The Dark Knight: the Ultimate Batman Movie

The City is of Night; perchance of Death
But certainly of Night

The City of Dreadful Night, James Thomson

The hype surrounding “The Dark Knight“, and predominantly good reviews, has ensured that this will be the biggest Batman blockbuster of them all. And assures that the franchise will flourish for at least the next two or three sequels.

Of course, the tragic death of Heath Ledger has created an inordinate amount of interest in his portrayal of Batman’s arch-nemesis, the psychopathic killer, the Joker. He doesn’t disappoint. Played with maniacal, almost reptilian, relish by Ledger, he makes Jack Nicholson’s earlier Joker look like Alfred E. Neuman by comparison. Ledger’s Joker is a one-man terrorist movement, as destructive and amoral as a typhoon, singularly focused on the destruction of the Batman and anyone else who might get in the way. He’s scary like a coiled snake, you can’t tear your eyes off him.

He and the Dark Knight (Christian Bale) are drawn to each other, like twins separated at birth. As the Joker likes to remind Batman, they’re more alike than he cares to admit. Everyone is potentially insane. All it takes is a little push. Continue reading “The Dark Knight: the Ultimate Batman Movie”

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U.P. Not So Great On Its Centenary

The University of the Philippines (U.P.) centennial celebration has brought to the fore the problems plaguing the country’s premier institution of higher learning. Even the centennial theme, “U.P., Ang Galing Mo!”, has drawn the ire of various sectors, among them U.P.’s own outspoken alumni. Where does U.P. get the gall to call itself great, or even good, when it ranks a mere number 398 in the the THES-QS World University Rankings ? Other schools from poorer countries have bested U.P. , which used to be one of the best in Asia. To rank at the bottom of the top 400 is, in the context of global competitiveness, simply abysmal.

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Charles M. Schulz, ‘Peanuts’ Creator was All Too Human

I grew up on “Peanuts”, the much beloved comic strip by Charles M. Schulz, arguably the most influential and successful American cartoonist of all time. Thus, I look forward to a new authorized biography of Schulz by David Michaelis, “Schulz and Peanuts,” to be released HarperCollins.

I identified with the main character, Charlie Brown (as did millions of others, including U.S. President Ronald Regan), who was later to be eclipsed by his swashbuckling and debonair dog, Snoopy. To a jaded MTV generation used to the admittedly visually stunning SFX of today’s multimedia, it may be hard to fathom the impact a simple, daily black-and-white (except for Sundays) comic strip had on our generation.

As explained by Charles McGrath in a review published in the New York Times :

“He transformed the newspaper cartoon strip, busy and cluttered by the time he turned up in the late ’40s, by flooding it with white space, and by reducing his childish characters to near abstraction – huge circular heads balanced on tiny bodies – he rendered them far more expressive than their cartoon peers. The strip was able to register grown-up emotions, like anxiety, depression, yearning, disillusionment, that had never been in cartoons before. Instead of the “Slam!” “Bam!” “Pow!” sound effects that were the lingua franca of the comics, it employed a quieter, more eloquent vocabulary: “Aaugh!” and “Sigh.”

“Peanuts” was beloved by everyone: by hipsters and college kids (in the ’60s especially); by presidents (Ronald Reagan once wrote Schulz a fan note, saying he identified with Charlie Brown); by the Apollo 10 astronauts, who named their orbiter and landing vehicle after Charlie and Snoopy; by ministers and pastors, who read moral and theological lessons into the strip; by the suits in Detroit, who paid Charlie and the gang a small fortune to shill for the Ford Falcon. At its peak the strip reached 300 million readers in 75 countries; 2,600 papers and 21 languages every day.” Continue reading “Charles M. Schulz, ‘Peanuts’ Creator was All Too Human”

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