Caped Crusader Cinema: Batman & Robin (1997)

In Retrospect

Just as I was becoming content with Val Kilmer as the Caped Crusader, now he was bailing for that guy from E.R., what was his name? Oh yes, George Clooney. Batman & Robin, as it soon came to be known, was the first movie I can recall having its own website, which I tried to visit, but I could never get it to work because our computer didn't have some newfangled software called "Shockwave Flash."

While I initially had no reason to not be excited for the third bat sequel, signs of doubt started to creep in when I saw a clip of the movie on a talk show just before it was released. The scene they showed was when Batman and Robin first confront Mr. Freeze in the museum. Batman came crashing through a window in the ceiling and landed on a giant dinosaur. With his head bouncing around like a bobblehead (and sounding an awful lot like George Clooney) he announced "Hi Freeze, I'm Batman." Robin soon followed, smashing through an obviously cardboard wall with his motorcycle, leaving a perfect Robin logo shaped hole behind. Also, as his motorcycle came back down to the ground, it seemed to float in the air a little longer than what seemed natural.

Despite my worries, I went to go see it with some friends on opening weekend anyway. I was driving, and we were in the right lane on the freeway. Without warning, I noticed that our lane was rapidly getting blocked off with construction barrels. And as I glanced to my left to change lanes, there was a large semi truck in the way. I stepped on the gas and narrowly squeezed in front of the semi just before the lane completely ended. Looking back, maybe it would have been better if we had gotten in the accident and missed the movie.

As the opening exchange in the bat cave between Batman, Robin, and Alfred began to assault an unsuspecting audience, I had a sinking feeling. Still, I pushed those thoughts aside and tried to like the movie. It was still Batman, right? While there were plenty more groan-inducing moments to come, I was in serious denial, and decided that it wasn't all bad. I even talked myself into wanting to see it again. A week or two later, I suggested to my friends Scott and Spencer that we go, since they had yet to see it. Well, I got over my denial stage pretty quickly in that second viewing. With each passing ice pun or gratuitous close-up of the Dynamic Duo's rubber buttocks, we got more and more restless until we were jokingly attempting to gnaw our own arms off by the end.

Scott still hasn't forgiven me for taking him to see it. In fact, I would be disappointed if he doesn't leave a comment once again reminding me of this blunder. One positive thing did end up coming out of it though. My friends and I were inspired to prove that even we could make a better Batman movie than what we had witnessed. Later that summer we began filming Batman & Some Guy, which yes, I honestly believe is better than Batman & Robin, even though it was made without an actual script, and on a modest budget of about $10.

Critical Analysis

One of my personal favorite digs at Batman & Robin, which comes from DVD Verdict, compares it to "watching an army of monkeys with chain guns strapped to their heads assaulting a fireworks factory—unsettling, surreal, and transfixing." Easily one of the most vilified movies of the last 15 years or so, it might seem like there are no insults left to pile on this cinematic travesty, but I shall do my best.

I should say that with the arrival of Batman Begins, and now The Dark Knight, the sting of the Batman franchise being put on ice (sorry, couldn't resist) for 8 years has been lessened considerably. These excellent new films have made it so I can now chuckle at the outright futility of Batman & Robin (in between cringes). In preparing to write this, I even decided to try and watch it. I have to say, every time Batman and Mr. Freeze open their mouth—pure unintentional comedic gold. Unfortunately, Robin, Batgirl, and Poison Ivy are still unbearably annoying. With a little help from the fast forward button, I made it through about a half hour.

Like Batman Returns, Batman & Robin gave a second time bat director the chance to indulge after being somewhat restrained in their more successful first outing. But whereas Tim Burton added layers of dark humor and gothic imagery to his sequel, Joel Schumacher stretches the candy-coated visuals of Batman Forever to a teeth-rotting extreme, essentially creating a live action cartoon, complete with zany sound effects and some of the least-convincing wirework in the history of cinema. And if that isn't enough, Schumacher also brings fetishes like homoeroticism and anatomically correct rubber suits to the forefront, turning himself into a punchline in the process.

