Posts Tagged ‘B’

Brooke Wayne – A DC Comics Elseworlds Story

April 2, 2020

Brooke Wayne would be the first to admit that she had not had the happiest life. Her therapist, Dr. Crane, would confirm that. Everybody knew her story. Her parents had been murdered in front of her outside of a theater in downtown Gotham. She had undergone significant trauma but all of her friends had not taken her seriously. Poor little rich girl. She had disappeared suddenly one day and left her trust behind. That was the part of the story that the public did not know. What came after had been a secret. She traveled the world and trained her body and mind to fight crime. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

When she returned to Gotham, she took up the life of a costumed vigilante. She styled her costume after a bat, a creature she had encountered in deepest Africa. She had looked to battle the criminal element but she ended up in a war with the Gotham City Police Department. Supervillains began to appear in Gotham. Brooke felt like she was losing more ground than she was gaining. Finally, she explained her double life to her therapist, Dr. Tabitha Crane. It was at this point that Dr. Crane revealed that her ex-husband was the supervillain known as The Scarecrow. Together, Brooke and Tabitha put together a plan.

Brooke contacted the GCPD and worked out a deal. The Bat would disappear, here reign of terror would evaporate like shadows in sunlight. In return, she proposed setting up a special task force directly under Commissioner James Gordon. Additionally, Brooke would donate part of her vast family fortune to the police force for better technology and resources. She was already starting numerous social welfare programs to help heal a city broken by crime and corruption. She had other people running those. People more qualified to determine where that money should go. She was bored, she wanted to channel her anger in a more positive way.

Amazingly, Commissioner Gordon had conferred with the Mayor and had agreed. Brooke was sent to the police academy to learn protocol and pay her dues. She was sent along with several other vigilantes who were offered a similar deal. Now, Wayne had been on the force for years and she was really good at it. She was working things out with her therapist and the squad was having real success cleaning up the city. Things were looking up with crime and corruption on the decline. This left Brooke’s squad to tackle the real threats, the real dangers to the community.

“Good morning, Captain Wayne,” Olivia said. “How are we doing today?”

“Your Royal Highness,” Brooke said. “So nice that you could grace us with your presence.”

“Queen by name and Queen by reputation,” Olivia said. “Thank you for continuing to get the good word out there.” She set her gear bag down and hung up her bow. She had a special dispensation to carry a compound bow instead of a rifle. She had crusaded as the Green Arrow, inspired by The Bat. Brooke had eventually used that reputation to convince Olivia to partner with Brooke to fund the new GCPD squad.

“Whatever Queen,” Brooke said with a laugh. “You’re late. We’re joining everybody in the briefing room after I stop by to see the new tech from Holt.”

“I’ve got all the tech I need right here,” Olivia said and patted her bow. “What’s on the docket today? Spill.”

“You could just wait until the briefing,” Brooke said. “Sage, Dodds, Grant, and Tyler are already in there.”

“You have never been fun,” Olivia said. “Not once.”

Brooke sighed. “Fine,” she said. “We’re following a lead. Harley contacted me last night with some juicy stuff.”

“That whackjob?” Olivia asked. “I don’t trust her.”

“She’s given us good intel before,” Brooke said. “You have to learn to trust people, Queen. I can give you the number of my therapist.”

“Don’t get me started,” Olivia said. “She used to date the Joker.”

“I used to date Catwoman,” Brooke said. “Nobody’s perfect. She’s reformed. Well, she’s mostly reformed now that she’s with Ivy.”

“Well,” Olivia said. “I do believe in redemption. I guess you do too.”

“I’m starting to,” Brooke said. “One night at a time.”

(DC Comics was suggested by my friend Liz on Twitter)

The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story (2009)

April 2, 2019

When Saving Mr. Banks came out in 2013, it renewed public interest in Disney history. It feels like back then, the public did not have as much backstage information as we do now. While I am not interested in that sort of information ahead of seeing a movie, I am intensely interested in all of that information. I especially enjoyed the movie’s depiction of the Sherman Brothers, two guys I did not really know about before the movie came out. The Sherman Brothers seemed like blue-collar guys who worked a long time at banging out songs for Disney and eventually for other studios. At the time, this documentary was suggested to me to learn more about them but I never got a hold of it. While I was looking at The Aristocats as a movie to watch this month and also after watching Mary Poppins Returns, my interest was renewed. Thankfully, streaming has gotten better and more accessible and I could now easily rent the documentary.

The Sherman Brothers spent the majority of their careers and in fact their lives working for Walt Disney. Among other awards, they won two academy awards both for Mary Poppins. However, even some huge Disney fans like did not realize how prolific they were. They are most famous for stuff like Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Parent Trap, The Jungle Book, The Aristocats, Winnie the Pooh, and also the Disney park attractions It’s a Small World and The Enchanted Tiki Room. But the documentary stunned me pretty quickly by pointing out that they also wrote a hit song for Ringo Starr. Also, outside of Disney, they wrote the music for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Snoopy Come Home, and Charlotte’s Web. Those are just the cream of the crop selections. Their work together was so much more than that. They wrote hit songs, they scored whole movies and put a lot of the soul into very good films. They also did a bunch of stage musicals. However, they are most known for films and they still hold the record for most scored musical films. They also hold the record for most performed song of all time for It’s a Small World.

