Batman Returns 25th Anniversary

 

Wouldn’t you know—“Batman Returns” has recently met its 25-year anniversary so a belated “hats-off” to Burton-ville.

Though nothing will top the “Bat-mania” craze of summer ’89– that season of pre-internet innocence when everything marketable must have been emblazoned with the neon-yellow BAT-LOGO.

One good turn deserved another. Like “Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money”. As the joke went, it’s the merchandizing that makes this stuff happen.

THE FRANCHISE—and what a series it was. Toys, games, BATMAN CEREAL even as families push strollers up and down through the malls of America.

The first one was fusty, noirish—knobular, even. Like sheer black atmosphere and nighttime menace as taut as the molded-rubber muscle suit. Dank, too—with the claustrophobic sets as steam rose from the street-grates. Glopping, green toxic chemicals and the sheer wetness of heat-steam in fevered corruption for the heart of the city and the Gotham underworld.

A singular, “stand-alone” summer blockbuster. Its world of conventions now established– and leading directly to the stylish, underperforming sequel.

Okay, then. The second was different—really different.

Like a dark, molten take on Christmas and whirling snowflakes against a moon-blue sky-line. Ookey green/white stripes and red bows for a revolting orgy of shopping district vandalism as the misfits came out to play, a twisted side-show circus. You thought of Mardi Gras “on the midway” with MTV artifice.

Precise and flashy, a more cluttered movie rife with competing villains and intrigues– wrought vividly with new intensity with Tim Burton’s free hand at the drawing-board. It came from a sleeker era of channel-surfing and ever-shorter attention-spans as you got a lot of bang for your ticket.

We spilled out from the slums and shanty-towns—street urchins, gamins skipping-about, the vulgar classes (– or their “slumming” upper middle-class compatriots) up to low-brow shenanigans as popcorn tumbled from its golden, buttery tubs like manna for a low-man’s lyric and matinee-hour leisure.

Scarfing-it down with mischievous, bright-eyed awareness like an amusement-park ride of demented mechanical novelties.

Of interest was a lampoon of a corrupt Gotham bigshot and property-developer, old New York banking dynasties not far from the self-importance of Trump towers. Now finding himself bound by murky intrigue in the cold, dark watery lair of the Penguin, who seeks nefarious political fortune.

A statement on the age of “spin” and the tabloid press—verily, a coronation of stage-managed media events. And you think how politics becomes like the proverbial sausage-factory– if you like either you shouldn’t watch its packaging and manufacture.

Meanwhile Cat-Woman prowls along the rooftops of buildings to steam up Batman’s nights of crime-fighting in a factious triangle for the upper-hand.

Boisterous, vulgar good fun and high box-office draw—general admission seating as true to the spirit of “democracy’s forge” as anything experienced at a turn of the century old-time Vaudville hall or Nickelodeon arcade.

And the swing of the tides—tit for tat, measure for measure as favor swung back to each principal to the exultant roar of the crowd—like a waltz of gloating villainy.

To wit: a gruesomely-comic scene in “Batman Returns”—The Penguin “NOW UNMASKED” and loping through a snowy park in his coattails and top-hat, “dissociated from all of humanity” as he grunted dementedly and the police gave sordid chase. Then, in rotund form toppling off a snowy bridge into a low-sunk pond and vanishing from sight with an undignified exit.

Not the impression McDonald’s wanted. Ever skittish to public opinion, vulnerable in defeat—they pulled out of the promotion to distance themselves from this unseemly public disturbance.

And here we were, like herded cattle “following a script” of assembly-line customer satisfaction. At once, a target-audience for fast-food tie-in’s and commemorative plastic cups.

Living hand-to-mouth, raise your burger and munch.

Everything was supposed to be, you know—ENTERTAINGLY BLAND.

Fear of contagion—like a bolt of wildness shot through the electrified mob goaded on by these ribald, subversive truths.

Master in numbers. . . . . . the rabble. . . . . . the proletariat. . . . . . ideas leaping from apathetic corners to overtake public order.

“A threat to health, wealth, and morals”.

Whatever it was, “bad for business”. As if rioting mobs would knock over the temple of commerce amid the megaliths of “The Golden Arches”, themselves.

And maybe we weren’t supposed “to get many ideas”.

(OVERTHROW THE STATE)

Whatever our glee, or out “running wild in the streets” or just getting loud at a table our power began and dead-ended here in public “like 13 steps to nowhere”.

Roving minds wouldn’t be corralled quite so easily. . . . .  but we already know how the story goes.

