s Superman. I look to the actual performance/portrayal. Did I believe I was watching a character or just a good actor chewing the scenery?  I also like to compare the on-screen portrayal against the origins of the on-paper version of the character — where I like to see a positive convergence of the tentpoles of a given wrongdoer from their pulpy origins emboldened by the advantages offered by the silver screen. Beyond those basics, I always look towards the actual fights/schemes/plans that pair the main villain against his or her nemesis (those stupid super heroes everyone loves so much). I really like to see both the savagery and the sorcery, if you will, of the baddie being bad.

Here then, are my picks. Damn the innocent.

  1. Michael Keaton / The Vulture — Spider-Man: Homecoming

Straight out of the gate, I’ll admit I wanted to put Mr. Keaton higher on the list. Spider-Man: Homecoming was really mostly a vehicle for Tom Holland’s pitch-perfect friendly neighborhood wall-crawler. But it was because of this, Keaton’s Adrian Toomes is such a delight. Choosing to lean into his lower register (but not freaky Birdman range, thankfully) and sinister sneers, Vulture in Homecoming is an understated nemesis. What earns him a spot on my list, more than anything, is the intelligent plotting and drive of Toomes. Unburdened with the whole anti-aging pseudo-science of the original source material, we get a villain who truly had proper motivation. In the wake of The Avengers here was a man screwed out of his livelihood by super-situations beyond his control. Michael Keaton delivers an intelligent and calculating villain who (versus many on this list) see his nemesis as a nuisance — meant to be dealt with, not obsessed over — with the sound mind to take what he sees as rightfully his. Even if he’s in the wrong. And simply put? The driving-to-prom scene alone was worth putting Michael Keaton on this list.

  1. Tom Hiddleston / Loki — The Avengers

I can hear several fangirls already sharpening blades over the low placing of Tom Hiddleston on my list. But I’ll say my peace and accept my fate. Specifically in The Avengers, Loki is at his most evil (saving Thor, which while good, pales in comparison to him here) — setting the Avengers up to fail at every turn. What sells Loki most to me, and what earns his spot here on my list, are his scenes opposite any Avenger, save his brother. Hiddleston’s portrayal of an Asgardian is as it should be: noble, godly, and aloof. In the face of Black Widow, Captain America, Hawkeye, and Iron Man… he sees himself a god. And while yes, he gets punched, repulsor-blasted, arrow-detonated, and Hulk-smashed… he never loses his edge. As means to the ends of Thanos, Loki more than holds his weight as the singular villain (plus an army of disposable CGI) in a film choked to the edges of the screen with heroic talent. Whereas Justice League gave us disposably-generic… Avengers gave us coldly-unforgettable.

  1. Jason Lee / Syndrome — The Incredibles

I dare anyone reading this to tell me I’m not allowed to include a non-comic-canon character who is animated to boot on this list. Because they’d lose their argument when considering Jason Lee’s Incrediboy-turned-Big-Bad. From his calculated efforts to capture Mr. Incredible, to his sadistic decree to destroy a plane that had just announced it had children aboard it… Syndrome is the arcitype of villainy personified. Lee’s vocal talents perfectly paint the picture of a broken-hearted would-be sidekick who chooses a dark-path due to disappointment. And as the grown-up nemesis to the Parr family, his invention-driven path-of-destruction comes both as no surprise, and nearly flawless in execution. If he’d only chosen not to don a cape…

  1. Josh Brolin / Thanos — Avengers: Infinity War

While many will continue to meme the purple rock-collector until Endgame… few could argue that the portrayal of the Mad Titan built up over ten-plus films could have been handled much better. Brolin’s calm, weighty performance— perfectly rotoscoped into his hulking CGI frame — quickly establishes his villain we should all fear from the cold open. Without aid of even a single Infinity Stone, Thanos dispatches the Incredible Hulk with the meticulous devastation of a seasoned MMA fighter. We watch in awe and agony as Banner’s never-over-powered angry-half is pummeled into submission. And this is all before Thanos marches slowly across the cosmos to collect his shiny rocks, and snaps away half the beings of the universe. That he joins nearly no other villains in the “actually succeeded in my evil plan” club, and retires to his weird space farm to live in peace afterwards is the dusty icing on a bitter cake. As close to the source as we were ever going to get… all completed with a performance I couldn’t recast to save Peter Parker’s desperate life.

