The entertainment news was a big surprise to me too. Oscar-winning screenwriter and director Ben Affleck has been cast to be Batman in a 2015 big screen feature. Ben, as you know, also acts. My first thought was, "Wow. I didn't see that one comin'."
Channing Tatum. This would've been great wish fulfillment for millions of women and gay men. Channing Tatum would look hot as Batman. He may not have the acting chops of a Philip Seymour Hoffman but he's serious about his craft and very entertaining to watch. He deserves a big box office hit.
Back in the 1980s, I'd never have imagined Michael Keaton as Batman. He came from a slapstick network sitcom role with Jim Belushi and getting laughs in the big screen comedies Night Shift, Mr. Mom and Beetlejuice. Then he played Batman. The movie was a major box office hit. Keaton did Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992).
One person in my social media group wrote this about the Affleck casting: "...I can now officially proclaim American mainstream cinema dead once and for all." I felt like commenting "Really? Please tell us what you've contributed to the art of American mainstream cinema." She complains frequently about mainstream Hollywood movies. But what is she doing to help them?
This brings me to cinema snobs. We've seen lists from critics and famed film directors of their Top 10 Favorite Films. There are always packed with many a highbrow film -- what The Girl in Preston Sturges' classic, Sullivan's Travels, called "a deep dish movie." In my past, I've been asked to compile such a list. I admit it, I always picked important films that would make me seem refined and knowledgeable about films. Ingmar Bergman's Cries and Whispers is a brilliant film full of theo-philosophical wisdom. How many times have I seen it? About twice. Abel Gance's 1927 silent film, Napoleon, is also a masterpiece. How many times have I seen it? About twice. How many times have I seen the comedy, Napoleon Dynamite? So many times I can recite dialogue along with the characters. The same goes for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes starring Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, It's a Gift starring W. C. Fields, Airplane!, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles and the non-comedy What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? But would most film critics and cinema snobs puts Abel Gance's Napoleon and Napoleon Dynamite on this same list -- even if they'd rented the comedy as often as I have? No. Probably not. But, if I'm ever again asked to compile such a list, I'm including a couple of movies that may not be highbrow, but they definitely and truly are favorites.
Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan. An Austrian who won Olympics gold medals for swimming was cast as a wildman who lived in the African jungle and could communicate with the animals. Weissmuller wasn't an actor of range in a league with Spencer Tracy and Ronald Colman. The MGM Tarzan action movies of the 1930s weren't classics like Citizen Kane. But his work in them saved me from a near-death experience when I was a youngster. No lie. No exaggeration.
The last ten years for me have been marked with job layoffs, long unemployment, the passing of friends and a serious family illness. When I needed to mend my broken heart and lift my spirits, did I turn to Buñuel's The Exterminating Angel? No. I watched Mae West be "ghetto fabulous" in I'm No Angel.
Ben Affleck as Batman. Calm the heck down. It's not like he's the new host of Soul Train. In the meantime, rent Preston Sturges' Sullivan's Travels. See how the broad comedy of an unlikely mainstream cinema character brought a needed moment of happiness to the imprisoned, the physically abused, the poor and hungry, the down and out.
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