Their story is a reminder that, under the surface, Disney is not always the saccharine sweet world that appears to be. Two guys who worked together for most of their life ended up having a fractured personal relationship with each other even as their professional relationship flourished. Part of what made them successful was their clashing personalities. In fact, the two of them come off as two sides of the same coin to me. Dick Sherman was fairly manic and enjoyed more positive and optimistic songs. Bob Sherman was a little dourer and lowkey and had more of a traditional writer’s soul and embraced tragedy more. Maybe each was inspired differently from one of their most formative experiences, the US Army during World War II. Dick was drafted into the Army and spent his entire tour of duty working with the Army Glee Club and the USO and never even left the United States. On the other hand, Bob enlisted at age 17 and ended up getting shot in the knee and sent home with a Purple Heart and in a severe amount of pain.  He was one of the first American soldiers to walk into Dachau.  However, even if they did not like each other, they always pushed each other and supported each other.

The story of the two brothers is supported by the great production values I have come to expect from Disney. The first big thing is that they were able to secure the rights to most (if not all) of their music. That allowed them to underscore each little part of their story with a song from their vast music library. Much like the songs’ original purpose, the songs help tell their story in an emotional way. It also serves to astonish with how much they contributed to projects I knew about and ones I had never even heard of. It also highlights how much their songs were influenced by what they went through in their lives. Additionally, the movie was high profile enough to get big names to talk about how the Sherman Brothers influenced them. I was astonished to see John Williams pop up and comment on two fellow film composers, giving them a lot of credit for what American movies sounded like. Same goes for Randy Newman, Kenny Loggins, and Alan Menken. Of course, performers like Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews get to talk as their careers owed a lot to the brothers. Same goes for Hayley Mills who also benefitted from the brothers’ songs.

Of course, the center of this documentary are interviews with the brothers themselves. Both Bob and Dick were still alive when this movie was made and it is so good that they could get their story down on film in their own words. This was made possible through the efforts of their children who got together years into their own lives, feeling too much distance from each other because their fathers were estranged. Everybody involved was interested in telling a complete story, with both the good parts and the uglier parts. And frankly, the ugly parts could have been way worse. The story also makes clear how many lives the brothers changed with their music. Mary Poppins alone changed people for all time and is still changing people generations later. It also shows how infused they were with the Disney spirit and how much they influenced that same Disney spirit for the better. They attacked their work with enthusiasm and it really shows.

Overall, I loved this movie. The movie paced itself and told their story beat by beat without going over the top in celebrating two people that I could spend two hours gushing about. It is really inspiring to see how their minds and process worked. They really were compliments for each other, with the dark meeting the light and joining together for something great.  Their creativity came from conflict which is astonishing.  They created a lot of stuff for family entertainment but it had heart, soul, and intelligence.

(Written on 3/30/19)

Barton Fink (1991)

April 2, 2018

I used to work a lot in live theater and I still hold a lot of love for the medium in my heart. While I was working for theaters, I wrote a play and more recently I wrote another play. The first was kind of teenage angsty and I would need to dig to see if I could still find it. In case your curious, it was a one-act play about a young woman visiting her sister in a mental institution. I cannot remember the general arc of the play but I do remember thinking it was super deep. It had one reading and it was in our high school creative writing class. At one point, the patient whispers something into somebody else’s ear and the person blushes. People asked me what she said and I shrugged and said that it was up to people’s imaginations. This was not a satisfying answer to my classmates. I wrote the whole thing in the lobby of Spotlighter’s Theater (a theater here in town). The second play is kind of a meta-fantasy adventure that has to do with identity politics and my obsession with finding one’s narrative. The point here is that writing scripts is difficult but interesting.

I am completely enamored by the world of Hollywood. At least, I am enamored with the glitzy, positive side of the business. I have been watching movies since I was a tiny tot but I have been interested in behind the scenes information since I was about fourteen. I worked in live theater but I knew people who worked for the Hollywood system (though mostly in Baltimore). It always seemed mythical and larger than life to me. However, I have read enough to know the downsides. The theater is a highly collaborative art form as the cast and crew find the play through weeks (or months) of rehearsal. In film, there is more a series of final decisions. The director does not wield as much ultimate power in the Hollywood system. The studios are always breathing down their necks to make changes. For writers, it is even worse. You work hard on writing a script and then you sell it and they can bring any number of writers to rewrite your work and make it unrecognizable from what sprouted from your mind and heart. Of course, this is all what I have gathered from interviews and articles and I am sure it cannot all be that negative all the time.

