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Monday, June 20th, 2005

I Must Be A Creature Of The Night, Black, Terrible… A Batman!

Obviously, I’m not going to fool anyone with illusions of objectivity – my comic book geek-bias is well known and long-standing. I would submit, however, that that makes me an even harsher potential critic of funny book adaptations – I’m not just looking for entertainment from these flicks, I’m looking for, like, validation of my existance or some such nonsense. So I’m quite pleased to report that Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins does indeed kick some serious serious ass. Fanboy or no.

Some of those praising the film (and they are legion) are calling it the definitive Batman flick, and I won’t go against that. Some of those damning the film are calling it overly serious and dark – that I will contest. Is it dark? Yes, relatively speaking. Darker than Spider-Man, anyway, Spidey being the current benchmark for comic book film adaptations. It’s gritty, violent, etc etc. But there was far more humour in the film than I’d expected – they even went so far as to throw in jokes where it wasn’t really necessary or appropriate (“Excuse me”). It does help lighten the mood just a touch, which is otherwise fairly (though not overly) intense. Not for nothing was the original title for this film Intimidation Game – the whole film is based around a study in fear. The Scarecrow may seem like a somewhat odd choice as a baddie, b-list bat-villain that he is, but he fits perfectly in the role assigned him.

Interestingly, Nolan and scriptwriter David Goyer have succeeded with this film by deconstructing the Batman mythos instead of embracing it. Bruce Wayne’s backstory and motivation is completely laid bare. His suit, his equipment, everything is given a very matter-of-fact explanation. There’s no question of “where does he get those wonderful toys” – they show you making them. Whereas Tim Burton’s vision played up the mystery of Batman, Nolan demythologizes it – It’s as though they want to un-comic book him as much as possible. Obviously Batman has no superhuman abilities and neither do his enemies (I don’t count Scarecrow’s fear gas), but even Ra’s Al-Ghul is stripped of his comic book powers (though his schtick is given a very clever nod). The Demon’s Head is still given plenty to work with as the leader of an assassin guild bent on destroying Gotham City. The film concentrates on what made Batman and what drives him, and even without out the conventional comic book trappings, it still makes for a compelling story.

Christian Bale, and really the entire cast, is excellent. Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon is really a treat to behold. Only Katie Holmes’ character seems superfluous, thanks in no small part to the fact that she speaks in monologues rather than engage in conversation. And if I have to file a complaint, I’ll pick a) the costume’s cowl – it’s a little too thick and rubbery for my liking, and b) the fight scenes – darkness + many fast cuts = hard to follow.

Much has been made of how the film is inspired by Frank Miller’s seminal Year One storyline, but while it take the premise – Bruce Wayne returning to Gotham after years away and beginning his battle against the underworld – that’s really where it ends. I think that’s what I liked the most about the film – Goyer has written a completely new origin tale that stands up to anything the comics have ever presented. It was infinitely more enjoyable to get wrapped up in the story rather than just play “spot what they got right/wrong or how faithful they’ve been”. I think comic fans have been so conditioned over the years to expect the worst from films that when someone actually gets it right – and even improves on it – it’s cause for celebration. Obviously with the huge box office gross Batman Begins has pulled in this weekend and will no doubt continue to do so, sequels are inevitable. I say bring em on. As long as this creative team remains intact and true to their vision, I have complete faith that the successive installments will meet the high standard set. It remains to be seen if they can keep the tone so real-world with villains like the Joker or Catwoman – the comic bookiness will inevitably have to creep in – and I’d like to see them play up the “Dark Knight Detective” angle, show Bats using the brain as much as the brawn, but whatever they do, however they do it, I’m there.

Obviously there’s craploads of Batman-related links out there right now so trying to list them off is a fool’s errand. This Seattle Times piece is pretty good, but otherwise, I’ll point you to this handy little site.

The White Stripes just keep finding bigger and bigger stages for two people to try and fill. Next up? The Molson Amhpitheatre on September 16.

Said The Gramophone enlists Tim Kingsbury of Arcade Fire to offer a farewell to Three Gut Records.

So for anyone who cares, here’s the next chapter in my (rocky, not rocking) journey into the world of vinyl… So I did as suggested and brought my parent’s 35-year old Dual 1210 into Bay Bloor Radio for a free tune-up/evaluation and was quite pleased that they seemed to be able to get it working and all – some cleaning, a new cartridge (a Grado Black, if anyone’s wondering) and it sounded great in the store. It plays about 4% fast at 33-1/3 and the auto-return doesn’t really work, but I could live with that. Happy, I hauled the thing home and took it for a ride. The copy of Murmur I bought the other day sounded good though there was a little skipping here and there, natural for a twenty-year old platter, I figured.

