Media Watch, and the 4/20 Spider-Man titles

Alright, family is off on a play date, let's unload some of what's in me head, shall we? Off the bat, can we talk about SESAME STREET? Look, I know those of you without kids never watch it, but SS has changed, man, it's changed!

It started around the first of this month. I first noticed that "SESAME STREET is brought to you by a cooperative learning agreement with the Department of Education" (Or whatever the exact verbiage was) is NOW "SESAME STREET is brought to you by No Child Left Behind". Um, OK, I guess?

Then I noticed the content changes -- sure they still do letters and numbers (though, it's down to maybe 3-4 minutes, it feels), but it appears that most of the "socialization" pieces of SS have now become "Eat healthy and exercise!"

There's no doubt in my mind that 'muricans are fat and stupid and lazy (Hell, I sure am!), but it strikes me, as a parent of the target audience, that this is kind of a silly message for little eensy kids. If anything, I'm looking for Ben to settle DOWN a smidge and not hare around the house climbing and running and flying about the house. In addition, kids eat what you give them. I know "kids hate veggies" is a wonderful old trope, but, at least looking at Ben, it's really not that applicible. Yes, he prefers sweet foods, of course, but if what there is to eat is veggies, and he's hungry, he eats veggies no problems.

Maybe it's that *I* think the audience for SS is younger than SS does. Ben's been watching it since about age 1, and I suspect he'll be done with it by pre-school, having learned all he can by then. Certainly, that was the case with me. By around age 3 I was already reading (in some capacity, at least) -- I didn't need or want the "baby stuff" of alphabet. Hell, I wanted THE ELECTRIC COMPANY as soon as I could get it - these days I guess the switch is probably to something like BETWEEN THE LIONS.

Now, look, I know Ben's a little advanced with his alphabet (And, YES, he's finally nailed his "Y", he knows can now do all 26 letters, even if "W" remains "Aggah" and seems like it will stay there for a good length of time.) He's already started to be able to chain the ABCs together to some small degree (3-4 letters at a time), and i think before he's two he'll be able to easialy sing the whole song, AND understand it (the more important bit) -- but I don't really think that Ben is "exceptional" (Well, yes I do, but you take my point) -- I really think that any kid, with motivated parents, could achieve the same or better. Kids WANT to learn, especially in a reader's house.

I think that the "socialization" function of SS was as important as anything -- different cultures are cool, a variety of colors and looks in faces is a good thing, share and be a generally-good person, all of that stuff -- but Ben is bored by the singing vegetables and the exhortion that "walking is a good exercise" (Sure, for 40 year olds...); in fact he'll often go over to the TV and switching it off during those bits. Can't say I blame him, really.

As a parent, the value of SS has dropped in half to me. Which is fine, less TV is good, but, man DON'T FUCK WITH THE STREET.

* * *

Swinging way way over in the age-appropriate category, both Jeff and I stink because neither of us talked about SIN CITY when it was still "fresh".

Well, lost time and all that.

Dude, what an amazing adapatation. Faithful? Feh, the word needs to be rewritten. It almost goes all the way to Slavish. What a triumph for Miller. What a gift it must be to be adapated so so very exactly.

Thing is, I'm slightly less convinced that actually works in a FILM. The comics page isn't a moving image -- your eye and your brain will speed things up and slow things down in order to "process" a comics page. The problem is, for me, that SIN CITY, the film, just barrels along like a freight train, never once letting up or giving time to breath when it needs to.

One problem is that the structure of something like "The Big Fat Kill" is episodic in nature -- in the 7 (was that right? I think so) individual chapters, most of them had a cliff-hanger of some sort to, oh, I dunno, keep the audience in the seats or something. This really really doesn't work in film. A good example is when Dwight shows up at the tar pits and the IRA killer arrive and put a bullet in him. In the comic there's "suspense" because your brain automatically slows things down across the chapter break -- while it is unlikely that Dwight is dead, of course, you have time to absorb what's happening. The IRA thing kinda works in the comic because, at least, it is it's own discrete 22 page unit. So what if it is wildly out of tone of the rest of the story? IN the film, though, bang Dwight gets shot, then a fraction of a second later he's right back up again. Narratively, I think that just works against any posible suspense there could be.

