“…but brother, there are days when I wish I was Plastic Man or the Flash or one of those happy-go-lucky bozos.”
I wrote about Gwydion Suilebhan
‘s new superhero play REALS
this week, taking his provocation that “Superhero films are bad for you” as a jumping off point for talking about, well, superhero films.
Not quite 10 years ago, I spent the better part of a year trying to write one. It was called Hero Complex, and it was about a guy who becomes convinced he’s the illegitimate son of The Gryphon, the mightiest hero around. I was aiming for a bittersweet comedy with touches of doomed romance and magical realism. I pitched it to my professor and fellow students in my screenwriting program as “a Wes Anderson superhero movie.”
I wrote two full drafts and many more first acts. I had a version where my hero was in his early 20s and unattached, and a version where he was 40 and married with kids. Neither was very good, but there was a scene here, a line there, that I thought might be worth saving.
Then The Incredibles came out. That’s not a film that bears much resemblance to my description of the one I was trying to sweat into existence, but at the time it felt close enough to make me throw up my hands. I loved The Incredibles. I felt certain my screenplay would never get to be that good, no matter how many night and weekends I sacrificed to it on the altar of my crumb-covered, coffee-stained keyboard. Continue reading
SUPERFAMILIAS: David Deblinger and Tim Getman (Stan Barouh/Theater J)
Any honest critic will occasionally find himself out on a lonely limb, and this week it’s my turn. To me and apparently no one else, Arena Stage’s The Normal Heart
— a historically vital play about the early years of the AIDS epidemic in New York City — is morally worthy but artistically wanting.
I am girding myself for hate mail.
People sometimes make fun of Ford’s Theatre’s presidential history plays for being dowdy and pedantic; for being more interested in teaching us A Very Important Lesson than in taking us somewhere. That’s how The Normal Heart felt to me, albeit with a lot more crying. (Also, I tend to like the musty presidential histories.) I happen to agree with the play’s politics, as I understand them — though that really shouldn’t matter at all — and I acknowledge in my review that activist/playwright Larry Kramer was writing in a time and place when subtlety would not have been an appropriate or effective response to the nightmare he and his peers were living through.
I just don’t think the preachy, shouty play he wrote holds up, removed from that urgent context. Your mileage may, and probably will, vary. Continue reading
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Tagged AIDS, Arena Stage, comics, David Bar Katz, Larry Kramer, sacred cows, superheroes, Superman, The History of Invulnerability, The Normal Heart, theater, Theater J, theatre, Washington City Paper
Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons's landmark 1986-7 series WATCHMEN remains comics' most celebrated interrogation of the super-hero trope.
Gwydion Suilebhan is a playwright here in DC who does good work of which we’ve spoken before
. I previewed
Taffety Punk’s “bootleg” of his latest, REALS,
for the City Paper.
No surprise, surely, that there’s a certain benign, solar-powered alien to whom the management of this fine publication is partial. Maybe more on account of his iconography, and for the way he was was so generously embodied by the late Christopher Reeve in the movie-and-a-half directed by Richard Donner in the late 70s — and for the uber-salient fact that his newspapering alter-ego shares my initials — than for the actual comics.
I didn’t love Hellboy, the movie, as much as I feel like I should have, or as much as I love Mike Mignola’s source material. But the advance word on Hellboy II: The Golden Army, has me fairly drooling. Not as much as The Dark Knight, due for release the following week (!), but still. Del Toro and Chris Nolan can count on my $10 and then some. Actually, Nolan will get more: I’m going to have to check out The Dark Knight in IMAX, since Nolan apparently shot four scenes in IMAX.
These kinds of films were defining events of my adolescent summers. They offer diminishing returns in adulthood, but I still get excited about ’em. Obviously.