Gone is Gotham.

Everyone can stop complaining about the heat, please. Don’t you know I’ve been waiting years for a summer with weather as perfect as this one has been? And after such a horrible winter! It hasn’t been a summer of rock and roll, bike rides, and carefree painting, it hasn’t been a summer of weddings and budding romance, it hasn’t even been a summer of decomposing apartment managers (thank God!) But it’s been a hot summer, and therefore a good one, if uneventful.

Well, I did see The Dark Knight, and since everyone has been pouring forth the same obvious praises (It’s the best Batman film to date, Heath Ledger’s performance was un-flippin-believable, No other superheroes need apply, etcetera, etcetera) I will take a minute to make two slight criticisms. Slight because the sheer awesomeness of this movie overshadows most of my nitpicking. I don’t think there are any spoilers here, but if you haven’t seen it yet you might want to play it safe and skip this one.

Nitpick number one: A Missing Character. No, Batman was present and accounted for, as was Commissioner Gordon, Lucius Fox, Salvator Maroni, Harvey Dent, and of course the Joker. They even kept the girl around, which seems very un-Bruce-Wayne-like. So anyway, who could this missing character be? I’ll give you a hint, it’s not a person. It’s Gotham City! This movie was over two and a half hours long, and at no point in it did Gotham make an appearance. Sure, they called it Gotham, but come on. It was Chicago, baldly. I’ve heard opinions and read reviews that praise this decision, to leave the Windy City undisguised, to shoot so many scenes in daylight, because it brings the movie to a very real level, makes it relevant and timely in an age when America is scared of criminals but even more scared of itself. Well that’s nice, but here is what I think: it’s still a movie. It’s still a movie about a man who wears a bat suit and swings around in the dark beating up thugs. Sure, there is crime in Chicago and every other regular looking city in America, but we can see that on the ten-o’clock news. When I watch it on the big screen I want to be taken somewhere else, I want there to be an element of playful darkness and dark playfulness, and no other city has come close to being as delicious to watch as Gotham. Until now. I really missed it in this movie.

Nitpick number two: Christopher Nolan… I love the man, I love the movies he makes, including The Dark Knight. But there is something about his storytelling that pushes my limit. Maybe after making Memento he felt that each transition in all of his subsequent movies could be just as jarring, I’m not sure. I didn’t notice it in Batman Begins, but there were definitely moments in The Dark Knight where I felt like I had been running along with the movie and suddenly, with a scene change, was made to stop where I was, losing some momentum and taking a few extra moments to get back on track. It makes you conscious of the fact that you are sitting in a theater, staring at a screen, and not actually there where the action is taking place. Granted, this happened very few times (maybe twice?) but it left me feeling a little like I did after watching The Prestige, which was, “Am I sure that this movie was made to its absolute greatest potential?” And I don’t think it was. Of course I watched The Prestige a number of times after the first viewing and came to terms with the parts that bothered me and liked the film more and more each time I saw it. Which is what I imagine will happen with The Dark Knight. But as awesome as The Dark Knight was, for now I’d have to say (and I don’t say this lightly!) I liked Batman Begins better. Anyway, considering what I just said about Christopher Nolan, I’d still list him as one of my favorite directors and I really hope he signs on for the next Batman movie. Is it too early to start talking about the next Batman movie?

Well, okay, I don’t like writing reviews. I hope we can consider the above post to be more of a conversation starter than a review. What did you think of the film?

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Weekend in paragraph form.

Emily chopped off my hair! (I asked her to.) It looks pretty dang cute, if I’m allowed to say so. Emily also turned 21 this weekend, and to celebrate we drank some homemade Cherry Bounce with our grandma and watched a bad 90’s teen movie with the gang in our grand tradition of watching bad teen movies (or sometimes GOOD teen movies. Aquamarine, anyone?). Emily, if you read this, I’m so happy I got to be home for your birthday! On another day, Holly and I played our old Art Table set for the first time in 10 months. I developed a pretty ferocious blister on my baby-soft right hand, but my drumming was surprisingly all right, considering how long it had been. Not that I’ve ever been a “good” drummer, but I was as consistently mediocre as ever. We also wrote a new song, which we may release on an EP so I won’t spoil it for you, but let’s just say that the Art Table’s demise has never been more fun. I had my car fixed. It was very loud and now it is very quiet, and it’s also very clean, inside and out (my dad and I did that, not the mechanics). I went to church this morning but with all of the rain my head was in a little bit of a cloud throughout the service. Tomorrow evening I start my psychology class, which maybe I haven’t mentioned here yet, I’m not sure. The collaborative comic project is also beginning to take legs, and I’m officially moving it up on the list of priorities. What all of this means is that I’ll probably be writing even less in this blog than I have been already. Maybe I’ll surprise all of us and update it with regularity, but I’m pretty sure June is going to be consumed with other things. But what will June consume?

