Bringing Out the Dead (1999) Written by Paul Schrader Directed by Martin Scorsese
By the time the 20th century was winding down, it had been twenty-six years since Scorsese released Mean Streets. To finish out the century, the director re-teamed with his previous collaborator Paul Schrader to adapt a novel about a paramedic’s emotional & spiritual struggle on New York City streets. The result is not Scorsese’s best work, a strange aesthetic and characters that are very difficult to get a handle on. In an interview years later, Scorsese would admit that he was working out a lot of his own issues on the screen about his aging parents and his relationships with the people in the hospitals he was encountering. It’s clear something about this picture didn’t click as it was the only Scorsese film of the 1990s to receive zero Oscar nominations.
Wandavision Episode 8 (Disney+) Written by Laura Donney Directed by Matt Shakman
By the end of this episode, I concluded that this might have been the best thing ever made in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’ll admit, Wandavision has been a little hit & miss for me. The plot has seemed fairly clear-cut despite my desire for more twists and turns. It looks like the story will end up being much more straightforward than fans would have guessed. Even the Pietro reveal gets undercut by Agatha this episode, squashing some fan theories that sprung up with his appearance. What worked so well about this episode is the depth of character & emotion it gave to Wanda Maximoff. In the films, she’s been continually sidelined as a supporting player, but finally, she has received the spotlight she deserves.
Superman & Lois (The CW) Written by Greg Berlanti & Todd Helbing Directed by Lee Toland Krieger
Superman in popular media has been a tricky thing for the last decade. I don’t disguise my absolute disgust with Zack Snyder’s interpretation of the character in his films. He seems relegated to a villainous figure in video games if you look at the Injustice series and the upcoming Suicide Squad game. I’ve enjoyed the direction he’s gone in the comic books, and despite some little annoyances, I think writer Brian Michael Bendis has taken the character down some fresh avenues.
From my review: Scorsese delivers a pitch-perfect comedy-drama that never once feels phony. He ends up presenting one of the most honest mother-son relationships I’ve seen in a film. Alice is by no means a conventional mother, and she regularly engages in arguments with her son that seem more appropriate for a friend. She is still a parental and is determined to keep her son out of trouble while allowing him space to mistakes and learn. The things she exposes her son to might cause some viewers to judge her for being immature and irresponsible. Tommy is present when Ben becomes violent with Alice. When Alice gets involved with David, Tommy is a part of their going out. It makes sense, though, because Alice’s life has a big chunk devoted to Tommy, so any person she might partner with is going to need to understand and get along with her child.
Hawkman: The Awakening (2019) Reprints Hawkman v5 #1-6 Hawkman: Deathbringer (2019) Reprints Hawkman v5 #7-12 Written by Robert Venditti Art by Bryan Hitch
Hawkman: The Darkness Within (2020) Reprints Hawkman v5 #13-19 Written by Robert Venditti Art by Pat Olliffe, Tom Palmer, and Will Conrad
Hawkman: Hawks Eternal (2021) Reprints Hawkman #20-29 Written by Robert Venditti Art by Fernando Pasarin
How do you solve a problem like Hawkman? As I laid out in my Superhero Spotlight on the character, when you take on Hawkman, you are taking on a writing chore. There have been so many conflicting attempts to “simplify” the hero that led to him being a toxic continuity bomb. DC Comics are obsessed with continuity, so this results in a conundrum. I can’t say I am a fan of Robert Venditti. I read his X-O Manowar revival for Valiant, which was fine. I definitely didn’t enjoy his Green Lantern run, but he immediately followed Geoff Johns, who raised the bar so high it was nigh impossible to top. As this Hawkman series went on, I began to hear some surprisingly positive buzz, and when it was announced, it was coming to an end; I realized it was the perfect time to read through it.
Sins of the Father (Season 3, Episode 2) Original airdate: September 23, 1997 Written by Rich Fogel Directed by Curt Geda
Batman: The Animated Series came to an end on Fox Kids in 1995 as a new network came to prominence. The WB was to be a home for Warner Brothers programming, including expanding the DC superheroes animated universe. The New Batman Adventures was run by the same people that worked on BTAS, but the character and production designs were tweaked. Batman’s costume was more in line with his simpler Year One style, and the villains took on more gothic, monstrous looks. Catwoman had pale skin, Joker’s hair looked like a boomerang, and The Scarecrow was a pure nightmare.
When was that moment in our history when the fate of man and dog became so closely intertwined? When did our hearts & minds become so tightly linked to these creatures? They are the only large carnivore that we have this relationship with, the first species on the planet that became domesticated. Fossils records show humans began living alongside dogs four thousand years before the husbandry of goats and pigs occurred. Somewhere along the way, in Europe-Asia, hunter-gatherers began to work with dogs to take down prey, each partner getting what they needed to survive the harsh conditions of the land. In that struggle to survive, a love was born, loyalty and devotion that will thrive until the last embers of our sun burn out.
Kundun (1997) Written by Melissa Matheson Directed by Martin Scorsese
When I was eleven years old, I watched the Oscars and saw actor Richard Gere come out to give an award. Instead of going into the teleprompter text, he spent thirty seconds talking about China and its occupation of Tibet, imploring then Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping to move his soldiers out and allow Tibet to be free. I had no idea what he was talking about, but it certainly left an impression on me. All I knew about Tibet was that it was close to the Himalayas at the time. I certainly didn’t comprehend the history of Tibet and China. I also had no idea who the Dalai Lama was.
Scandalous: The Untold Story of The National Enquirer (2019) Directed by Mark Landsman
While this documentary is clearly inspired by The National Enquirer’s connections to Donald Trump, that only comes into play in the third act. Most of the film is about telling the chronological story of the tabloid’s rise to prominence and the moment in American culture that sparked its rocket-like trajectory. At the center of the paper’s inception was Generoso Pope, Jr. His father was a New York powerbroker who used his papers to influence politics in the state. His son took over upon his father’s death but went in wildly different directions. He bought The Enquirer and turned it into a reasonably salacious rag that featured gory pictures of the aftermath of car accidents and murders. It was a lot like some of the chan boards are on the internet now, a place for people to get sick thrills.
Casino (1995) Written by Martin Scorsese & Nicholas Pileggi Directed by Martin Scorsese
After the success of Goodfellas, both with audiences and critics, it was reasonably sure Scorsese & author Nicholas Pileggi would collaborate again on something. Five years later, they told another true story of organized crime and its deleterious effects on people’s lives in Casino. Like Goodfellas, the movie focuses on an outsider to the Italian Cosa Nostra, a Jewish man with a remarkable ability to gamble and win big. Unlike Goodfellas, Casino feels more epic in scope. These people deal with amounts of money that are far beyond what Henry Hill ever got his hands on. The story is also more balanced with its three central cast members in a way that Goodfellas never really did.