For all the effort that was made to distance Tim Burton's original Batman from the '60s TV show, I find it fascinating that it only took 8 short years for the character to devolve back into exactly that, complete with slanted camera angles and villain of the week mentality. All that is missing is the POW's, the WHAM's, and most importantly, the campy self awareness. Instead of being silly in the name of wicked self parody like the TV show was, Batman & Robin is silly in the name of pandering to the kiddies and selling more toy Batmobiles.

I'm fairly certain that Batman & Robin contains no actual dialogue. Oh, there are plenty of words mind you, which are dispensed in three fashions: (1) ham-fisted speeches about the nature of family, (2) villainous monologues explaining their ludicrous plans to the confused audience, and (3) ice puns, lots and lots of ice puns. Here is a carefully hand-selected sampling of the pun-ishment that the movie doles out over its torturous 125 minute runtime (don't forget to read them to yourself in a thick Austrian accent):
"Allow me to break the ice. My name is Freeze. Learn it well, for it is the chilling sound of your doom."
"You are not sending me to the cooler!"
"Freeze in Hell, Batman!"
"Mercy? I'm afraid my condition has left me cold to your pleas of mercy."
"Stay cool, Bird Boy."
"Tonight, Hell freezes over!"
"The Ice Man cometh!"
"Let's kick some ice!"
"I'm here to make your life a living hell. Prepare for a bitter harvest. Winter has come at last."
Isn't it interesting that many of these lines involve hell in some way? Seems only fitting since this will likely be the movie that is showing there.

Grade: F-


Weekend Update

I love long weekends, because that means Dave is home to help with Eddie, and I have an adult to talk to. Since this weekend was a fabulous four-day weekend, it was quite eventful. We didn't actually do anything for the 24th because I was having a mood swing that day and basically refused to leave the house. But the rest of the weekend has been great!

The big news of the weekend is twofold: First, Eddie slept through the night two nights in a row! I hope this becomes a habit. Of course, I'm so paranoid that when he sleeps longer than 4 or 5 hours, I still wake up and have to go check on him just to make sure everything is okay. Then I spend the rest of the night on pins and needles just waiting for him to wake up. Dave, on the other hand, sleeps like a rock even if Ed is making all sorts of noise. Often I have to poke him, prod him, nudge him, shake him, and say "Dave!" before he will respond. Second, Eddie laughed a real laugh. My mom was the one who got him to do it and I've been trying ever since, but he is holding out on me. It sure was cute, though.

Four Generations
On Friday, we took a little road trip to see my Grandma Bass in Huntington. Since my dad spent the weekend motorcycling around Utah and Idaho, my mom also came. Needless to say, Eddie had plenty of attention from his Grammy and his Great-Grammy.

While we were there, we took some 4-generation photos in the yard.

Ed and his Great-Grandma Bass

Ed and his Grammy Andrews

Ed got a little tired of photos and convinced us we had taken enough.

Historic Helper
On our way through Carbon County, Dave was intrigued by a billboard that said "Visit Historic Downtown Helper," so we took a quick 2-minute detour. For those who are not familiar with the intricacies of Carbon County, Helper lies just north of Price. Well, "Historic Downtown Helper" consists mostly of vacant buildings, with a few antique shops and pubs in between. But Dave likes his run-down, old-timey architecture, so on our way back through on Saturday, we decided to stop for lunch. We ate at the Balance Rock Eatery & Pub (which yes, also sells antiques). It had some tasty sandwiches and onion rings, so if you ever happen to be passing Helper around mealtime, we highly recommend it.

After lunch, we found a shady park so I fed Eddie while Dave explored Main Street on foot and took some photos. We are considering future road trips to other old Utah towns just to find more fabulous photo-ops like these (and the ones featured in our Deltalogue post). If anyone has any suggestions for destinations, please let us know.

Helper's movie theater, which inspired Dave to come up with the idea that when he starts his own graphic design business someday, he wants to renovate an old movie theater into an office. Stylish, perhaps, but not very practical, if you ask me.


Buttery Grilled Corn on the Cob

Now that corn season is upon us, here is a tasty alternative to your standard boiled corn on the cob slathered in butter, salt, and pepper (not that there is anything wrong with that). This is a fairy easy option if you are already grilling for dinner. Our cookbook has a plethora of seasoned butter recipes, but these are the only two we have tried as of yet.

