AN EMPIRE OF ONE

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Posts Tagged ‘Frank Miller

Frank Miller, Politics, and Entertainment

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Everyone’s talking about what Frank Miller has to say about the Occupy Movement. If you don’t know what he said, read about it here.

Here are some of my thoughts:

1. How likely is it that Miller’s screed is not an honest, authentic op-ed, but instead a bit of PR? That is,  he did it  to bring attention to himself and his new book. If so, mission accomplished!

2. Miller was and still is a Libertarian. Some people seem to be shocked by his “turn to the right.” But he hasn’t made any turn because he’s been traveling the same road for a long time.

3. Libertarianism is the philosophy of the 1%, just as Ayn Rand is the philosopher of the 1%. Miller identifies with the 1%. In fact, technically, he probably is a one percenter.

4. Here’s what Grant Morrison says in Supergods about The Dark Knight Returns:

Frank Miller brought the Dark Age style into line with a newly confident right-leaning America. His monumental Batman was no bleeding-heart liberal but a rugged libertarian. (Supergods p. 190) (I wrote more about Morrison’s book here.)

The casualness with which Morrison locates Miller’s work on the ideological spectrum contrasts with the apolitical attitude of many, if not most, Americans. For example, here’s what Tom Spurgeon says, in his post about Miller’s rant:

I am more grateful than usual this morning to have grown up reading comics without ever having to be exposed to, say, Don McGregor’s rants against Gerald Ford signing the Helsinki Accords. Or whatever, I mean, come on. Yuck.” (Source.)

Does Spurgeon sound like a Yahoo, or is it just me? However, the point is that his attitude is typical.

5. Learning how to see the political messages in all works of entertainment is a form of empowerment. It’s like waking up with Superman’s X-ray vision, or finding the glasses used by the heroes of John Carpenter’s They Live. A book that will help you acquire this super power is Peter Biskind’s Seeing is Believing. Here’s how Biskind describes it on his site:

Samuel Goldwyn is usually credited with the phrase, “If you have a message, call Western Union,” which was gospel in Hollywood for decades. But there are messages and there are messages. It is the contention of this book that all films carry messages, overtly or not. Seeing Is Believing examines Hollywood films of the 1950s that everybody saw but nobody really looked at, classics such as Giant, On the Waterfront, Rebel Without a Cause, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Blackboard Jungle, and so on, and shows how movies that appear to be politically innocent—westerns, weepies, science fiction movies—in fact bear an ideological burden.

Why not read the book and become a superhero today?

If you are too busy to read the book, Jim Hoberman, film critic for the Village Voice, covers some of the same ground in “The Fascist Guns in the West” in Radical America Vol. 19 No. 6, p. 53. Download it here.

UPDATE (11/18/15):

In a recent interview Frank Miller confirms that he is a libertarian:

People often think it’s a conservative screed. But Ronald Reagan is literally a villain in the story! That interpretation has never made sense to me.
Especially since I’m not a conservative. I’m a libertarian.

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My Favorite Comic Books

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My list of top ten comics was rejected by The Hooded Utilitarian for their recent poll of comics creators and critics, asking them to list their top ten favorite comics. Their poll result is here, but my list is below. Despite being rejected, it’s interesting to me to see how many of my faves were mentioned by those who were invited to participate. I also thought it interesting that even the top vote getter, Peanuts, received only 24% of the vote (50/211). Is that enough to claim that there is a consensus for this list of best comics? I don’t think so. All that you can say is that the largest minority grouping thinks Peanuts is tops. But the much larger majority (76% of the vote) disagrees. The headline should refer not to Peanuts being number one, but to the fact that there was no agreement about which title should occupy the number one slot.

Anyway, here’s my list. The one I submitted was limited to ten titles, but I’m not bothering to meet that limit here.

There are always more comics to add to my library. My want list is here.

No Guns, No Cars, No Phones

Frank Miller

I’ve often heard writers or artists say something like this: “I write or draw what I like.” For example, Frank Miller says his stories feature so many guns because he likes to draw guns.

The Octopus in a storyboard sketch for Frank Miller's The Spirit

If I were to make a list of the things that I like, it would be very long. So, I’m going to do the opposite, ie, a list of things I do not like and try to avoid in my projects. It’s a list of rules and the list is very short.

  1. No Guns

  2. No Cars

  3. No Phones

I’ve somewhow managed to make or write my films and scripts while, for the most part, obeying these rules.

NO GUNS

I made a detective film (see it here) without having the detective use a gun. The characters use a weapon, but it is a Super 8 movie camera.