The low-rent district. Yep, and there was the lone McDonald’s. This was the K-Mart economy with wide seas of parking-spaces, if even a bulk super-discount warehouse as we drove past.

The battered ole’ American dollar had seen better days as we pulled our coats a little closer to ourselves in the biting, hungry wind. Me and my brother—elementary-school wise-guys “taking in the sights”.

If even out by this south St. Louis shopping center—a fizzling community-redevelopment project down by the railroad trestles and abandoned factories that had mostly turned into a civic embarrassment.

Mom was down here hunting for a carton of “Virginia Slims” at the discount smoke-shop, a piece of transplanted New Jersey. She had an easy repoire with the world-wise shopkeeper, bars on the windows inside that licensed, complicated thing called grown-up sin.

A moral gray area. Grey as the smoker’s lungs or yellow-striped cinderblocks or fading, chipped paint.

Pick your poison, citizen/customer. A dubious, serious profession of nicotine and excise taxes as it was a free country, after-all. One of neon cowboys and rugged mountains on the aisle-display racks like the greatest nation on earth.

Bikers lumbered through in bandannas and leather-jackets, pushing out through the exits with packaged liquor stuffed into crinkly brown paper bags. Domestication was a bedroom of dirty clothes and indebted paycheck-to-paycheck. Maybe knocking back paper cups filled with water at a drug and alcohol treatment center, amid “the fast lane” of pizza parlors and roaring bikes and pawn shops.

You could easily picture the act “Guns n’ Roses” sitting parked in front of a liquor store and posing in their leather motorcycle hats and t-shirts.

It was still the world of the payphone—as Winona once played a world-wise cabbie in a Jim Jarmusch movie called “Night on Earth”. Cradling the receiver to her ear, her cap turned backward as a cigarette hung from her mouth as life took an easy, malevolent spin. Chewing gum, smoking Marlboros as she casually steered– her eyes peeled straight ahead as she half-contemplated and talked back to her astonished customer, a wealthy, successful L.A. casting agent fresh out of the airport.

One foot in the world of the old Jersey “bridge & tunnel crowd” and passage to “the city of the world”, maintenance men shoveling lime & ash and resigned to their fate like street dogs. Even as Gotham’s statues looked on like impassive stone angels and pondered over the trials of man.

Easy come, easy go—the newsstand and comic-book shop for whatever the dregs of cultivated free-form grime. The new/used chop-shop where prices were neither fair nor exorbitant but coolly-appraised with a price-tag. One jaundiced look from the clerk could weight it for what it is—maybe Winona herself in the cabbie’s gray cloth jacket and t-shirt. Half-glowering with a hardened face like a sooty, snotty dumpster-fire as a cigarette sits tucked behind her ear—this bazaar of low-culture on clearance.

 

Nodding to music, a tinny disturbance, that plays out of a little portable tape-player. Some underground cassette of bug-juice skate-rock noise, true to the fast trade of “buzz” on the street corner.

This, as the customer was left to browse and ask for customer service “quite sparingly”.

You had airbrushed pin-up models styled after World War II, or a goblin-storm of fantasy art, and other schlock true-to-genre as attentions and loyalties shifted in a tribal free-for-all. Testosterone was on the wane, as heavy metal and meaty WWF Wrestlemania were getting pretty played-out, if not overshadowed by the new breed of angsty alt-rock aesthetic.

(– And the workplace being taken-over by computers)

Even as we gamins skipped-about, practically with rolling spark-hoops and tossed firecrackers.

Whatever you said, it was still the greatest country on earth—according to the silvered long-view of your veteran New Yorker “holding forth” with pale, watery blue eyes. Be it a neighborhood butcher in an apron, or a porter down at the docks, or even the shop-owner who sold Mom her cigarettes. A hint of Norman Mailer— or a call back to Marlon Brando in “A Streetcar Named Desire”, or mayonnaise and lox and Charlie’s Tuna along a crisp, presentable breakfast table of New England sunlight.

Standing next to our mother, we’d nod and agree “like good boys”.

It was the age of the cribbed catch-phrase off the television, “Yadda, Yadda” and “Bing-botta-Boom” or even a kind of proto “Make America Great Again” in the national lexicon, if not Donald Trump in a hard hat giving “the thumb’s up” at a steel mill or construction site.

You thought of Danny Devito’s speech as a corporate take-over artist in “Other People’s Money. Forever, the hard-trudging MARCH OF PROGRESS and slogging market correction. If “under new management”, hopefully not the Japanese as wave your little American flags.

“An overhaul” was long due—  “the ole’ charm offensive” for a distressed property as we observed with young, open faces.

