Do or Do Not.

Archive for June, 2005

Happy “Buff”-day

without comments

Just wanted to throw some birthday wishes toward my hero, The Great and Terrible Joss (Whedon), who’s celebrating the big four-one today.

Over the last two years, Joss has become something of a heroic figure for me–he tells stories of exactly the sort I’d like to tell in exactly the way I’d like to tell them. His ability to write both uproariously funny dialogue and moments of true tragedy equally well, his passion for and devotion to story above all else, and his understanding and mastery of serial storytelling (both TV and comics) inspire me to attempt to do likewise in my own work. Whether I’ll ever come anywhere close to his level, I don’t know, but it sure won’t be for lack of trying.

I was going to get into a more detailed discussion of my love for Joss here, but I think I’ll save that for some other time instead. So I’ll just say “happy birthday”…and maybe go home and pop “Once More, With Feeling” into the DVD player tonight in the man’s honor.

Written by Allen

June 23rd, 2005 at 3:19 pm

Posted in Pop Culture,TV,Writing

Meme: 40 Questions

without comments

So the wife tagged me with a big-ass bunch of getting-to-know-you type questions, and instead of responding via email I thought I’d put the responses up here instead of doing any actual writing today. I’m warning you now–this here’s kinda longish. But, because it comes from me, you’d be well advised to read every single word.

Away we go:

  1. What time is it? 10:20 p.m.

  2. What is your name? Allen Jason Holt. The “J. Allen Holt” part’s just something of an intended professional name–there’s some other schmuck who’s using “A.J. Holt” as a psuedonym, under which he/she publishes shitty crime fiction novels. I want to make sure I’m not confused with that person. Damn shame, too, because I would have liked to have used “A.J. Holt.”

  3. Any nicknames? Not really, no. I will say that you can most definitely not call me Al. Ever.

    Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Allen

June 22nd, 2005 at 10:56 pm

Posted in Memes

Cross-blog pimpage

without comments

Just as a quick FYI: Because I know you all were just dying for my take on Batman Begins, my review is now up at Moviegeekz. Go. Read. LOVE.

Written by Allen

June 22nd, 2005 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Movies,Pop Culture

Review: Batman Begins

without comments

One thought kept bouncing through my head over and over as I watched Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan’s magnificent reconceptualizaion of the Batman mythos:

“They get it.”

Director Nolan (Memento, Insomnia) and co-screenwriter David Goyer understand that audiences don’t want to see the primary-color pap of Joel Schumacher’s last two Batman travesties. We don’t want superhero movies designed only to sell toys. We don’t want superhero movies that treat us like idiots for caring about these characters. We damn sure don’t want nipples on our bat-suits.

What we want are superhero movies that take the characters and the situations seriously. We want to feel like the filmmakers have put some serious thought into their work, that the filmmakers respect the intelligence of the audience. We want sharp dialogue and strong acting just as much as we want gripping action sequences. We want superhero movies that are just damn good movies, period. They get it.

(This spot seems like as good as any for me to say this: To all of you “journalists” who seem absolutely incapable of writing any article or review about anything comics-related without using “POW! WHAM!” or “Holy (Insert Lame Joke Here), Batman!”… fuck you. No, seriously. I’ve had it. I mean, c’mon…you do realize that the “Batman” TV show went off the air almost forty years ago, right? For you to keep making those asinine references is just lazy writing, honestly. It’s a shorthand way for you to wink at the reader: “Look how silly these comic books are! Aren’t superheroes DUMB?!” And it trivializes all of the amazing work that’s been part of the medium. Let Batman Begins officially close the circle and put an end to all of the BIFF! ZOW!s, OK?

Rant over. Glad we could get that straightened out.)

As you might have guessed from the title, Batman Begins tells the story of exactly how Bruce Wayne transformed himself into Batman. We don’t see Christian Bale in the Batman costume until well over an hour into the movie–and we don’t care. The early sequences with Wayne’s training at the hands of his mysterious mentor Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) and the inscrutable Ra’s Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe), leader of the quasi-terrorist League of Shadows, carry such excitement and emotional heft that we’re not in a hurry to see Batman himself appear. And we need these early scenes, for each scene adds another layer of understanding to the psychology of this broken man.

Batman Begins (2005)
Grade: A
Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Written By: Christopher Nolan David S. Goyer
Starring: Christian Bale Liam Neeson Michael Caine Morgan Freeman Gary Oldman Katie Holmes Cillian Murphy Ken Watanabe
Studio: Warner Bros.

After Bruce returns to Gotham (an astonishingly real-looking city, none of the overblown art deco-influenced architecture of the previous movies), we finally get the answer to the question Jack Nicholson’s Joker asked in Tim Burton’s original Batman: “Where does he get those wonderful toys?” Nolan and Goyer go to a lot of trouble to show exactly how Wayne could have come to possess the costume and all of the gadgets so readily associated with Batman, largely thanks to Wayne Enterprises’ head of Research and Development, Lucius Fox (a relaxed and charismatic Morgan Freeman). The scenario laid out in Batman Begins makes perfect sense and provides a credible explanation for how Bruce built the Batman; one only has to accept the conceit that Bruce Wayne has an even greater stash in the bank than Donald Trump.

