On Batfleck and Superman

(Warner Bros)

(Warner Bros)

I can’t have been the only one.

Walking out of the cinema with a huge grin on my face, still reeling from the formidable slice of cinema that is Man of Steel, to say:

“Boy, they could only better that if they had Ben Affleck as Batman in the next one!”

Batman totally breastfeeds now, didn't you hear about it?

Batman totally breastfeeds now, didn’t you hear about it?

I am of course being facetious. Man of Steel was not a terrible film but no one actually walked out of it with anything other than a headache and slight motion sickness, let alone a demand that the star of Gigli should don Batman’s famed cape and cowl.

Indeed the very idea of a Batman/Superman smackdown seemed strange even before Affleck was cast as Bruce Wayne. The presence of two iconic characters in one film demands that the principle question of why they are together is answered with panache.

I fear that this fundamental imperative will be ignored. I fear that it is economic considerations on the part of Warner Brothers that are driving Batman/Superman towards its July 2015 release date, instead of what ought to be the prerequisite of making such a picture: a great idea for a story.

Films have to make money – I get that, but cherished characters like Bats and Supes have to earn that showdown, just as Marvel did with The AvengersMan of Steel certainly did not lay the groundwork for such a clash and director Zack Snyder and studio Warner Bro’s have not yet created a cinematic universe big or interesting enough to explain the presence of these two icons in one movie. This is the equivalent of making The Avengers after the first Iron Man

Marvel’s massive success at universe building has probably disturbed the suits at Warner. It ought not to though. They are after all the studio that gave us Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, the only sequence of films in the whole superhero genre that might be called definitive, thematically interesting and perhaps even imperishable.

The reason the announcement of Affleck has been met with such consternation across the internet is because it is very difficult indeed to imagine anyone playing Bruce Wayne other than Christian Bale. The latter was an utterly ferocious Batman imbued with a physical and emotional intelligence that will be hard for Affleck (or any other actor for that matter) to emulate. God help them when they try and cast a new Alfred after what Michael Caine did with the part.

This doesn’t mean casting Affleck was wrong. Or that nobody can ever be cast as Batman again. On the contrary, he may be a good Batman. The decision to put Bats in the next Man of Steel is wrong though, simply because instead of respecting both the work of Nolan and the intelligence/wallets of cinema goers, Warner are content to chase the quick buck that Batman/Superman represents. I guess some men just want to watch the world burn, or they’re really, really impatient. For me the whole thing stinks of desperation.

The aforementioned Mr. Caine has a very wry observation on Batman and Superman:

“Superman is how America views itself. Batman is how the rest of the world views America”

In other words if Superman was an American politician he’d be a bullshitting and mythologised emulsion of various founding fathers and Batman would be Richard Milhous Nixon, a man with a crozzled and blackened heart whose very existence taints the American dream.

Good luck Ben, I think you’re going to need it.

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The Horror of The House of Windsor

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What right-thinking person thinks it possible to have a “famous” baby? For that is what our future King will be, famous before he even does anything. At least by the time Mozart was eight he’d had the temerity to compose a symphony. This ‘famous’ baby, I confidently predict, will do nothing worthy and nothing important enough to earn all the simpering adulation it will be received with. And that is the way it should be. Babies shouldn’t be famous because that is an absurdity. It is a fiction.

The Royal Family makes me embarrassed to be British. The pretence that we are a democracy, that this country is egalitarian will melt away when this baby is presented to the fawning blimps that constitute a minority in these isles and the global media gathers to celebrate the continuation of the hereditary principle. Why not go and celebrate infanticide, incest and bestiality then – the other trappings of a medieval society. In fact, when pageants such as this one occur we are all reminded of our place: we are subjects not citizens. This child will be the gilded strut that props up our unlovely system of class distinction and hierarchy.

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The House of Windsor are the great progenitors of our culture of surface-fetishism, our worship of the unimportant lives of unremarkable people led on by the evermore vulgar media inculcated impulses of cheering and jeering.  Yet conversely they have managed to insert themselves into a mysterious and parochially exotic world. The world of national tradition; and when she dies our current monarch will find herself a symbol of the nation as much as Dickens, or the paintings of Turner and Constable, or the sound of Big Ben tolling in sodden London.

This group of mammals does not deserve to be part of this tradition and their place there is an invention. Cameron, Miliband and Salmond were eviscerated for attending the Wimbledon final as it was seen by many as an example of political opportunism – what then of the Royals presence at the Olympics and all the other great circuses of our island. As William Cobbett remarked, you can tell a lot about a country that refers to the Royal Mint and the National Debt.

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Fun fact: Charles first met Diana when she was 13 and he was 19! LMFAO

What then will become of our little royal superior? Perhaps he will be a fetid creature like Charles, a man so unctuous that he makes one tempted to believe Mohammed Al Fayed’s moonshine afflicted and thoroughly off the wall story that Diana was assassinated. It may be that the kid is more like it’s raffish uncle Harry, a man who enjoyed blowing up Afghani peasants from the seat of his attack helicopter so much that he participated in not one, but two tours of bloodslaked butchery.

Isaac Deutscher once said of the old Soviet Union, as the great clanking beast rusted and died, “Plus ca change, plus c’est la même chose.” No axiom is more appropriate for the toxic reality of deficit Britain, where the money spent yearly on the Royals could pay for 9560 nurses or 8200 police officers.

The Windsors and their army of adulators await the annunciation of the child with the same atavistic fever as those who yearn to see the slick of virgin’s blood on a white bedsheet at some barbaric wedding ritual. There won’t ever be an honest discussion about these people and their role in our country. We are too inured to them now, for where they tread we are but supernumeraries in this dream of life.

