Superman

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE COSTUME, ISN’T IT?

Despite my passion for masked heroes, I always preferred Superman to Batman. There were a couple of reasons. Superman was genuinely super. Invulnerable. And moreover, HE COULD FLY!

Never underestimate a guy who can fly at supersonic speeds. A boyfriend like that could prove most useful on a day-to-day basis. I mean really. Hey, Supe, can you give me a hand moving to that new apartment ?

Me Not Super

Hey, Supe … the roof leaks … could you take a look at it? And that big boulder in the backyard is ruining my plans for the new garage. You think you might relocate it for me? And if you have some extra time, maybe you could build a foundation for the garage while you are at it? It will just take a couple of minutes …

Marilyn again

So, I’m a Superman kind of gal.

Above and beyond those delightful and useful powers, I loved that no one recognizes him when he wears his glasses. As a long-time eyeglass wearer, I tried it myself.

“Garry,” I say to get his attention. I then whip my glasses off, stare meaningfully into his eyes and ask “Who am I?”

He laughs. So I do it again, but he just laughs harder. I persist and try this on friends, relatives and near total strangers, but alas, no one thinks I’m Wonderwoman or Supergirl.

Do you think I need a costume? Is my white hair too much of a give-away?

If I get myself a costume — a really good costume with a cape and everything — do you think maybe I could fly? Because that’s what it’s all about. Flying. And becoming invulnerable. That would be good too.

I NEED A COSTUME!

Despite my passion for masked heroes, I always preferred Superman to Batman. There were a couple of reasons. Superman was genuinely super. Invulnerable. And moreover, HE COULD FLY!

Never underestimate a guy who can fly at supersonic speeds. A boyfriend like that could prove most useful on a day-to-day basis. I mean really. Hey, Supe, can you give me a hand moving to that new apartment ?

Me Not Super

Hey, Supe … the roof leaks … could you take a look at it? And that big boulder in the backyard is ruining my plans for the new garage. You think you might relocate it for me? And if you have some extra time, maybe you could build a foundation for the garage while you are at it? It will just take a couple of minutes …

Marilyn again

So, I’m a Superman kind of gal.

Above and beyond those delightful and useful powers, I loved that no one recognizes him when he wears his glasses. As a long-time eyeglass wearer, I tried it myself.

“Garry,” I say to get his attention. I then whip my glasses off, stare meaningfully into his eyes and ask “Who am I?”

He laughs. So I do it again, but he just laughs harder. I persist and try this on friends, relatives and near total strangers, but alas, no one thinks I’m Wonderwoman or Supergirl.

Do you think I need a costume? Is my white hair too much of a give-away?

If I get myself a costume — a really good costume with a cape and everything — do you think maybe I could fly? Because that’s what it’s all about. Flying. And becoming invulnerable. That would be good too.

In disguise!

Superman-ClarkKent-BizarroI keep trying this same trick. I take off my glasses. I look at Garry.

“Who am I? Quick, take a guess.”

If he’s in the right mood, he’ll deny knowing me. “Hey, stranger. Do you come here often?” (Heh, heh.)

“You see?” I cackle. “It worked for Superman and me, too!”

Superman-ClarkKent-ChrisReeveIn real life, it doesn’t quite come off the same way. About 20 years ago, I was briefly fitted for and wore contact lenses.

During that short period, I went to New York to visit my brother. Note that I have worn eyeglasses all the time, unless I am swimming, bathing, or sleeping, since I was in the sixth grade. In other words, since I was around 11 years old.

No one — including my brother — noticed the contact lenses, the absence of eyeglasses. Not only did they fail to notice I wasn’t wearing glasses. They didn’t notice that anything was different. At all. Even when I stood there and said “Does anyone notice anything different?”

“Did you change your hair?” (No.)

“I think you’ve lost some weight.” (Yes, about 3 ounces of eye wear.)

I gave up the contact lenses. They made my eyes itch anyhow. I’m not sure how Superman pulled it off, but it doesn’t seem to work for me.

Another one just like the other one

We used to call them “remakes” and sometimes, we still do. But when it’s the fifth, sixth, tenth iteration of the same story, it’s a franchise. Superman. Batman. The Lone Ranger. James Bond. Star Wars. Rocky.

