Saturday, June 25, 2011

Because people might have been Googling for me

My name is Ted Anderson, and I'm a former intern for the NPR show Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! I'm a blogger, an aspiring librarian, a comics writer, and a podcaster.

I am also a fan of the new television series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, also known as a "brony." If you've been reading my blog for a while now, you'll notice that I haven't actually talked about my love of this show before; if you've just discovered this blog, I'm guessing it's because I just appeared on Wait, Wait (specifically, the June 25, 2011 episode) to talk about being a brony, and you Googled my name and a few other terms ("pony," for example) and found this post. I've discussed the show quite a bit with my friends—see here for an example—but not on this blog. Partly that's out of laziness, but it's also partly because this blog is, to some extent, my professional face on the Internet, and I'd like to seem as professional as possible, which means not talking about how I think this show for little girls is awesome.

But what the heck. I may as well capitalize on my fame, right?

Expect a post from me on my feelings about the show and its fandom in the next few days. In the meantime, I'm also a co-host of a weekly podcast in the Minneapolis area, the Geek Report, and in our most recent episode, posted June 26, 2011, we discussed the show and why it's seen as shameful for adult males to enjoy it. If you enjoyed my appearance on Wait, Wait, you should give this podcast a listen, to hear me explain more coherently and cohesively just what it is about the show that I like. Of course, you can also read through my previous posts on this blog about comics, libraries and librarians, movies, and so forth. I hope you like what you find!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ted's thoughts on X-Men: First Class

I liked it. I honestly, genuinely liked it. Which, to be fair, I was kind of expecting to, because the reviews I'd seen had been generally positive.

X-Men as a comic has always been dense with history—not just because it's been around for almost fifty years, but in the sense that many of its major characters have decades (sometimes centuries) of backstory, turning them into complex knots of motivations, desires, hatreds, beliefs, and so forth. Its two central poles, Magneto and Professor X, each have particularly rich histories, explaining how two men from very different backgrounds became the closest of friends, then the bitterest of enemies. At first, I thought the very last thing a film series that's already had four films, each packed with dozens of major characters, should do is delve even deeper into its own mythology—particularly after the last two of those films were such stinkers—but it ends up working out: they introduce essentially a whole new cast, injecting some new blood into the franchise, while explaining a bit more about those we already knew.

First Class also finally strikes just the right balance of sobriety and camp. If you've talked with me about superhero films for any length of time, I've probably given you my speech about how I hate the Spider-Man movies, mostly from the schlock factor. Sam Raimi is not an understated director; his movies are big and splashy, every emotion played out across the entire screen. I dislike that, in a comic book movie. I want the material to be fun, sure, but taking itself at least a little bit seriously. The first two X-Men films hit that perfect note for me: the plots were about stopping bad guys from doing something horrible to the world, yes, but with more pathos and emotional density than your standard action flick. They were big, and over-the-top in terms of plot, but the actual mood was more subdued, more character-driven. It's the same reason I love Terminator 2.

No movie is perfect, of course. I mentioned the "new blood" of the cast, but the focus is still on Magneto and Professor X. Their arc is great, and well-handled, but it does mean the other characters tend to be underdeveloped. Most of the young mutants get only a sentence or two to really show off their characters—not necessarily a bad thing in a splashy big-budget yet mythology-heavy movie like this, but it sure doesn't make me want to go out and see X-Men Origins: Banshee.

January Jones is godawful as an actress. I'm pretty sure the producers of Mad Men, when they were casting Betty Draper, were looking specifically for a woman who was almost totally emotionless because everything was being bottled up and tightly controlled. Unfortunately, they didn't realize that January Jones wasn't acting.

Some of the new mutant characters, both good guys and bad, are pretty odd choices. X-Men, by virtue of its subject matter, its longevity, and its premise, has an extremely large and diverse catalog of characters. So why, when you're looking for two Bad Mutants to round out Kevin Bacon's villainous crew, do you pick an extremely terrible and utterly despised character created by one of the most hated writers ever to take on the mutants, and a character so long-forgotten even I hadn't heard of him? Same goes for more than one of the First Class themselves (though I was delighted by the inclusion and Nicholas Hoult's portrayal of Hank McCoy).

At this point I'm going to start bringing in spoilers, so the rest of this scatterbrained review will be below a cut. Click through if you've seen the movie yourself, or if you just don't care.