Chipotle Butter
• 2/3 cup softened butter
• 1 or 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (coarsely chopped)
• 1 clove of garlic (minced)
• 1/2 tsp salt

Crazy Cajun Butter

• 2/3 cup softened butter
• 1 tsp garlic salt
• 1/4 tsp black pepper
• 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
• 1/8 tsp ground ginger
• 1/8 tsp cinnamon
• 1/8 tsp ground cloves

Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined. The chipotle buttered corn goes particularly well with the Chops in Smoky Chile Marinade recipe from last month's License to Grill post. And the cajun butter is crazy. As in crazy delicious.

After husking, coat each ear of corn evenly with seasoned butter, and wrap tightly in a piece of aluminum foil. You can also grill it in the actual husk after removing the silk, but the foil seems a lot more manageable to me. Grill over medium heat, rotating a quarter turn every 5 minutes for a total of 20 minutes. If desired, serve with additional seasoned butter.


Ol' Blue Eyes

For those of you who have been skimming all the grievances and Batman reviews, just biding your time for something Eddie-related, your day has come. I wanted to take this opportunity to dispel any doubts that Eddie is, in fact, the cutest baby in the world. I present the following photo, which I recently took, as irrefutable evidence in this matter.

By way of an update, Eddie has now topped 13 pounds (according to our extremely accurate bathroom scale). Even though he's still 2 weeks away from being 3 months old, he already wears 6-month size pajamas, or "jammeroos" as his mommy likes to call them. The kid is long and lean, except in the thigh region (where he is wide and shapely).

Among his developing abilities is the uncanny knack for sensing when dinner is going on the table, as he rarely allows Kristen and I to share a meal together. He can also recognize the precise moment when he is about to drift off to sleep so that he can promptly eject his binky and angrily rub his face against the nearest surface (my chest, his hands, the carpet, etc), thus remaining awake and proving who's really the boss 'round these parts.


Caped Crusader Cinema: Batman Forever (1995)

I don't know how many of you actually enjoy reading these posts, but I enjoy writing them, and its our blog, so there. When I initially came up with the idea for this series, I intended to have all the posts finished by the time The Dark Knight came out. Well that didn't quite pan out. Have I have seen The Dark Knight? Yes, we went Friday afternoon. And how was it, you ask? Uncompromising. Scary. Challenging. Brilliant. I hope to write a more in-depth review as soon as I can muster more than one word sentences. For now, its on with Batman Forever.

In Retrospect

As I was almost finished braving the travails of junior high, word gradually started to seep out concerning the next bat sequel, Batman Forever. I was disappointed to learn that Michael Keaton's days as the Dark Knight were over, but was excited for the movie nonetheless.

After school one day, I happened to be watching Extra, and it was announced that they would be playing the new Batman Forever trailer during the show. I should mention this was before the days of movie trailers being widely available on the internet, so this was a pretty big deal. I should also mention this was back when I considered shows like Extra, Entertainment Tonight, and Access Hollywood to be "the news," but I digress. I grabbed a spare VHS tape and recorded the trailer so I could watch it over and over again. Which I did.

The week prior to its release, I was attending Scout Camp. One of our leaders had a copy of USA Today which had an extensive feature on the movie. This was really the first time I became aware of the Batman Returns backlash. In the article, the filmmakers seemed to be tripping over themselves to let the world know that "Hey, we're not doing another Batman Returns! This one will be fun and bright, with no mysterious black bile whatsoever!" I may have paraphrased that a little. I even became semi-convinced that, yeah, I guess Batman Returns was kind of dark and dreary, I hope this new one isn't like that. Lousy manipulative hype machine! On our way home from camp, we stopped at McDonald's for lunch. I got a collectible glass Riddler mug, and continued to work myself into a fevered frenzy.

I saw Batman Forever twice over the next few weeks. For a recently turned 15-year-old such as myself, this movie had it all. Loads of action, generous helpings of humor, "cutting edge" special effects, and the innocent sex appeal of Nicole Kidman. I added the glass Robin mug to my suddenly blossoming collection of drinkware. Sadly, the Batman and Two-Face mugs were all sold out, so I was unable to complete the series.