  1. Alfred Molina / Doctor Octopus — Spider-Man 2

“The power of the sun, in the palm of my hand.” So sayeth Otto Octavious. On page, Doc Oc is often a morty lame duck of a villain — save perhaps his superior run as the Spider-Man himself. But in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, he is as he should be: mild-mannered, with an undercurrent of resentment and determination. Alfred Molina disappears into the role; becoming a would-be father figure to Peter Parker, a loving husband to his wife Rosalie, and a frustrated scientist under the knuckle of a rich brat. That his over-zealous excitement to complete his project eventually causes him to abandon reason to see his work be finalized cements him as a villain whose motivations we can accept (if not agree with, obviously). The only misstep to the portrayal (and not Molina’s fault by any means) we get a bit of a worthless subplot revolving around his additional appendages perhaps being sentient. Beyond that though, Spider-Man 2 remains one of the best superhero movies of all time… because in this case our villain cements the journey our hero must make by the end of the film. And that’s far more powerful than a CGI super-nova being cradled by Larry, Harry, Flo, and Moe.

Beat JENeration #016: An Honest Christmas Letter

Beat JENeration #016: An Honest Christmas Letter

Dear People,

As you know, Facebook has made the traditional Christmas letter a relic. What I craft on there is really the best version of me I could come up with —- sans totally lying. Also, really, if we aren’t connected on social media in one way or another we’ve lost touch years ago anyway. So, I’m going a different way with this. Straight up truth.

This year, I left (not of my choice) corporate America (by which I mean working for a European-based company from the comfort of my own home — mostly on my laptop in my bed, in my PJs) and returned to my roots in the arts (where I have to dress cute in a full face of makeup every day and work in an shared windowless office with two Millennials who misinterpret my age all the time by assuming I like Norah Jones and don’t really know what a meme is). While this was a brave and impressive move for my soul, it did not bode well for my finances. Hence there are no exciting vacations or purchases to brag about. We’re not starving (yet), but we’ve had to cut ties with STARZ and Hulu.

Thus I’ve been spending a good deal of time this year with Martin Sheen in both a rewatching of The West Wing and in discovering Grace & Frankie. If I watch both at night, I sometimes dream that President Bartlett is married to Jack McCoy from Law & Order. As you know Lily Tomlin is in both shows as well, which probably gives me even greater joy. She is freaking gorgeous not for 79 years old but for any years old. Move over Ruby Rose, she’s this year’s girl crush.

The other main person in my life this year seems to be Dichen Lachman as Supergirl, Being Human, Agents of Shield, and Shameless are also currently living together in my Netflix Continue Watching queue. This was not planned, but I am happy that she is getting regular work. Her best work, however, might be Aquamarine, which as a mother of girls, I have watched over 20 times (not always with them though). Every time I see someone wearing starfish earrings, I know they are magical talking ones.

Speaking of magic, this year I learned that I can literally keep watching Thor: Ragnarok daily (in 10 minutes at a time chunks) over and over again and not get sick of it. The news of a Tom Hiddleston-led Loki series on the new Disney streaming channel (take my money now, mouse bitches) was perhaps the highlight of my year. That is not exaggeration. Thanks to MoviePass (wasn’t that a fun time while it lasted?), I saw Infinity War five times in the theatre and cried every time Loki died in that bullshit way. In spite of daily articles being sent to me (yeah, like you don’t have a THiddy Google Alert too) with theories as to how Loki faked his death at the hands of (worst, cartoonish, not even vaguely scary villain ever) Thanos, I am not delusional to jump on that bandwagon. I’ve made my peace with it.

I also saw Ant Man 2, Black Panther, Ocean’s 8, and Crazy Rich Asians multiple times this year. Awkwafina is my favorite superhero.

The Christmas Prince: Royal Wedding was a ginormous let down. I don’t know what bothered me more, recasting Amber’s dad or that King Richard (not a Prince — a King, loud sigh, Netflix) doesn’t know what a limerick is. But this hasn’t left me jaded. I intend to spend the remaining weeks of 2018 watching whatever holiday crap video streaming throws at me. Life Size 2 is high on my list.

Speaking of high, my fellow Californians have been easier to deal with this year. Aside from the fires and mudslides, I feel a little safer here from the rest of the country’s bullshit. And if you insist, I will happily take partial credit for the Blue Wave that washed all up on Orange County’s shores last month. I moved back home behind the Orange Curtain and pushed the liberal agenda over the edge. I also produced two members of Gen Z who rightfully are kicking all of our asses into gear. They personally spurred me on to two different marches this year where we had signs and everything. A lot of other stuff happened, but I can’t remember what exactly, but I feel like there’s hope back in the game.

And that is the most upbeat you’ll find me this holiday season, so I’m signing off now before I fall into an ugly cry hate spiral over all the reasons I’ve had to watch so much TV every night so that I can sleep.

Joy to the world, motherfuckers!