Kitty uses a Super 8 camera as a weapon against the director in Shadows on the Wall

NO CARS

The characters in Star Man do not need cars because they fly around using jetpacks.

I broke the  no cars rule in The Tears of a Clown, but the car is made of candy and gets eaten.

NO PHONES

A sub-rule of the no phones rule is visualize it and shut up! The robot-like characters in Intermezzo do not need phones because they do not talk to each other.

The robot-like characters of Intermezzo do not talk to each other

It’s only recently that I’ve been thinking about these rules, yet they appear to have been applied to my projects without me being aware of them. Why? Perhaps because if I made a list of things that I passionately dislike, prominent on that list would be guns, cars, and phones. Judging by the number of films with an infinite number of scenes built around guns, cars, and phones, the people who make these films must feel the opposite and love guns, cars, and phones, perhaps more than anything else. If these rules were applied to Hollywood films, there would be few films left. In fact, Guns, Cars, and Phones would be a good title for a book about current Hollywood films.

It’s almost as if including guns, cars, and phones in a film is an essential prerequisite for a film in Hollywood to be made. Hence, it is no surprise that my projects The Tears of a Clown and Star Man have been produced only on alternative versions of Earth.

The first appearance of Earth-Two, an alternative Earth, in DC comics

Written by pronountrouble2

April 29, 2011 at 11:30 am

Will Eisner, The Spirit, and Me

The Spirit Archives

In 2008 Frank Miller appeared at the San Diego Comic-Con to promote his upcoming film version of Will Eisner’s The Spirit. One of the things he addressed was the need to cast someone like Samuel Jackson as The Octopus.

As he says in the clip above (at about the 26 seconds mark), Eisner depicted The Octopus, who is a recurring character in the Spirit, only as two purple gloved hands.

Miller said that while it was ok never to show more than this of The Octopus in a seven page Spirit story, it would not work for a feature film.

Many years before Miller solved the problem of how to depict The Octopus by dismissing Eisner’s solution, I had hoped to film The Spirit. I even wrote to Will Eisner. Here’s his response:

Of course, I was excited that he expressed interest, but after I sent him a copy of the “script,” this was his reply:

Of course, after getting the “script,” Mr. Eisner no doubt realized he was dealing with a kid who did not even know how to write a coherent script. I was disappointed, but I continued to work on the project.

Here’s how I represented the big fight sequence between The Spirit and The Octopus without showing The Octopus:

That is, my solution to the problem of how to show The Spirit fighting The Octopus was to represent the fight using stop-motion animated tops from the game called Battling Tops.

By the way, this was not the “script” that I sent to Eisner, but a psuedo-storyboard version which I did a few years later. This later version is a lot clearer and easier to follow than what I sent Mr. Eisner. Here’s a passage from an earlier version that is closer to the version that I sent to Eisner:

Confusing, eh? The passage that begins, “On floor of gym,” represents the smuggling operation of a gang of jewel thieves. I used my closet full of toys to create a Rube Goldberg inspired sequence. (I used the Rube Goldberg inspired Mousetrap game in another scene.) Here are some of the wannabe props from the scene:

It’s a sign of Mr. Eisner’s graciousness that even after seeing this script, which could not have been anything other than headache-inducing, he replied as courteously as he did.

For what it’s worth, this was the idea: The Spirit is a comic book character who wants to be real, Pinocchio-like. However, although The Spirit initially thinks he has become real, having “escaped” from the 2D world of the comic book page to the real 3D world, he slowly discovers that he is in a film, which, as Rudoph Arnheim said, is neither 2D nor 3D, but somewhere in-between. (I wanted to begin the film with this quote.)

Although I never made a film using Eisner’s characters, my idea eventually morphed into a film that I made in film school called “Shadows on the Wall.” Unfortunately, by the time the film was finished, The Last Action Hero had been made and my film was seen by some as being “inspired” by it. A few years later, while walking through the main hall of San Diego Comic-Con, I was startled to see Will Eisner at the Kitchen Sink Press booth signing books. I bought a second copy of one of his books, he signed it, and while shaking his hand all I could say was, “Thank you.”

Postscript

Shadows on the Wall did not include a Rube Goldberg-type sequence, but another project I worked on, The Tears of a Clown, did. Here is the scene from the script in which a book is printed by a group of clowns that operate a machine constructed using Rube Goldberg principles:

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Written by pronountrouble2

February 4, 2010 at 5:44 pm

My Favorite Things 8: Comic Books

There are always more comics to add to my library. My want list is here.