It can be difficult to tell the difference between a sequel … the fourth or fifth sequel … to a long-forgotten original … and a “franchise.” I’m not sure there is any difference. It’s nomenclature. A franchise, unlike a sequel, doesn’t need new material. Just bigger, louder special effects and of course, a new, louder, shinier, more muscular star. And bigger guns, when applicable.

Some movies were perfect the first time around. They incorporate superb acting, brilliant scripts, fabulous direction. Casablanca. Inherit the Wind. Cabaret. Yankee Doodle Dandy (but why isn’t it in COLOR?). The Lion in Winter. On The Waterfront. You can’t improve them. You can’t even equal them, so why try? Why not do what TCM does? Clean up the print and reissue it as a general release. There’s likely a generation or two who have never seen it. For them, it’s a brand new movie.

There are good sequels and remakes better than the original. We can all rattle a few off the top of our head. Some originals scream for remakes because the idea was good, but the execution wasn’t. Or technology has changed enough to warrant a do-over. Singin’ In The Rain was a remake and not the first one, but finally they got it right. The Three Musketeers (Richard Lester, 1973) was a remake for the fourth or fifth time (at least) of the story. But this time, the magic worked. We thought Red 2 (released July 19, 2013) was better than Red (though only a little better). The Mask of Zorro and it’s sequel. Hot Shots Deux was better than Hot Shots. And there are more. So I’m not against remakes in principle. Just against bad remakes.

How is a franchise different from a remake? A remake is usually (but not always) no more than the second or third iteration. In theory, a remake retains at least a minimal connection with the original film, though as often as not, the bow consists of giving a completely different movie the same title.

I actually don’t mind the completely different movie. I mind giving the movie a title that implies a relationship to an original that doesn’t exist. I feel the same about movies supposedly based on a book when it appears to me whoever made the movie either (a) never read the book or (b) didn’t like the book. In both cases, why make the movie at all? Make something else. Don’t call it The Scarlet Letter if you’ve deleted Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Now, about stupid remakes. Like Streetcar Named Desire. They did make it you know.It was a flop — of course — and remains (fortunately) a secret. Sometimes you only discover a remake exists because you think you’re ordering a DVD of an original but discover you’ve acquired a movie starring someone you’ve never heard of. You look at your new DVD and say WTF????

There’s a remake somewhere of Casablanca and another of The Lion in Winter. There’s a remake of The Haunting and another of Inherit the Wind. Sometimes, in the inexplicable world of Hollywood movers and shakers, they decide to remake movies which were terrible the first time around and are (remarkably) worse when remade. Like Clash of the Titans which might have done okay as a comedy, but as a serious movie, allow me to say this about that: ROFLMAO, OMG.

The remake of Psycho, following on all the bad sequels to the Alfred Hitchcock original, used the same script as the original black and white movie, but it was in color and the actors weren’t as good … nor, obviously, the director, leaving one to ask the question I always ask. Why bother? What did you hope to gain?

Why not just re-release the brilliant original? Seriously. Why reinvent the wheel when we’ve got a society replete with wheels ranging from teeny tiny nearly invisible to monster trucks? Is a new wheel going to be rounder? More wheel-like? Capture the spirit of Wheelness in its Zen totality? After having spent years and gazillions of dollars recreating something that already exists, the creators are SHOCKED that there’s no market for it! Who could have seen that coming?

It’s not just Hollywood. I review books. I read more books than anyone else I know. It is rare to read something that isn’t exactly the same as everything else in the genre, whatever genre it is. Finding something that contains the germ of a new idea, a unique concept? Rare enough to make it noteworthy. Mainstream publishing houses are much to blame. Whoever runs them are so afraid that they won’t make money on whatever they are publishing they only publish things just like other things that made money.

Considering how much can be published electronically at almost no cost, why not take some chances? Actually give a shot to authors who aren’t writing the same thrillers, the same fantasy, the same old same old?

I want to believe, though I have no evidence to support my belief, that there are original authors, movie-makers, musicians … all kinds of artists … but we never see, hear or read them because the decision makers are terrified of taking a chance on something new.

The problem is in the end, people get bored seeing the same stuff, listening to the same music, reading the same books. Eventually, audiences won’t attend the newest version of the latest franchise production. They don’t want to read another version of Lord of the Rings dressed in different clothing, but lacking the depth or originality. Another killer thriller? Another imitation of Stephen King? More wizards? Oh puleeze.