I do rather think SC could have been a better FILM if it had taken a few weeks to work to the strength of that medium, rather than being a perfect comics recreation.

There's other bits, too -- there are line-reading that should have been rejected, or scenes that should have been reshot because they come out flat and dead, and there are story plot points that whizzed past in the comic that thump on the screen (Like: Hartigan is retirement-old. late 50s, at least. He spends... 8, is it? years in jail, and it's mentioned that his wife remarried and had kids [!!] while he was in the stir. Now, sure, it's possible he married a woman 20-30 years younger than himself, but it just feels wrong as I watched it)

I also think that there probably should have been Title Cards between the individual stories -- in particular, I think the opening vignette was less successful than it could have been because "The Customer is Always Right" didn't flash on the screen. That would have gotten a big laugh out of the audience, but instead the crowd I was with was kinda scratching it's head as to what was going on there.

I also saw the film on a DLP screen (so all digital projection -- the whites are WHITE, the blacks are BLACK), which I HIGHLY reccommend, if you have such a screen near you, but there were one or two places the effects were a bit much. I'm especially thinking of one of the time Miho's swastika shiruken is int eh foreground, GLOWING brilliant white, drawing your eye right to that as it pulsed with the animation.

Still, quibbles all. For every thing that probably didn't work like it should have (Marv's silhoutte on the brick wall looked far less impressive than the same effect on the page... probably because it was moving), I was utterly blown away by 2 others -- dude, they perfectly captured Frank Miller rain and snow. PERFECTLY. Wow! And all they really do is downgrade the possible "Excellent" to a VERY GOOD. Really, everyone should see this film, it's super-fine, and I really hope it opens any door for Frank that he wants to walk through.

* * *

More comics than this over the weekend (because there was a SHIT LOAD of comics this week), but I wanted to dip my foot in the pool at least, and since there are 4 different Spider-Man books, this week alone, here's a good place FOR a dip.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #519: Spidey goes one step further from what he should be (Unsuccessful, shleppy loser with great power, and a GREAT BURDEN from his great responsability) as the cast moves into the super-heroes-only world of Avengers "mansion". Foo! I was going to say that the most disturbing idea I've encountered this week was probably the potential romantic triangle between Aunt May, Jarvis, and, yikes, Captain America, but then I got more skeeved out by Peter & MJ having sex in Avengers mansion under the watching eyes of paintings of Thor, while Peter is thinking about Wolverine hitting on his wife. I mean, y'know? Then, thankfully, the second half of the book (literally! It's 11 pages) have absolutely nothing to do with Spider-Man in any way shape or form, and, instead, spend thier time trying to convince us that Hydra is actually a real threat. Good luck with that, people, I haven't beleived that since I was 8 or so. This really is a jumbled, skeevy mess, and I'm kinda stunned that Marvel thinks this is a good direction to take thier main solo character. AWFUL, not from craft, but from direction and focus.

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #27: Jenkins and Buckingham's last hurrah on the title, and it's surprisingly affective (and effective, too!). Really "nothing happens" other than a conversation, but it is approached with skill and craft and imagination, and above all else, respect. I really liked this, and, insofar as super-hero books go, this probably should be up for an Eisner next year. "Pair of twits" doesn't sound like a May-ism, but even with that, I'll still give this an EXCELLENT. Good job!

SPIDER-MAN BREAKOUT #1: This seems to be the new NuMarvel tack. Stories that are "too big for one title" just get tacked-on mini-series rather than playing out in thier own comics (witness all of the "House of M" minis coming this summer) -- in this case, it is the prison breakout from NEW AVENGERS. I was prepared to thoroughly hate this before cracking the covers, and deride it as a blatent cash-grab, but, tell you what, this was really just fine, being kinda, dunno, VILLIANS UNITED-lite or something. Nice art, at least adequate scripting, and I expected something more Spidey-centric than I got, so, a solid OK here.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #76: I'm so bored with this story. Bored bored bored bored bored. And there's at least 1 more issue left? Ugh. and EH.

OK, so that's that -- see you in a few more days with some more!

As always, what do YOU think? There's thousands of you reading this -- say something in the comments thread, damn your eyes!