Cheese is good; we like cheese sandwiches, right?

I’ve been going back and forth between two equally cheesy Doogie Howser opening lines for today’s post. One reads like this: “Giving something up is difficult, especially if it is something that you have come to rely on. But as time passes, the benefits of giving up such dependencies compound at a fairly rapid rate.” Can’t you just picture the Doog typing something like that? The second went thus, “Sometimes when you have been waiting for something for a long time it only makes that thing better when it arrives. Sometimes, though, waiting so long for something brings expectations that can’t possibly be met.”

I’m sorry that my writing style has somehow boiled down to something so bland. But I do think I will go ahead and finish those two thoughts because, in spite of their initial presentation, I think they are some blog-worthy ideas. So here, just imagine me sitting at a circa-1990 IBM, wearing that white medical coat and maybe a fluffy blond crew cut and maybe somehow that will make this more easily digestible:

Giving something up is difficult, especially if it is something that you have come to rely on. But as time passes, the benefits of giving up such dependencies compound at a fairly rapid rate. (Haha, okay.) For Lent I gave up drinking soda and listening to music, at least in environments that I had control of (my car, my home, my computer). At first my body screamed for caffein and sugar, and my ears felt neglected as morning passed with alternating silence and the crackling murmur of talk radio. I have only been “fasting” in these respects for 13 days now, but I have already lost my appetite for soda and find myself relishing my self-imposed silence. I don’t say this to boast, because surely it is an act of grace that I can leave these idols (perhaps temporarily) behind me, and surely, as my parenthetical hinted at, I risk returning to them with equal or increased devotion after the fast has ended. But maybe I won’t, because I feel healthier, in small ways. When I stop drinking soda I drink more water and milk and juice and tea. These things are good for my body, or at least they are better for it than Cherry Coke. When I stop listening to music I spend more time thinking, which I admit can be an idol in itself and can be just as inward and unproductive as habitual consumption of prerecorded sounds and images.  But thinking, for me, is one step closer to prayer, which is the ultimate goal. That is to say, not all thoughts are prayers, but by allowing myself to be incessantly distracted I run the risk that few thoughts turn into prayers. I realize I am sounding very self-righteous by typing these things, but be assured I am referring always back to my own practices and my own habits, not anyone else’s who may be perfectly healthy and productive in the way that they consume.

Next thought, and slightly more concrete: Sometimes when you have been waiting for something for a long time it only makes that thing better when it arrives. Sometimes, though, waiting so long for something brings expectations that can’t possibly be met. Such was the case with my recent viewing of Persepolis, which, while fantastic, wasn’t quite what I had been hoping for. Visually it exceeded my most demanding expectations, and if only for the animation you (anyone who has ever loved a line or the way it moved) need to see this film. I guess that leaves the story, then, as the element which disappointed me, and I’m afraid it’s probably as simple as the Harry Potter fansters who object to every detail that was left out for sake of the flow and duration of the movie. And certainly there was much less omitted from the Persepolis canon than the Harry Potter canon, so probably it’s just that some of my favorite parts were gone, or else a scene was there in picture but Satrapi’s narration was not. For example, the scene where Marjane first leaves Iran and her parents are seeing her off at the airport: Marjane writes, “I couldn’t just go. I turned around to see them one last time.” We are then hit with an image of her mother who has fainted and lies limp in her father’s arms, and Marjane is looking on this horror-stricken and she writes, “It would have been better to just go.” The scene’s equivalent in the movie was gripping, but without that line it lost some of its impact, it lost that fist in the gut crumpling effect. I want to see the film again and force myself to view it separately from the books, because I know it was beautiful (everyone is saying that it is a beautiful film) but I couldn’t quite get past the marks I felt it was missing.

