Archive for May, 2010

Rant: Leadership EPIC FAIL

Excerpted from the chat room where I hang out.

[obama-sux]/006 Rob says, “I am furious at the lack of action and leadership over stanching the oil spill”
[obama-sux]/007 Rob says, “EPIC FAIL”
[obama-sux]/008 Ryan says, “Yeah, it is ridiculous.”
[obama-sux]/009 Ryan says, “Complete incompetence on all sides.”
[obama-sux]/010 Rob says, “yeah”
[obama-sux]/011 Rob says, “I seriously feel fury”
[obama-sux]/012 Rob says, “all I’m hearing is bureaucracy instead of mobilization of every resource to stop an emergency and a crisis that redefine emergency and crisis”
[obama-sux]/013 Rob says, “if a patient is bleeding from an artery you stop the bleeding and then worry about lawsuits later”
[obama-sux]/014 Bishop asks, “What can the administration realistically do that is nt being done?”
[obama-sux]/015 Lionheart says, “I feel like I should be furious, but I think I may still be burned out by Bush outrage fatigue.”
[obama-sux]/016 Rob asks, “this was a test of obama’s ability to lead, and he totally fucking failed. 30 days and nothing? except more drilling permits issued? and waiting for BP to do something? and not letting Louisiana do something? and forming committees to look into it?”
[obama-sux]/017 Johnny says (to Bishop), “Top 2: 1) Nuke it. 2) Start shaving people.”
[obama-sux]/018 Rob says, “30 days of doing nothing about this obliterates my memory of bush doing nothing for 7 minutes on 9/11″
[obama-sux]/019 Rob says, “the entire southern coast is being destroyed”
[obama-sux]/020 Rob says, “and there’s thousands of people wanting to do something about it and people will sit idle in an anxious tizzy without someone to lead them, and our elected leader is not doing any leading”
[obama-sux]/021 Lionheart asks, “What has Louisiana been prevented from doing to contribute to the cleanup?”
[obama-sux]/022 Rob says, “they’re wanting to dredge sand and build a sand wall to protect the wetlands”
[obama-sux]/023 Rob says, “and they’re waiting on federal permission to do so”
[obama-sux]/024 Rob says, “and they sent a letter asking permission TWO WEEKS AGO to the white house”
[obama-sux]/025 Rob says, “I’ll tell you what they should do”
[obama-sux]/026 Rob says, “drop rocks on it, tons of rocks, 24 hours a day, for six months”
[obama-sux]/027 two-star says, “I’m not totally surprised. I remember early in the campaign Obama was all for coal liquification. Which would be terrible in terms of global warming consequences. He did eventually come around, but I think his instinct is to listen to energy industry folks with whiz-bang high-tech fixes.”
[obama-sux]/028 Rob says, “mobilizing every junk scow, frigate, private yacht, and rowboat, every rock quarry, every strip mining operation, every helicopter”
[obama-sux]/029 Rob says, “get james cameron down there with his submarines and 3d cameras”
[obama-sux]/030 Allen says, “rock!”
[obama-sux]/031 Rob says, “get every geek who knows how to write or play a videogame to work out how to drop rocks such that they land in the right place with the tidal currents”
[obama-sux]/032 Allen says, “I still think a tactical nuke is the way to do it”
[obama-sux]/033 Allen says, “oooo… tetris-shaped rocks”
[obama-sux]/034 Rob says, “a mountain of rocks will stop the oil, I guarantee you, and it’s pretty much 100% environmentally safe”
[obama-sux]/035 Rob says, “but we need to bury all of the BP equipment and tell them sorry you don’t get any more oil from this, and you’re not fucking drilling a second hole so that we have two geysers”
[obama-sux]/036 two-star says, “Yeah. BP has a serious conflict of interest here.”
[obama-sux]/037 Lionheart says (to Rob), “Rocks? That seems kind of like trying to plug an upturned firehose by dropping rocks into the torrent.”
[obama-sux]/038 Rob says, “it is obvious that BP is not doing well at stopping it because priority #1 for them is still getting as much oil as possible out of it so they can sell it and make money”
[obama-sux]/039 Rob says, “but that’s what they do, so I have less invective for them, because that’s the only thing they know”
[obama-sux]/040 Rob says, “but it’s why waiting for them to fix it is ludicrous”
[obama-sux]/041 Allen says, “but BP is such a green company!”
[obama-sux]/042 Allen says, “and by that I mean, their gas stations are painted with lots and lots of green paint”
[obama-sux]/043 Rob says, “earlier today I felt like recording a youtube video where I stepped into this leadership vacuum and said ‘my fellow americans, here’s the fucking plan.'”
[obama-sux]/044 Rob says, “I’m now picturing obama as the weedy lawyer guy who comes in spouting rules saying you can’t do this and that because of the rules and harrison ford punches him out with a knuckle sandwich to his glass jaw, sending his clipboard flying, and says, ‘Get the hell out of the way and LET ME SAVE THIS PATIENT'”
[obama-sux]/045 Rob says, “and the audience always cheers when that guy gets punched out for a reason”
[obama-sux]/046 Lionheart says, “Heh.”
[obama-sux]/047 Allen says, “man”
[obama-sux]/048 Rob says, “the bloated mediocrity of the health care bill passage wasn’t a test of his ability to lead, this was, and he failed”
[obama-sux]/049 Rob says, “ok, that’s all I have to say”
[obama-sux]/050 Lionheart says (to Rob), “Well, I find your argument somewhat persuasive.”
[obama-sux]/051 Allen says, “it’s not like the federal government has lots of experience with disasterous deep-sea well ruptures or their consequences”
[obama-sux]/052 Rob says, “dealing with an incredible crisis the likes of which never seen before is exactly the test of leadership”
[obama-sux]/053 Allen says, “though, it seems like he could step in with, I don’t know, a second stimulus check, or maybe government dollars to help subsidize Red Lobster’s endless shrimp platter which has not become prohibitively expensive”
[obama-sux]/054 Allen says, “er, now become”
[obama-sux]/055 Rob derisive snort/sigh