First and foremost, this is a period piece written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen (popularly known as the Coen Brothers). Period pieces created by the Coen Brothers are a proven commodity in Hollywood and their movies, in general, are things that I will always give a shot. Movies like O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Fargo, and Hail, Caesar! are among my favorite movies. Even movies that I did not like as much were far better than other movies that I have seen. This is one of their early movies (their fifth) and it definitely fits in with their best. It is set in Los Angeles in the early forties at a time when the movie business was really growing. The movie follows John Turturro as an awkward yet passionate writer whose success on Broadway earns him a deal to write for Hollywood. Turturro is such a versatile actor. I have seen him as an unintelligent thug, a cartoon monkey, and a racist ass. Here he plays an intelligent man out of his element well. John Goodman is his main co-star and he plays the common man who Turturro’s character strives to write about but finds is different from his assumptions. There is also Tony Shalhoub as a hardened, cynical producer, John Mahoney as a contemporary writer, and Judy Davis as a beleaguered secretary.

This was a very interesting movie and there is not much that I could write here that could spoil the experience of watching it. The movie is notoriously hard to pin down as it could be film noir, horror, or several other genres. In fact, I read after watching that the movie is highly debated and the Coen Brothers have only confirmed a few theories. I have a few takeaways myself. The movie has a lot to with class differences. When we get separated from other walks of life, we start making generalizations and assumptions about people who are different from us. The life of the mind is also a big part of it and how dangerous one’s mind can be. Movies like The Shining and 1408 have tackled the kind of dangers one faces when they get too far inside of their head. There is also a deep unhappiness that can form from success, where we start to feel trapped by advancements that we never aimed for. I also really got a vibe about expectations and when our expectations exceed reality and how disillusioned we can get. There is a lot to unpack in this movie and far more than I have written here. All of it is done in kind of an offbeat, surreal style that just seems to be driven by awkwardness.

Overall, I loved the movie. While the movie does remain something of a strange mystery, I love a good mystery. This will be something that my mind will be chewing on and deciphering for quite some time. The dialogue is strange but also very human in certain ways, similar to The Big Lebowski (which the Coens also wrote). The pacing is unnerving and after a while, I was afraid to see what would happen next but I also needed to see it. Maybe it is because I consider myself a writer, but this movie really struck at the core of me. But I think that in many ways Turturro’s plight is universal, something that everybody faces at different times in their lives. I definitely recommend this movie but do not strain yourself too hard trying to decipher the meaning of everything.

Breaking And Entering

April 3, 2017

The scene of the crime is probably not even there anymore.

I have to confess to regularly picking a lock. Of course, this happened when I was in 7th grade and when I was a minor and you can’t actually prove that I did it. So, I think that covers me up fairly well. If anybody wants to press charges after I tell my story, I will be shocked and astonished. When I was twelve, I was driven to school every day. Yes, I lived the somewhat sheltered life of a private school kid who lived two miles from school. So, every morning my brothers and I were driven to school pretty early in the morning so our parents could make it to work on time. We often ate breakfast in the cafeteria because getting up early is hard. I still kind of eat breakfast on the run before work.

I learned to love breakfast sandwiches.

Since we were there so early, there was not a lot of options on where to hang out. My school did not officially start until 8:10 am on the dot. The first class was after that but before that there was homeroom. Homeroom was often uneventful, just a holding period to make sure we were all there before we were shuttled off to our classes. Of course, since I was almost always early, I was there hanging outside the door of my math teacher’s classroom waiting to go in. I was joined by other early students as well. Our teacher must have had a busy morning of her own (I think she had a kid) almost every day because she would show up just as homeroom started. This would not do.

I basically did a trick you see private detectives do in the movies.

I saw that the school had built the door wrong but it turned out right for me and my compatriots. The space between the door and the jamb was far too wide. Almost every morning, I could wiggle a pencil between the jamb and the door and disengage the lock. We would then file into the room and make it look like we had been there for a while. Several times a teacher would pass by, get a confused look on their face and lean into the room. “How did this get open?” They would ask. We would all say something about another teacher taking pity on us and unlocking the door for us. They seemed to buy it every time.

Go ahead and cuff me.

So, my confessed “crime” is probably not actually a crime. If anything, I definitely broke the rules by regularly getting into a room without adult supervision or permission. Mostly, so I could be early for school and sit and doodle, write poetry or talk with friends in comfort. Of course, for over a decade later I presented this story just as I did in the opening paragraph. It was important to me that I could tell some people that I was capable of committing some light criminal activity. I thought it added to my cool factor but I should have realized that I had no cool factor. I am a super nerd and, as I have grown up, I have learned to accept that. If I wanted to have a few actual crimes under my belt I could have gone on graffiti runs in high school with some of my friends instead of getting into community theater.

I was more likely to be here than with my peers.

I never really was a bad kid. Not that my friends were bad kids. Sure, some of them did graffiti but it was out in the woods on abandoned properties from what I gather. Plus, high schoolers are a special kind of dumb. I never did any of that but I was a writer, not a visual artist. I also was not a partier and therefore I never tried marijuana or drank in high school. I never even stayed out late without permission. It does not make me a saint. It was something I was kind of embarrassed about for a while and I know it kept me from getting invited to parties. I was even not invited to cast parties for school plays probably because people assumed the answer would be no. The life of an introvert with a big imagination, I guess.

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