Critical Analysis

Herein lies the problem with Batman Forever. In case you hadn't noticed, I am no longer 15. Now a cynical 28 year old movie snob, the film leaves me somewhat wanting. The real tragedy is that the script had the potential to be something weightier. However, first time bat director Joel Schumacher chose to jettison some of the more complex aspects of the story in favor of the garish spectacle, and the wacky antics of Jim Carrey.

One of the key subplots of the movie involves Bruce's flashbacks of a red leather book—his father's journal—and the implication of guilt in his parent's death. But the resolution, which features Bruce Wayne confronting his childhood demons and reconciling his life as both Bruce Wayne and Batman (as well as the very reason behind the title of the film), ended up on the cutting room floor. A director's cut that would restore some of these scenes was rumored for years, but will likely never come to fruition.

Schumacher all but buries Tim Burton's subtlety and symbolism for hokey theatrics. As Edward Nigma unveils his brain-wave-sucking "Box" to consumers, a satire of television and the media is hinted at, but is quickly cast aside to make way for more zany one-liners and implausible escapes (The Batmobile driving up the wall, anyone?). Two-Face, one of Batman's most tragic and psychologically rich characters, is reduced to merely being the means to deliver such punny lines as "you could say we are of two minds on the subject." And consider the following exchange, featuring Dr. Chase Meridian's unique brand of flirtatious psycho-babble:
Dr. Chase Meridian: Well I wish I could say that my interest in you was... purely professional.
Batman: Trying to get under my cape, doctor?
Dr. Chase Meridian: A girl can't live by psychoses alone.
Batman: It's the car, right? Chicks love the car.
Dr. Chase Meridian: What is it about the wrong kind of man? In grade school it was guys with earrings. College? Motorcycles, leather jackets. Now? *Oh* black rubber.
Batman: Try firemen, less to take off.
Dr. Chase Meridian: I don't mind the work. Pity I can't see behind the mask.
Batman: We all wear masks.
Dr. Chase Meridian: My life's an open book. You read?
Batman: I don't blend in at a family picnic.
Dr. Chase Meridian: Oh, we could give it a try. I'll bring the wine, you bring your scarred psyche.
AHHH! Make it stop!

The film does have a few good things going for it. It manages to one-up its predecessors in how the public persona of Bruce Wayne is portrayed. While Batman Returns went as far as to show him at Wayne Manor, just waiting in the dark for the bat signal to come on, Bruce Wayne of Batman Forever is much more the instantly recognizable public figure of the comics. The inclusion of Robin is handled rather well, considering how lame it could have been (like in the next movie). Plus there is a great U2 song, "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me," that plays over the closing credits. Just be sure to hit stop before Seal's "Kiss From A Rose" takes over.

Batman Forever is such a product of its time (the mid '90s), which is ultimately what makes it so disposable. Here we have a completely unrestrained Jim Carrey, cartoony, in-your-face CG effects, and lines from Batman like "the bat signal is not a beeper." However, my favorite '90s moment has to be when Two-Face crashes the NygmaTech party and demands that people hand over their "cash, jewelry, and cellular telephones." Oooh cellular telephones! Those are only for the super rich. What a glamorous party!

Still, for all its problems, Batman Forever does hold a certain amount of nostalgic value for me. A few years ago, thanks to the wonders of eBay, I was able to acquire those long pined after Batman and Two-Face mugs that I had missed out on back in the day. The 15-year-old in me sees to it that I use them all the time.

Grade: C-


The Airing of Grievances (Krissy-Style)

Since I like to be sassy, and this is the perfect opportunity, I am happy to accept Dave's invitation to share my grievances with the world. It was difficult to narrow this down to only five, so there could be a sequel at some point.

1. People who drive in front of me
Really, how difficult is it to move over into the turn lane (and I mean ALL THE WAY OVER)? How hard is it to go that extra 4 mph faster to match the speed limit? This is why I drive as little as possible. Of course, I get road rage just riding in a car.

2. Commercials that compel me to change the channel
How many times in one episode of Design on a Dime can they advertise Nutrisystem? Way too many. I don't care if Jillian Barbarie lost 400 pounds using it and can now fit into her favorite bikini. I still hate listening to her talk about it.