Power belongs to the future youth, new life springs eternal.

As for those for whom it was too late, throw some meat to the schmoes with Batman and other feel-good vigilante entertainment.

Our role in this? According to “the script”, we boys were to study hard, “make good”, and go to college with specialized fields without asking too many questions. Pat you on the back, chuck your chin like a senior Mafiosi “in the old neighborhood” steering kids towards THE AMERICAN DREAM.

Immigration, possibilities in flux as a little flower sprouts in between the cracks of the broken sidewalk.

Like a daffy gaggle of Slavic immigrant children knocking back Coca-Cola, wild and snaggle-toothed and doing a funky-monkey immigrant dance like truest golden assimilation within the American life.

(– Miming Batman in a martial arts flurry of arms, they’d figure he was some kind of leather-clad “fruit” though you weren’t supposed to let that register. Adults just shook it off.)

“Keepin’ it real”. . . . . you know—with a shrug? Like 4th generation “street-cred” lifted from the ghetto, repackaged, and sold back to “we young defilers”. We were less loyal to school work than “keeping on the same side” of the mellow, laid-back and popular. Middle-class, rich kids’ anxieties. . . . . . maybe endearing your way out of homework with a bold, mousy excuse only an 11 year-old could get away with.

And mind that “you don’t forget your old friends on the street corner”, wrestlers and rock star alley-cats “down on their luck” and singing like drunks in the midnight choir. Leaner, meager times.

It was the long twilight of dying forms. . . . . . mostly-discredited and how most of the retail space still sat, unleased.

You could tell the difference between happy cashiers offering up your tray in the McDonald’s commercials and then what we had here—a rocky, unfriendly economic environment as the gray skies hung overhead with the future but a looming mystery.

Just links in the grinding crank-shaft of poverty’s chains. . . . . .

If revolution would start, like a child run over in the spattering mud and the high cost of a loaf of bread like in “Tale of Two Cities”. Rich man, poor man, American man.

Tensions might come to a head– this public cut-off valve of the service counter– “letting off steam” in this local McDonald’s outpost of franchised misery, staffed by low-wage service workers.

Flux, change, revolution, possibility. . . . . . sequels?

But mostly not.

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Batman Returns 25th Anniversary

Creepy Crawl Punk Venu

 

If it’s anything St. Louis has no shortage of—it’s the various small-dive punk clubs. Some open, some close—R.I.P. as rents go up with the gentrifying neighborhoods. Your best bet is something in the shuttered industrial-district on the grimy edge of city limits, a rose-carving in a wrought iron-gate for the dank atmosphere of auto-exhaust and the sewers.

Cheap shows– $10 for a night of mayhem, if the bands on the bill aren’t terribly well-known.

You have a thrasher, maybe a left-wing skinhead from the old Eastern bloc countries who weaves through the audience in a green bomber jacket, his boots laced-up with red anti-fa shoelaces. Punk is maybe an open-minded series of observations, individually subjective for all the strange flavors of variety. He looks like “that guy from Anthrax”, as you could only be referring to Scott Ian, like earnest gung-ho driftwood and goofy-foot guitar hopping like cargo shorts and raked guitar strings.

You also have “wise-guys” with the sly, perceptive art of observation. Maybe he’d be a cartoonist or just a clerk at 7-Eleven. View-askew, a cap turned sideways and a clever t-shirt of some scribbled vintage. His state is constant bemusement through a pair of pop-eyed glasses.

Don’t forget the crew of goth chicks, skin as pale as cottage-cheese in the artsy, performance-based world of witchcraft and “large, in-charge” antics. She definitely knows what she wants, the raven-haired streak of appetite and life-force like a fish tank of gleaming glass beads and murkier smells of paint and incense. Pick one or the other, like sisters differentiated slightly by personality but still wonderfully mysterious.

You have the blonde, dreadlocked stoner and “outside-the-box” thinker with a tragic overbite and clenched, silent intent hanging his arms out of his Rastafarian shirt colors for a hop and kick of the hackey-sack. . . . . a game of ultimate-frisbee. Attention Deficit Disorder as the mild, silent-type who fits the bill of all stoner-lore and comic-relief.

And there’s a sour, chirpy lark who’s small but as overflowing with punch as an atomic warhead for chewing gum and eyes lighting up with mischief. Contrarian and street-wise like a pill of cyanide, swallowing a straw of pixie-stix and flailing around until she collapses from a blown-out sugar-high and gets back on the stage to do it again, diving back in the pit.