I console myself. I tell myself culture, art, the economy run in cycles. There are creative bursts in the arts, productive spurts in the economy. I don’t know if I will live to see it, but I have faith that it will happen. Because an eternity of remakes is not particularly appealing, you know? Yeah, you know.

Heroes

Guy Williams as ZorroLife has been singularly bereft of heroes lately. Perhaps I’m just getting older and life is making me more cynical but I think it’s the world that’s getting more cynical. It seems to me there has been a continuing trend on TV and the movies that has accelerated in recent years to create heroes who are not entirely heroic, but rather more human. Less black and white, more gray. Despite how reasonable this approach may be, I prefer my heroes heroic.

I like my superheroes really super, solidly and clearly on the side of justice. There’s plenty of room in literature, film, theater and television for ambivalence and flawed heroes. At least in genres where my heroes fight evil to save the earth or a some piece of it, I want a clear and unambiguous line between good and evil. Life isn’t really like that, but that’s what escapism in the movies and on television is all about.Santa_Claus_1

Give me a masked hero, preferably on a horse, wielding a sword. I can make do with a six-gun if he only shoots them in the hand (the Lone Ranger never actually killed anyone).

Today being Christmas, my first question is whether or not Santa Claus counts as a superhero. I think the answer will depend on the age of the person answering the question. Probably “yes” below age 6. A solid “maybe” through around age 9, followed by a short period of  “I don’t think so.” I remember when my granddaughter was at the “switchover” age. She was reasonably sure there was no Santa Claus, but she figured she ought to hedge her bets, just in case.

She definitely didn’t want to alienate Santa should he turn out to be the bestower of gifts. Thus she “sort of believed,” but sort of didn’t. It was funny watching her work her way through her first major philosophical dilemma.

Personally, I’m a weenie for masked men. I’m a sucker for horses even without a rider, so it can’t be much of a surprise.  Depending on the level of heroism involves, I can compromise on the mask too. But LOTS of extra credit for the horse and if it is a particularly magnificent steed … ah, be still my heart.

I am almost as passionate about superheroes. I favor capes. Although I waited patiently, none of my heroes ever came to take me away. I love my husband and an orange 1970 (1969?) Dodge Challenger convertible, although not a horse, was certainly a better than average ride, but I did long for the mythos and might of my comic book and screen heroes and super heroes. Although I’m significantly more creaky than I used to be (maybe a buckboard rather than a saddle?) I’m still ready and waiting.

Superman was filmed in color, though I was well into my 30s before I saw it for myself. Until then, I never had a color TV so I remember all those early shows as black and white and am frequently surprised to discover they are actually in color. Zorro made my heart flutter and The Lone Ranger made me weak in the knees. Despite the fact that to this day, I cannot fathom how come no one recognized Superman when he wore wire-rimmed eyeglasses, I loved him anyway. Batman too, though Supe was really My Guy.

Jay Silverheels and Clayton Moore

Jay Silverheels and Clayton Moore

I had some small issue with the whole phone booth thing since in New York, where I grew up, they had glass sides, so they were not exactly a private shelter. Why didn’t he just do it at super speed so no one could see? Who needs a phone booth anyhow?

I am glad that movie makers share my love for the super guys who filled the dreams of my girlhood. I was the only girl … hell, the only kid … I knew who had Lone Ranger wallpaper. Not on a computer. There was no such thing. No, I had it on my walls. Lone and Tonto, endlessly riding in a small circle around the same little patch of ground … “Hi yo Silver! The Lone Ranger Rides Again!” I always thought Tonto got rather short shrift and I thought his horse, Scout, was every bit as cool as Silver, but I would have settled for any kind of equine.

He could graze on our lawn, live in the otherwise unused garage, please mom? I’ll take care of him. You won’t have to do a thing.

She was immovable. How could I lead the fight for Justice without a horse? I tried flying, which worked for Superman, but all I got were scabby knees and elbows. No matter how hard, no leap got me over a single tall, or even medium-sized building.

So, return with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when Silver and Scout, Trigger and that fabulous black horse that Zorro always rode carried my heroes, with and without masks. I absolutely positively will NOT see the latest remake. Johnny Depp in heavy makeup and way too many feathers as Tonto? Hell, Jay Silverheels was at least a real Native American. Couldn’t we do as well in 2012?

We could use a few heroes now, could we not?

Maybe they are still out there … we just don’t seem to see much of them anymore.