Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Magic Beans, Indiana Jones, Rambow & Son + Commissioner Gordon

ITEM: If you've ever done any freelance, work-for-hire, or contract work in the creative field (and I mean the field of creativity, not "creative services"), you should have a look at Bryan Lee O'Malley's excoriation of the ol-buddy-ol-pal legalese manga publisher Tokyopop is using in their new talent search. Yee-ow. I've signed quite a few freelance contracts in my day, and I can only remember one that was even close to being that exploitative.

Most of the contracts I've worked on were pretty straightforward and basically said, "you deliver this work, we pay this money" and first rights and all that jazz. But this other contract, for a company I'd already heard some pretty sketchy things about, had some interesting terms which I eventually came to understand meant that I wasn't getting paid beyond the initial signing fee. I shoulda negotiated an hourly rate or at least billed 'em for meetings.
It's not a very exciting story (as I just learned when I wrote up a draft), so let's just say I've been hosed by a bad contract with a nebulous definition of deliverable.

ITEM: Another video from the 90s showing a politician's true colours.

ITEM: It's almost here. Can you feel it? It's like 1989 all over again. Indiana Jones, reminding us that we're none of us as youthful as we were in 1981. And me, half interested in Indy, but mostly I've got Batman on the brain.

My sister and I went to see the new Indy the other night (we also saw the first one together at the drive-in--I was 3 or 4 and bored enough by the first half hour to fall asleep. I saw it again a couple of years later on VHS and it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me.). I've got nothing to say about it that Roger Ebert didn't say better. Sausage.

The movie I've seen lately that really threw me back to those pre-adolescent days was Son of Rambow. More or less, that was what my childhood was like, only I was both characters in one. I was friendless, daydreamy and out of step with my peers at school like Will Proudfoot, and I was friendless, unruly and bullheaded like Lee Carter.

All of these movies (along with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk) are just appetizers for this summer's main cinematic event: THE DARK KNIGHT (aka Batman Continues To Begin)!

Yes, I loves me some Batman. In all of his many incarnations, from chummy Adam West to Neal Adam's "hairy chested love god" to the crypto-fascist anti-hero of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Strikes Back. He is among my top five favourite fictional characters. The others would be: Jim Rockford, Lt. Columbo, Det. Meldrick Lewis, and, most importantly today, James Gordon of the Gotham Police Dept.

Typically known as Commissioner Gordon, in some of his best appearances he's Lieutenant, Captain, or just plain civilian Jim Gordon. Probably the best Jim Gordon story of all time is also one of the best Batman stories of all time, Batman: Year One. That's Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's update on Batman's origins for the 1980s. In it, we're treated to parallel narratives as both Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon come to Gotham and take on, in their own ways, a city rotten with crime and corruption. Bruce Wayne's journey into Batman is partly a riff on 70s action staples like Taxi Driver (there's even a scene in the first chapter where Bruce Wayne dresses up like Travis Bickle) and Death Wish. The Jim Gordon narrative, however, is a little juicier, and reveals a more complex and nuanced side to Frank Miller as a writer than he decides to show us these days. Frank Miller's (hopefully) satirical takes on machismo aside, I'm actually very conflicted about my Batman-obsession, and Miller's portrayal of Gordon in Batman: Year One justifies that.

Where Batman is fervidly driven in his crusade by personal tragedy, Jim Gordon represents a more tempered view. Gordon is a cop, paid and trained by the municipality of Gotham to uphold the law. Batman is ultimately about revenge, even if only on a metaphoric level. He is punishing all criminals in the absence of the actual gunman who killed his parents for taking his family away from him, for taking his childhood away from him. Bruce Wayne's time, effort and money might be more effectively spent attacking the root causes of crime and lobbying for stronger gun control measures. But the young boy who watched his parents gunned down before him has the overriding need to actually, physically punish criminals. Gordon, meanwhile, serves the actual ideal of justice. Though the mechanations of those who would subvert and pervert justice bring the fight into Gordon's own home, for the most part, he's an impartial officer of the law, following due process and the Constitution.

Batman: Year One even raises, if subtly, the possibility that Gordon could have weeded out Gotham's rampant corruption without Batman's help, and maybe even wouldn't have paid such a high personal price for it.

Further reading: Batman: Roomful of Strangers by Scott Morse


mp3: "Batman to the Rescue" by LaVern Baker
mp3: "The Escape" by Burgess Meredith

1 comment:

GeorgeS said...

I like your idea about music with a Batman theme. But this Lavern Baker is one of the greatest finds. Actually I found it a couple years ago myself. I'd like to know if you have her Brunswick compilation album, or the single.