I won’t be bowing down for our new Queen: Beyoncé

I for one welcome our ubiquitous new overlady.

I for one welcome our ubiquitous new overlady.

 

“Nothing bothers me more than when groups like Pearl Jam and Nirvana whine and moan and complain about life and being famous. Let me tell you, being famous is great! If you hate your job so much, why don’t you fuckin’ go work at a car wash or McDonald’s or something?” – Noel Gallagher

Remember when you actually liked Beyoncé? Me neither. However I never really disliked her, she was just there (or everywhere actually) in the same way that Nando’s or traffic lights are. The tipping point from passive disinterest to actual dislike came when her astonishingly misguided HBO documentary ‘Life is but a Dream’ was shown a few weeks ago on the BBC. This came complete with a fawning introduction from Alan Yentob that was more than a little embarrassing in its ‘get down with the kids’ hand-wavium about what a paradigm defining artiste Beyoncé’ really is.

The film is a skewed, boring and hagiographic 90 minute attempt to get people to like Beyoncé. It instead ends up revealing her to be a classic study in God-fearing American narcism. We are compelled to empathise with the loneliness of superstellar stardom, the kind of celebrity that eradicates the ability of the star to live a normal life. Yet her attempts at introspection – obviously scripted, filming herself with full hair and make-up at 3am complaining about how her life has changed – are too fatuous to take seriously. I found myself muttering ‘give me a break darling’ at the TV, rolling my eyes and saying it like Jeremy Kyle when he is mining a serious vein of prickishnness.

Beyoncé’s life does seem like a dream, perhaps because nothing about it feels real.  It seems as if she lacks the intelligence to realise that she has lost touch with what it means to be a bag of perspiring, respiring carbon like the rest of us down here below the Mount Olympus where the likes of her and Jay-Z live.  She lacks the ability to turn what her life has become – being an outsider due to wealth and notoriety – into great art. Think of Bowie, looking down at his audience in the 80’s wondering how many of them owned a Velvet Underground record. Think of Eminem’s lyrics in the song White AmericaWhat has Beyoncé contributed to this rich seam of artistic introspection? This:

Way to make your fans feel appreciated Bey.

Thats whats most grinding about Beyoncé, her enormous, all-conquering sense of entitlement. She genuinely believes the guff her record label executive spouts about one of her albums being ‘totally original’. Beyoncé talks about songs, mostly written by other people, songs that Alexandra Burke could sing just as well, as if they re-shaped the surface of the planet. This leads to two problems: firstly her nauseatingly transparent humility, which manifests itself in constant referrals to the role God has had in her success feels insincere. Secondly because she  is told be those around her (and by Alan fucking Yentob) that her music is original, that it is groundbreakingprofound and all the other shit, she actually seems to believe it. In the realm of Queen Bey its not familiarity that breeds contempt it is insularity that breeds it.

Bey looks unhappy to be wearing Halle Berry's costume from 2004's 'Catwoman' movie.

Bey looks unhappy to be wearing Halle Berry’s costume from 2004’s ‘Catwoman’ movie.

The success of ‘Single Ladies’ (a song co-written by three men) has led to Beyoncé being lauded as some kind of modern day icon of the feminist fourth wave. In fairness much of what she says is admirable:

– women and men should be payed the same

– men shouldn’t alone in defining whats sexy and what is feminine

Why then are her actions at odds with her words? Beyoncé espoused the above in the pages of GQ (spoiler alert: she comes across badly) . Consider that the cover shoot was orchestrated by Terry Richardson, a man so misogynistic he may as well have the word tattoo’d to his fucking forehead for the rest of his days so that nobody mistakes him for being anything else. Our Queen appears in the shoot half-naked, playfully posing in male sportswear, complete with ‘the gap’. Whoops looks like you’re playing a role in classic male sexual fantasy Bey! As long you sell some Pepsi I’m sure its worth it though.

Slightly better looking than Emmeline Pankhurst tbf.

Slightly better looking than Emmeline Pankhurst tbf.

Beyoncé has been called “the most important and compelling popular musician of the twenty-first century … the result, the logical end point, of a century-plus of pop.”  She is a phenomenal performer, arguably the best in the world today; but when her shows are broken down they are around 60% lights and effects, 30% shaking of her famed ‘booty’ and about 10% singing.   It’s gospel burlesque shot through the prism of 21st century technology at a thousand miles an hour. It’s not important. I’m not compelled. I’m pretty sure this isn’t the logical end point of a century of pop:

“In 2009, both Beyoncé and Kelly Clarkson had hits (Beyoncé’s “Halo,” which charted in April, and Clarkson’s “Already Gone,” which charted in August) that were created from the same track, by Ryan Tedder. Clarkson wrote her own top line, while Beyoncé shared a credit with Evan Bogart. Tedder had neglected to tell the artists that he was double-dipping, and when Clarkson heard “Halo” and realized what had happened she tried to stop “Already Gone” from being released as a single, because she feared the public would think she had copied Beyoncé’s hit. But nobody cared, or perhaps even noticed; “Already Gone” became just as big a hit.” (From this article in The New Yorker.)

This probably is though. Perhaps Beyoncé is the perfect 21st century pop idol, an iconic pop vacuum. She has very little to say, her life is about as different from you and me as Henry VII’s (they were both desperate for an heir) was and her twitter account is about as enjoyable to read through as the first time you used Microsoft Excel without knowing what the fuck was going on. The worst thing is that we don’t expect better, the market has made us dull, paralysed and stupefied us into expecting nothing more than an attractive woman writhing in front of some neat graphics.

Bow down bitches!