For having lost his father so early, Bruce Wayne collects a number of fathers during Batman Begins. It’s notable that we see almost nothing of Bruce’s relationship with his mother but several flashbacks to scenes between him and his father. Ducard acts as his first surrogate father, giving Bruce the focus and the physical tools to carry out his mission (and Ducard provokes the greatest anger from Bruce by suggesting Bruce’s father was responsible for the tragedy that took both of Bruce’s parents). Bruce gets his emotional support and assistance with the construction of the Batman identity from long-time family butler Alfred (a relaxed and charismatic Michael Caine). And the trusted Lucius Fox unquestioningly supplies with him his arsenal. Note that there are no surrogate mother-figures in the movie; that absence might explain as much about Bruce’s character as his overabundance of surrogate dads.

One of the greatest strengths of Batman Begins has to be its cast. Christian Bale might not look just the way I’ve always pictured Bruce Wayne (George Clooney was actually the closest of the film Batmen to the one in my head), but the intensity and emotion he brings to the role is undeniable; Bale’s eyes communicate Bruce’s anguish, passion and anger eloquently and forcefully. The veteran character actors populating the supporting roles–Caine, Neeson, Freeman, Gary Oldman (as Seargant-Slash-Future-Commissioner Gordon)–all absolutely nail their parts. I’m hoping to see more of Oldman in particular in the inevitable sequels. Cillian Murphy brings a fantastic level of creepy confidence and charm to the movie’s secondary villain, The Scarecrow. (And thanks to Nolan and Goyer for using two second-tier bad guys instead of any of the big guns–using Ra’s Al Ghul and Scarecrow rather than, say, the Joker or Riddler helped keep the focus on Batman, where it belonged).

The only real casting misstep was Katie Holmes as a young assistant D.A./requisite love interest. Don’t get me wrong, I like Holmes and she certainly wasn’t terrible, but there are many other actresses who would have brought a greater impression of drive, intelligence and passion to the part. Holmes just didn’t feel like an assistant district attorney. I felt like she’d been cast because she was gorgeous (which she is) and not because of what she brought to the part, which wasn’t a lot. The fact that her casting was my biggest quibble with Batman Begins should tell you just how highly I regarded this movie.

Batman Begins represents the culmination of the trend of recent comic book-based movies toward a more realistic treatment of superheroes. The first X-Men movie ushered it in, the first Spider-Man improved on it, and the sequels to each raised the bar higher. But none of those movies dealt with their subjects as impressively and intricately as does Batman Begins. The only other superhero movie that can be compared to this one in terms of treatment is The Incredibles, which featured a similar devotion to deep characterization mixed with blood-pumping action. And I feel safe in saying that The Incredibles and Batman Begins are the two best superhero movies ever made.

Technorati tags:

Written by Allen

June 22nd, 2005 at 12:19 am

The crux point cometh

with 2 comments

The Associated Press released an article today about the fact that computer programming jobs are going to become harder and harder to come by over the next decade or so. Between management wanting employees with more cross-discipline versatility and the ever-increasing move of coding jobs overseas, things don’t look so hot for American software developers.

Like, for instance, me.

I don’t assume this one article to be particularly prophetic, of course, but this also isn’t the first time I’ve heard this scenario described. The article even seems to single me out in particular:

“If you’re only interested in deep coding and you want to remain in your cubicle all day, there are a shrinking number of jobs for you,” said Diane Morello, Gartner vice president of research.

She might as well have said “there are a shrinking number of jobs for you, Allen.”

I’ve been thinking over the last few months that a change in career might be necessary for me at some point in the near future. (Yeah, I’m working toward a career as a writer, but I’m thinking specifically here of my day-job career.) As much as I enjoy my job, I’ve been feeling topped-out lately and haven’t had much opportunity to learn new skills and grow into another role. Some of that ennui could be because I’ve been working on the same project for two years, which is a pretty new experience to me–my web-development career before this job had been much more in the build-’em-quick-and-move-on vein, working for multiple clients at a time rather than on one monolithic internal project.

I really, really, really don’t want to go into management. Nothing against you managers out there–I just don’t believe it’s a career track at which I’d particularly excel, given my personality type. And I’ve rarely seen any managers who actually seemed happy in their jobs, so that’s not a path I’m anxious to go down.

Is it a matter of specialization? There might be options that way–software architecture or database administration, for example–but I can see where almost any road I select could be yanked out from under me and sent to India (where it apparently costs about one-third what it does here to develop software).

I’ve thought of changing careers altogether, of getting out of the technology biz–but how, exactly, do I go about doing that? I get paid pretty well for what I do, and I certainly can’t leave this field to go start over at the bottom rung of some other career when I’m the one responsible for supporting my family. And there’s also the matter of training; I’m not especially trained to do much else (though, to be fair, I had no training for this career, either).

I like my job. I like coding, I like sticking my nose into my computer (not literally) and building tools and applications out of code. But I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be able to keep on keeping on as I have been. I feel like a crux point is approaching more quickly than I’d like, a period of great life changes condensed into a small timeframe. I don’t know how much time I have. But I’d like to be as ready as I can be when the crux point arrives.

Written by Allen

June 21st, 2005 at 1:40 pm

Posted in Technology