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Movie Review: Iron Man 2 (2010)

They forgot to make the final boss fight the hardest and most dramatic one.

That’s the simplest way I can sum up why the movie feels “okay” instead of excellent. I loved the beginning of the movie, the way it set its own pace and tone very deliberately, with a long, dialogue-heavy Senate committee hearing — essentially a small one-act play at the start of the movie, carried entirely by the performance of long pages of dialogue. The director, Jon Favreau (whose cameo role extends to an extended brawl of a fistfight with an anonymous guard stooge at the climax of the movie), surprised me again in the middle of the first act by setting up a classic, static proscenium frame and letting Downey and Paltrow tear into their dialogue, uninterrupted by cutting.

So engaging is the well-paced dramedy of Tony Stark’s life that the Iron Man scenes feel like an interruption. It tends to make me think that this really needs to just become a television series. That way, relationship arcs can take a whole season to play out their twists and turns, rather than having to happen in the space of two hours.

It reminds me of a side thought, that I wonder why it is that some of these Marvel movies get propelled with A-list talent, and some of them have to make do with less than stellar actors and directors. For example, the Fantastic Four movies basically used television actors. The guy playing Victor Von Doom could have easily shown up as a Star Trek: Deep Space 9 bad guy. And could easily go back to playing the equivalent now after having done those movies. Why does it seem like the FF always gets treated poorly when it should be the flagship, as it was originally, for the entire Marvel Universe?

Sam Rockwell, playing the corporate villain of this movie, busts out the Guy Fleegman goofball smarm, and at one point trots out the same dance moves he used when playing the villain of Charlie’s Angels. He manages a thing where we instantly know the character is the antagonist, but he’s also a cartoon, and doesn’t seem very threatening. Mickey Rourke is in there playing his role like he’s in an Oliver Stone prison movie, and Rockwell is acting like Daffy Duck. It kind of works because every once and a while in the same movie there’s a red and yellow suit with repulsor rays blowing things up and clanking. Scarlett Johansson is the only one definitely playing a comic book character. As an undercover shield agent, she gears up in a superspy catsuit (nice outfit, btw) and mows down a bunch of guys in melee combat, which I see has been perfected since The Matrix first pointed the way how to do it. The choreography of how she takes the bad guys out is smartly smack on, each move in it a superhero pose. I didn’t quite like the decision to use the Saving Private Ryan strobe-frame effect — in a way, it emphasizes the drawn-pose-ness I was just describing — because I found it distracting. I wanted to see the motion be fluid, not halted. It dampened the awesome for me, which was a little frustrating.