3. John McCain
Maybe it's his freakishly stumpy arms. Maybe it's his corpse-like face. Maybe it's the blatantly awkward way he attempts to appeal to a younger demographic. Whatever it is, it annoys me. He reminds me of the episode of The Simpsons when Kang and Kodos transform into Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. Am I implying that he could be an alien wearing an Edgar-suit? Yes, yes I am.

4. Jack Johnson
Can't you see, can't you see? Yes, I can see that I hate banana pancakes simply because Jack Johnson sings about them in that ridiculously mellow and emotionless voice. It makes me want to rip my eyes out. At least then my screams will drown out his music.

5. Shopping for pants
Last time I checked, the majority of women in this world fall somewhere between sizes 0 and 17. I suppose that is why those between sizes are always sold out by the time I get to the store. Occasionally I get lucky and find a reasonable size on the rack. I try them on, only to find that they are "Size 10 Tiny Butt" which means they don't fit my average-sized posterior. That also means I might have to start constructing my own pants using the plethora of plastic grocery bags under our sink.


100th Post Retrospective Extravaganza

We here at The Dave & Kristen Show have reached a milestone: 100 posts. What more or less started out as "something I guess we should do because all our family and friends are doing it" has turned into quite a hobby. Kristen and I are always trying to think of new blog posts, and we often have multiple posts in the works at a time. We hope you enjoy reading our blog as much as we enjoy updating it.

This momentous occasion gives us a good opportunity to toot our own horn, so to speak. We have looked back through our archives and selected some of our favorite posts, which are grouped by subject and linked below. So consider this the blog version of a clip show, where instead of coming up with something new and creative, we are just going to rehash our old stuff.

Our Year in Review 12.30.07
Deltalogue 3.30.08
Ten Things... I Have Had Absurd Dreams About 4.27.08
What's in a Name? 5.09.08

Pop Culture
Rambo vs. Commando 1.16.08
Bonology 1.31.08
Temple of Doom Live Blog 5.16.08

My Attempt at Journalism and/or Activism 12.18.07
Ten Things... You Should Never Have to Hear in Church 4.13.08

Assembling the Crib 1.27.08
Happy April Fools Day 4.01.08
Burgeoning Belly 4.23.08

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Caped Crusader Cinema: Batman Returns (1992)

In Retrospect

With the first Batman having joined the Star Wars Trilogy and others in my pantheon of childhood defining movies, I was now a full-fledged Bat-fanatic. But my Batmobile and Batwing models were starting to gather dust, and I was anxiously anticipating the next installment, Batman Returns.

Once again, I eagerly consumed the movie tie-in cereal. I was hoping for a return of the Captain Crunch bat logos, but instead, the Batman Returns cereal was frosted Chex and various bat-shaped marshmallows. Was this a subtle indication of the changes that were in store for the franchise? Maybe I am reading a little too much into breakfast cereal. Or am I?

I went to see Batman Returns with some of my new mates in the Deacon's Quorum, and I loved every minute of it. Having the mindset of your typical twelve year old, I wasn't really all that aware of the parental backlash against the film for being inappropriate for kids. Instead, I was more aware of how awesome it was when Batman lit a guy on fire with the Batmobile's afterburner. For Halloween, I found a rubber cowl at Kmart, and my mom sewed me a custom cape, complete with felt bat insignia. Still, I think my friend Richard Allred topped me with his monster mask and sailor hat combo.

Critical Analysis

Like their breakfast cereal counterparts, Batman Returns is very much a different experience than the original Batman. When starting on the sequel, Tim Burton was seeking for a way to reconnect with the material, and the success of Edward Scissorhands likely gave him the confidence to push his modern expressionistic style even further. While the original more or less takes place in some semblance of reality, Batman Returns wastes little time casting realism completely aside. To channel movie trailer voice guy, it takes place "in a world where the humor is delightfully twisted, and the characters are quirky outsiders."