Next, I dashed out and bought a new copy of Saturday Looks Good To Me’s Every Night (The LP version contains different mixes from the CD so it’s practically a new album). Brought it home, threw it on. Side A played fine. Side B? Skiped all the way through. Sonofabitch. I tried adjusting the arm counterweight and whatnot (as well as I could) to no avail. I figured the world is against me and I just got a bum copy, although I could see nothing amiss with the playing surface. So I brought it back to the store yesterday and tried listening to it there? Perfect, of course. Not a skip or anything. Again – sonofabitch. Best I can figure is that the LP has shallow enough grooves that the old player can’t track properly, even with a new cartridge. The arm setup/mass/whatever is just wrong? I dunno. Colour me annoyed. On the plus side, I hadn’t put any money into the table that I couldn’t use on a new deck. On the negative side, well, I’m annoyed. I guess trying to resuscitate this old beastie just wasn’t going to work. I am going to go on the hunt for another turntable – maybe something less than 20 years old, maybe even something new if I can get a good deal. I’ve already got a decent cartridge now…

Yeah, you don’t care but I felt like venting a bit. I just want to play a record, for pity’s sake.

np – The Wedding Present / Take Fountain

By : Frank Yang at 8:26 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. record geek says:

    get a REGA turntable…it will be the best $1000 you will ever spend(and you will hear sounds on records that you won’t hear on the cd)….of course you will need the $1000 speakers to go with it….

  2. Frank says:

    I’ve got the good speakers, but I’d feel a little weird spending more on a turntable than I did on my amp and CD player put together – especially considering I own a grand total of two LPs…

    I could probably indulge myself a few hundred for a new entry-level audiophile table, but beyond that, not so much.

  3. record geek says:

    try ebay – even 20 year old rega’s are supposed to be amazing..and still cost $$…they hold their value.

    and once you hear how good it sounds…your record collection will grow rather quickly…old neil young records aren’t that expensive to pick up.

    go to executive stereo on yonge/eglinton and you can hear how amazing the rega sounds..they also sell used equipment. but be warned…the people there are experts and love to talk….once got stuck talking to eugene for 45 minutes about record cleaners….

  4. Frank says:

    oh, I’ve been to Executive Stereo. I was just seeing how the other half lives and the sales guy kept following me around and asking me how I was doing. I think he could smell my (relative) destitute status a mile off.

    I’m not sure what direction I’m going to go in. On one hand, I don’t plan on getting too too deep into the vinyl-philia, probably just old stuff and really favourite albums so spending a shitload of money on equipment just doesn’t make sense. On the other hand, I believe in getting decent stuff from the get-go. I’d like to find something that’s around on par with the rest of my system, quality-wise.

    Obviously, I will keep the masses appraised of my every move…

  5. Quinn says:

    I have a copy of the first Streets album that, as far as I can tell, is in perfect condition, but won’t play on my antiquated turntable.

  6. Bruce Wayne Banner says:

    the scarecrow was effed UP! makes joker from 1989 look like a cartoon.

  7. Miller hates Loeb says:

    *SPOILERS*

    IN regards to YEAR ONE and the "that’s really where it ends" comment : go back and read it.

    Items taken from Year One: (1) batman trapped in a building, calls in bats with a device he made, gives Gordon someone he saved. (2) being scared of bats when he was a boy (3) FALCONE running gotham (4) The awesome ending.

    I agree with the next movies showing us the Detective side. Maybe they can work in "Detective" into the title.

  8. Frank says:

    yeah, I caught all that – I meant the story on the whole. Anyone who expects a Year One adaptation would be disappointed. Well, hopefully not disappointed because the film rocked regardless, but it was an original work that took a few touchstones.

  9. Nav says:

    I’ve also heard it draws on elements from Dark Victory, though I haven’t read that book.

  10. thomaus says:

    Thanks for the prompt to go pull out Murmer, brush it off with the Discwasher, and drop the needle. Most of my CDs sound great, but Murmer is one that loses something on CD. On LP, it sounds very warm and intimate. Mitch Easter’s triumph. So, if you’re just going to have a couple of discs… good choice. (And I’ve just got a JVC with an Audio-Technica cartridge. Nothing fancy, but it still beats the NAD CD sound on this album.)

  11. jamie says:

    Dual turntables were a nice piece of work…my father’s lasted nearly 30 years.

  12. je says:

    you could try resting a small coin on the playback head. sometimes that can help when a record is skipping

  13. Bryan says:

    I’ve bought all of one album in my 11 years of buying used vinyl that skips; You really shouldn’t be so blase about it if you only have 2 LPs.