SPOILER WARNING. Spoilers for the end of Iron Man 2 follow.

Getting back to the ending, I thought that the script suddenly started skipping and dropping out, like a signal that was getting lost in noise. The script was good, it was fairly tight, it had a logic to it, and it had just the right sense of humor about when to wink at something preposterous it had just done to move things along. (“Well, that was easy.”) At the end, Iron Man has to deal with an army (and navy, and air force, and marine corps) of remote-drone iron men, as well as his friend in a bulked-up rogue suit, as well as the supervillain Mickey Rourke is playing (the final boss guy). The problem, script-wise, is that in the preceding scene, Sam Rockwell had just berated Mickey Rourke (who was building the fleet of drones for Rockwell) for not holding up his end of the bargain with the drones. But since there was a finished platoon of drones ready to go, I don’t know what he was talking about.

Of course, the end of the movie is 18 minutes of solid action. The problem is it doesn’t feel particularly imaginative. There’s also a little too much in the stew. There’s a lot of spatial confusion, with everything taking place in one Expo park. By the time Tony Stark says, “We gotta lead these things away from the expo park,” he’s been flying with them in chase long enough to be 300 miles away.

He dispatches the drones here and there, then there’s a fairly good fight with the two good guys against a ring of drones. This fight had imagination to it, was well thought-out. For example, they showed a couple of examples of the good guys trying to do the sensible thing and fly out of there, and they were each thwarted by an attack or a grapple. Then Tony busts out something cool, and just before I could mutter it to myself, his buddy Don Cheadle says, “Next time, my advice is use that first.” And then Tony has a response to that, one that videogamers are likely to follow the logic of. You don’t waste your super-bomb, you hold it until it can do the most damage, or a now-or-never moment when you’re overwhelmed.

Then you’re screwed, though, because now the boss guy is going to show up, and you won’t have it to use on him.

Videogames have a lot to teach the movie guys now about final boss fights. This fight should have taken the last 10 minutes of the last 18 minutes of action, with full choreography that told a story and had a beginning, middle, and end. And it should have been tied into the story and the plot and the character development. It has no resolution whatsoever for the character that Mickey Rourke has been playing. It has no resolution for that character vis-a-vis Tony Stark. I don’t know, did they write that and then cut it, or did they never write that?

And there’s always a trick to defeating the boss guy, because he’s just too tough to go down by ordinary means. They did come up with something along these lines, and it was okay. (This is why we leave the theater thinking, “That was okay.”) It just wasn’t really satisfying. It followed too much mess, and it was too short, and it was disconnected from the plot. Rourke should have first taken out Don Cheadle, raising the stakes for Tony Stark, because Cheadle is only there as a result of Stark’s stupid, selfish actions earlier in the movie. You know? And Tony should have figured out something clever to do in defense against those electro laser whips, having already encountered them once and seen how they work.

And, totally, totally, there should have been a deal where the new super power source Tony has created and installed in himself is the key to defeating the super bad guy, because it’s something the bad guy has not anticipated, and it means he’s less powerful than he thought. I mean, if you think about it, it’s weird that they didn’t do anything more with that.

Wait, I just thought of something even more weird. The scene in all the previews and trailers, where Gwyneth Paltrow kisses his helmet and then throws it out of the plane and he dives after it, isn’t in the movie! Bizarre. Instead, we get another scene of puffy Garry Shandling. (He’s good, but gosh he’s puffy these days.) Oh well.

There is an after-credits teaser. As you might guess from various hints along the way, it takes place in the New Mexico desert. I was so sure it was going to be a Hulk cameo (another set-up for the Avengers movie), but it wasn’t.

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Directed by Jon Favreau. Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johannson, Don Cheadle, Sam Rockwell, Jon Favreau, and Mickey Rourke.

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