The film's rather loose narrative is more or less an excuse to pile on the symbolism through the outlandish visuals. Burton makes extensive use of mise en scène, a cinematic technique where a character's internal state of mind is represented visually, rather than through the spoken dialogue. In the case of the principle villains, their costumes become a part of their personalities. Catwoman, who has been transformed by a fragile pscyhe, wears a costume that is literally coming apart at the seams. The Penguin is a hateful "man-beast" that spews mysterious black bile. And Max Shreck, the corrupt, power-hungry businessman has an untamed mane of white hair. Each villain also mirrors a specific part of Bruce Wayne's personality, and represents what he could become if he were to fall into darkness. Catwoman: masked vigilante. The Penguin: orphan. Max Shreck: wealthy industrialist.

In many ways, Batman Returns is more complex and rewarding than the original. But it is also unabashedly weird and macabre, which makes it a very polarizing film. While universally lauded for its pitch-perfect portrayal of Catwoman, many purists were unhappy with the unconventional approach taken with The Penguin. And with the surplus of villains, Batman seems to be taking a backseat to the ongoing "freak show". Some also find the ending to be something of a downer, but I have always felt that it really captures the bittersweetness of the best Batman stories. In fact, I find it to be the best ending of any of the live action movies. Of course, this opinion is subject to change, pending the rapidly approaching release of The Dark Knight.

Indeed Batman Returns is a love-it-or-hate it affair. As you might have guessed, I am firmly in the "love it" category, and have often wondered what Burton would have done with a third crack at Batman. Unfortunately, the ensuing backlash led Warner Brothers to take the Caped Crusader in a new direction. Specifically, a "nipples on the batsuit and plenty of flamboyant neon" direction, but we'll get more into that next time. I go back and forth as to which is my favorite of the Burton Bat films. At this particular moment, I am slightly favoring the first one.

Grade: B


The Airing of Grievances

What does this post boil down to? Stuff that annoys me. I invite everyone who reads this to do the same, either on your own blog or in the comments. I think you will find it quite therapeutic. In fact, I won't rule out future installments of my own either, as I do have a surplus of grievances.

1. Being asked if I am "saving room" for dessert
Why must all waiters and waitresses use this exact phrasing when posing the age-old dessert question? Are they given specific instructions concerning this matter during their crash course in playful banter? Just for once, I would like to simply be asked "would you like to order dessert?" to which I would respond, "oops, I forgot to save any room!"

2. Endless "got milk?" knock-offs
I am certain that some variation of this slogan has popped up in pretty much all brainstorming sessions, for everything from bumper stickers to student body campaigns, since the ubiquitous milk campaign premiered in 1993. got moab? got jesus? got originality? Decidedly not.

3. Anything that begins with "Tyler Perry's..."
Perhaps there is a segment of the population that bristles with excitement when they see ads for "Tyler Perry's House of Payne" or "Tyler Perry's Another Movie Featuring Me, Tyler Perry, In a Fat Suit." Of course, there is also a segment of the population that thinks mullets are the hippest thing since novelty ties.

4. Usage of the font Papyrus in any way, shape, or form
If I had the ability to ban one font from the face of the earth, it would be Papyrus. While Comic Sans is a close second in this race, it can't quite match the run of rampant overexposure and egregious misuse that Papyrus has experienced in recent years.

5. Excessive exclamations!!!
My dislike for this perky punctuation devolved into downright detestation during my time at Nutraceutical. You see, I would design the most beautiful ads for such fine supplements as "Doggiedophilus" and "Femamoist," only to be bombarded with notes from the marketing department like "Needs more excitement, please add 73 exclamation points!!! Also, please change font to Papyrus!!!"


Happy 4th!

The holiday weekend was a very welcome break for both Dave and I. He's been working like crazy on the latest Salt City catalog, so he's been going in early and staying late, plus he worked for a few hours last Saturday (and when he doesn't have a day off, I don't have a day off). We were both ready to head to the Barton cabin just outside Oakley for a long relaxing weekend (accompanied by Dave's sister Christie & family and Dave's mom). We spent most of our time at the cabin, laying around and eating good food. On Saturday, we headed to the river just above Smith & Morehouse Reservoir to have a picnic and watch Josh and Neil throw rocks.

