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

Michael Keaton, Letterman ’89

Mojo at the Box Office, maybe when all of us were a little younger. . . . . BACK Later this week as we bring Beetlejuice out of moth-balls for that eventual sequel, “if Any”.

Michael Keaton, Letterman ’89

Ghastly Space Opera

Hey, all partakers in grisly Beetleriffic action. . . . .

I see a kind of bio-mechanical exegesis through a rotting earth-mind, some kind of “insect-level of existence” as maybe it’s heavenly ascent or just something you ate.

Actually it’s a scene from a movie mashed-up with Slayer music through the mind of a heavy drug-user or whom we euphemistically call “a right-brained artistic misfit”. . . . . as I can vouch for the occasional altered state. . . . . as do many visionary poets, gonzo comic-book writers, and virtual-reality “cyber-nauts”.

I’ll say that one thing they all share is a level of hypnosis into their work like that “golden mean” of focus when you’re completely involved in what you’re doing. Depending on psychotropic medication mixed with whatever cocktail of alcohol, stimulants, or something more-illicit “like sleep deprivation”, you can be whisked-off to some pretty strange places.

What are they seeing out there? Maybe a passageway to an unknown level of inner-reality that really exists somewhere, as tripper’s come back to report on the same things. Though you don’t need to go on psilocybin acid-binges, it’s still a pharmacological mystery of brain soup sent slopping through a blender of biochemistry as it’s not very well-understood.

You reach some enlightened, magical state “when everything fits together– like, FOR A REASON” and intuition takes over with lucky synchronicity as the flow follows the flow and ideas glance-off of each other to form a self-constructing vision.

There was nothing ever more creative– like existing in a warm, overheating blob as your eyes tiredly burn like hot, crackling stones and you’re in the midst of sheer concentration. Impulses are realized faster than the speed of thought, itself. . . . . and isn’t a bad way to go.

It’s almost as if ideas “preexist, somewhere” in a transmission of possibility– and how you reach down and grab them like a free-form artist freely articulating. Some might call it “the muse”. Maybe schizophrenia. But I will say that it’s pleasant while you have it.

Inside this crevice, you’ll receive some of the best insights whether scientifically-verified or not in this “between-space”.

If you spend a day sort of easing into activity like an ascending journey– after a couple of hours you’re so relaxed and totally primed to create. You must have lots of free time and get up ultra-early. Many report that extended periods of whirling-dance or joined-up in drumming-circles will bring on the same thing as your mind & body gets “in sync”.

Depending on the stew, you’re mind taps into its naturally-occurring stores of DMT or “the spirit molecule” through which all sorts of strange revelations take shape.

I wouldn’t doubt that video-game designers “hit about this stuff” and come up with their craziest ideas. For instance, Super Mario “eats mushrooms” and fights his way through underworlds vs. reptilian adversaries– like maybe proto-man locked in struggle with the serpent like natural enemies on the opposite side of the zoological kingdom.

UFO conspiracy theorists mention “gray” and “green” garden-varieties of evil extra-terrestrials that live in an underground realm among the dim, subconscious hum of plants and insects like a foreign “earth-mind” running on automatic-pilot right below the reptile and mammal brain, itself on the seat of higher primate consciousness.

And here– “King Koopa” stands on top of a piranha plant, throwing down hammers– like something at the bottom of “the mushroom kingdom experience”.

bowser_and_monstro

I generated this image from messing around with “Photostudio” as mathematical relationships are stretched, or bent, or twisted in a graphical representation.

Like, are spirits “trapped in the machine”? Am I witnessing a kind of “revealed-truth”? This looks like the devil, himself– if evil could be localized and caught inside your computational matrix like hard, frozen amber.

Interestingly, once when I was “running on empty” for about four or five days my mental picture was visited by two demon-heads warding their way through “short-wave television static”, like the distant roar you’d hear inside a sea-shell as their howls hissed through the window-pane of existence. On the verge of sleep, they came to bury me.

More charmingly– and one barfed-up a fly. Jolting me awake until they began pressing through, again.

(– Very “Beetlejuice”, kids)

Sheer death, maybe– like rot or pain. . . . . or even entities people claim to see when they go on psychedelic tourism through South America. Interestingly it sounds like “nothing new” to Amazonian tribes-men like dragon-snakes taunting you in the great beyond with messages.

The prince of darkness is usually accompanied by two henchmen– like what you see in the comics and video-games, as the power of “3” is said to subconsciously resemble an unstable quality with the points of a triangle and vectors “closing in on each other”.

fried_candles

This one here looks like three faces and how one in the middle wears a crown– it’s open to interpretation. One eye is dark and the other alive with illumination. The myth of Odin recalls the qualities of infinite blackness on one hand, then one eye left over that “picks-up on the dualistic contrast” to stare deep into the blackest shadow as there can be no light without darkness.

Ancient accounts in demonology have described three-faced angelic super-beings. . . . . as other faces and composite-hints loom out of the picture, if you notice. Almost like a Rorschach Test you couldn’t invent yourself.

In certain stages of what’s known as sleep paralysis you find yourself rendered immobile as one’s lids start fluttered with REM-sleep as images burst across your retina half-way between awake and dreaming. What happens is that you’re body is “turning-off” in the wrong order– going on “autopilot” as higher levels remain awake as if a janitor forgot to turn-off the lights in a high-rise office building with executive-function still self-aware.

A heaviness falls on your chest as nothing can be controlled and how many report seeing aliens or leprechauns or mysterious masked-men in this state.

All of this is very interesting if incorporated somehow into the world of Beetlejuice.

Stranger still, drawn into a palace of dazzling cosmic display as you’re pestered by gelatinous cubes cackling in a scree of space-mania like levels of hell or that sequence out of “2001: A Space Odyssey” through the star-gate.

space_cubes

As if we’ve been preconditioned to think of butterflies fluttering around the doors of perception like the opening screen on a Nintendo game– interfacing with “the start menu” with programming going back to the very root of our hard-wired responses.

And then again, the gods could be playing a prank in the laughing halls of Valhalla as the curtain is pulled-back, revealing the best underground cartoonist’s minds off on fabulous adventures in the farthest blogosphere.

One way or another– on one hell of a trip.

lydia_contour   magic_mushrooms

img6F    question_mark

Ghastly Space Opera