I always get nervous when I play the critic here, especially when I am criticizing someone I admire, and try not to do too much of it (although I think I mentioned earlier how completely disappointed I was with Satrapi’s “Embroideries“). After all, you never know who might read, and what if I’ve just destroyed my chances at being Marjane Satrapi’s best friend? But more than that I think about my own creative pursuits and how quickly I can be cut down to size and left with spirits trampled. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Maybe that’s presumptuous on my part, to think I even have the power to. But words are strong, man! I guess you have to give up your right to the kid-gloves when you step into the public light. I’ll continue to enjoy my gentler, more private world as an amateur. Still, I’m sorry if you’re famous and you have, for some reason, read something here that hurt your feelings.

And finally, since today is Superficial Monday I will say something about the appearance of this blog, which you may have noticed has changed a few times in the past couple weeks. I am trying to settle on something that works both structurally and aesthetically, and haven’t found it yet. I appreciate the individual feedback you have given me, to those who have given me individual feedback, and hopefully it won’t be long before Easel Ain’t Easy is looking pretty and also functional. Thank you for reading this long-winded and rather disjointed post.

The best thing that will happen this summer.

I could post a YouTube version of this, but trust me, you want to see it in all its glory so just click here.

It’s all I have time to post tonight, but it’s all you need, really.

If a tree falls in the woods…

There is a great line in an even greater movie that goes something like this:

John Hammond: All major theme parks have had delays. When they opened Disneyland in 1956 nothing worked.

Dr. Ian Malcolm: But, John, if the Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists!

I’ll resist the urge to write an entire post about exactly WHY Jurassic Park is the greatest movie of all times and simply explain the reason why I opened with that quote. I think I may be having a Disneyland opening day. That is, I think this blog is defective. Since yesterday’s launch I sat and watched my hit counter, expecting the numbers to roll past as people flocked to this new attraction. And nobody came! No one is even reading this sentence right now, because no one is coming to my new blog!

Or possibly the failure lies in another area: the hit counter. I can’t be sure. I suppose that would be the more likely issue, since my counter is telling me I’ve had 43 visits since yesterday, and that all of them come from the same location in Madison (mine) and well, I might be a doting owner of a new blog but I promise I haven’t visited myself that many times. I guess a defective hit counter isn’t quite as thrilling as an unleashed man-eating T-Rex, but maybe with the help of your imagination you can see the connection. I’m currently negotiating with John Williams for the score.

Oh what the heck, if there’s a chance no one is reading this… I was ten years old when Jurassic Park was released, and it was probably the first PG-13 movie I was allowed to go see, because I was the kind of child who played with plastic dinosaurs and such. We spent the day at the beach, and that evening my dad took my sister and her friend and I to the theater. I was terrified and entranced, and when that raptor jumped at the girl’s leg as they were escaping through the ceiling I was one of a million Americans who simultaneously clutched at our hearts and hung there together in terror–she’d come so far! That night and every night for weeks after I laid in bed and replayed the entire film in my head, from the opening credits to the closing, and I grew frustrated as the details slipped away from me. I have seen a lot of movies since then and not a single one has grabbed hold of me in such a way that I was held as a wide-eyed ten year old girl. There, I went ahead and said it. I love Jurassic Park. And I love dinosaurs!

Sweet sweet 90s

We don’t have a DVD player. In fact, now that my cell phone has broken in half I’ve nearly been launched into a quaint little 90’s existance. Fully intending to embrace this vintage lifestyle, the other day I purchased a dozen VHS movies for a total of $1.25. One dollar and twenty five cents, and I’m the proud owner of the following library: Mission Impossible, Annie Hall, Fargo, About Schmidt, The Great Santini, White Oleander, Clueless, Sabrina, Casablanca, Dr. Strangelove (or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb), Planes Trains and Automobiles, and The Nightmare Before Christmas (which I gave to my brother.) For less than the price of a cup of coffee (which I don’t even drink)! Cool!

Okay, so I’m easing back into daily writing. Let’s keep our expectations in check.

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    Breena Wiederhoeft
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