These would be Lydia’s friends. . .. . . a gang of indie-media slackers living off their parents’ largess and in the artistic lifestyle of alt-rudderless experience. Where Lydia goes, they go—fleshing out this Beetlejuice 2 movie as the plot coalesces in a strange world and becomes a film.

You will here more about them. . . . . the St. Louis experience. Stay tuned!

 

Creepy Crawl Punk Venu

Retro Drive-in Ads

Now, we introduce to you, THE REAL REASON why movie theaters are open. Namely, as an excuse to set-up a snack-bar and draw revelers in to the screen-house like flies to a bbq or more like, Beetlejuice up to mischief like a grub-worm to shit or screenwriters to comedy.

Beetlejuice 2 will take-on several surreal excursions, poking fun at itself and other “meta-referencing” with little “breakers”, or “send-up’s” in between scenes to keep the film moving-along. Say, constant references to product spots and buying popcorn & soda and other bolstering “product-placements”.

You’ll have a lurching, screwball perspective with whips & pans that moves from one thing to another like those delightful little cameos and other extras that you can throw in, to make the humor tighter and gratifying for the smart-alleck in the audience.

The imagination is the limit for this scriptwriter, here– so long as you can put-it into words and make use of free, retro “stock-footage” or whatever strange stuff you can mix-in– a real bouillabaisse of off-key inspiration you won’t find anywhere else. Mastery & execution– as you’ll never see anything like it, ANYWHERE.

For instance, a card is held-up– “Where’s Hugo?” as he burrows-off to the side of the action as the Lydia and Beetlejuice plot thickens, and there is likeness or something “close-enough” counts-down, off to the side. Just reminding you that he’s still alive “and out there” as the threads will all come together.

And the second reason movie theatres are open– to sell tickets to you, the audience who must be entertained. You make it real, you know.

IT’S SHOWTIME!!!!!!!!

Retro Drive-in Ads

Vintage Tim Burton Infotainment

I always wondered what Tim Burton looked like. Not until the era of the Internet Movie Database could I grab a head-shot and find out for myself.

With his arty shock of hair, Tim Burton speaks for every misfit who dwelled in his parents’ basement and as if I’m not one to talk– always one fascinated by the world of enchantment from a very young age.

I grew up with his movies.

It’s that certain-trope– rough, wind-bumpted Claymation with leering grins and pin-prick eyes unto a playhouse, or maybe faerie tales– or superhero movies. . . . . wholly inventive, weird, whimsical and darkly imaginative. It bespoke of exotic foods like yogurt-covered pretzels and various spiced snacks as I’d watch PBS children’s programming after school, off at friends’ houses like a fruity, alternative flavor that belied all the shadowy mysteries, existing outside of time itself as we watched Faerie Tale Theatre.

Frequently starring title characters as misfits and outsiders, or even a coiffured poodle riding in the passenger-seat of a red convertible like nightmarish “California’ dreamin” on this side of Pee-wee’s Playhouse, everything that has turned moldy and off-color about the 1960’s like cleaning chemicals and weird goofuses in young family portraits.

Like some sort of inverse, backwards mirror as a window into another world, a bit like yours and mine but only stranger. As the Pee-wee doll says when you pull the string, “I know you are– but what am I?” Like marionette puppet-house theater and punk rockers with the smell of art-room paint. Like, weird. . . . . but wonderfully so.

The art department had a lot to do on Beetlejuice. I look forward to this project.

Vintage Tim Burton Infotainment

Batman on Letterman

Here is Michael Keaton “at his vintage caginess” on the old Late Show with Dave Letterman. Everyone here looks younger, as the Baby Boomer set has had “a long go, of it” and how you wonder if the rising Millennial Generation will ever leave a comparable body of work, as the years certainly have flown-by.

Batman was really my first introduction to the world of Tim Burton and I saw it on my 8th birthday with a friend and his father. The best $5 ever spent on a ticket as I truly found it mind-expanding. I was so much into my little world of Nintendo and summer vacation that I barely knew it was playing– and all of a sudden found myself in the middle of “Bat-mania” with all the shirts and caps.

Continue reading “Batman on Letterman”

Batman on Letterman

Congratulations, a Michael Keaton TRIBUTE

First off, congratulations to Michael Keaton for “The Golden Globe”, award as the arc of destiny is long– and eventually, “you get recognized” and are paid, the right bit of attention instead of “just fading-out” as victory, only tastes sweeter, for it.

Through up’s & down’s, and sometimes– WORSE projects, like this review of a later day family comedy, “Jack Frost” from Roger Ebert: Continue reading “Congratulations, a Michael Keaton TRIBUTE”

Congratulations, a Michael Keaton TRIBUTE