Dave and Eddie by the river

Eddie's picnic lunch

Eddie and his Grandma Barton


Two Months Old

Today is Eddie's two-month birthday. It seems like just yesterday that the kid was kicking me in the ribs. Today was also the day he had to get his first set of shots, something which I was very apprehensive about. I think he got vaccines for about seven diseases in the form of three shots to the thighs (adorned with three Dora band-aids) and one that he had to swallow. He was a pretty good sport and was actually the most angry when the nurse tried to measure his head circumference. I guess Barton boys are a little sensitive about their head size.

Apparently we have a big boy. He is now 11 pounds 14 ounces, 23.2 inches long. He is in the 50th percentile for weight and the 70th for height. I suspected as much because he is already wearing 6-month pajamas and I started buying the kind without built-in feet so he wouldn't grow out of them so fast.

Since my last post about Ed's development, he has learned to smile when we do stupid things and he even has this little 'almost-laugh' that he does. It's really more of a cough. He occasionally sleeps for a 5-6 hour stretch in the night, but still insists on being our unofficial alarm clock (set at 6:15 AM). He has also learned how to blow milk out his nose (which was quite alarming the first time it happened, but now is a normal occurrence). Truly he is a boy of many talents.


Caped Crusader Cinema: Batman (1989)

For those of you who thought you were getting off with only a Batman poll in anticipation of The Dark Knight, you were sorely mistaken. No, I am pulling out all the stops. Over the next few weeks, I will be doling out wistful retrospective musings, completely biased critical analysis, and meaningless final grades for each Bat Movie. And there was much rejoicing.

In Retrospect

I was in 4th grade when Batman came out. Bat logo t-shirts were plentiful in the halls at school. My friend Matthew Avery bragged about having seen the movie upwards of five times, and would quote the Joker often. Yes, Batman was a certifiable cultural phenomenon, yet I never saw it in the theater. I suppose at that point of my existence I was more interested in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

It wasn't until Batman was released on home video the next year that I finally got around to watching it for myself. After the infamous Diet Coke commercial from the original VHS release, the sky behind the Warner Brothers shield darkened, and the opening credits gradually panned to reveal the bat symbol. From the first action sequence, where Batman pummels a pair of small time crooks on a rooftop and vanishes into thin air, I was hooked.

We got the movie tie-in cereal (mini bat symbols that tasted suspiciously like Captain Crunch), and I carefully cut the logo out from the front of the box to tape on my bedroom wall. Now a 5th grader, it was me who was quoting the Joker in the lunch room, only my friends were probably scratching their heads and laughing behind my back that I was a year behind.

Critical Analysis

Unlike some of the other memorable movies of my childhood (like the aforementioned Ninja Turtles—sorry Mom for making you take me to see it), Batman holds up rather well today. In my mind, the visual dialect that director Tim Burton and star Michael Keaton establish is what all other cinematic interpretations of the character must be measured against. Burton, who was just starting to hone his signature expressionistic approach, establishes a deliberate pace and forgoes excessive exposition for strong visuals and perception. He also eschews the conventional origin movie boilerplate. Much of Bruce Wayne's back story is implied rather than fully explained. We don't even see a flashback of the Thomas and Martha Wayne murders until the 90 minute mark.

However, once the movie reaches the final half hour, the lapses in the narrative start to pile up. Jack Napier is revealed to be the real killer of Bruce Wayne's parents (a twist that comic book nerds still get worked up about). Alfred lets Vicki Vale into the Batcave (they only went on one date for heaven's sake). The Joker shoots down the Batwing with a handgun (sorry, I just don't buy that, ridiculously long barrel notwithstanding). And the only thing that saves the final confrontation in the cathedral from being a total snoozefest is Danny Elfman's unforgettable score.

In fact, Batman was the first movie in which I became aware of the score, thanks to Elfman's grandiose, gothic masterpiece. Like the best film scores, it helps to elevate many scenes to an iconic level. It was one of the first cassettes I ever owned. The unquestionable highlight is "Descent Into Mystery," which accompanies Batman and Vicki Vale's mid-film ride to the batcave. And then there are the Prince songs. It baffles me how the filmmakers could go to such great lengths to instill the movie with a timeless quality, encompassing the production design, costumes, and score, but as soon as "Partyman" starts blaring on the boombox during the museum scene, we are firmly yanked back to the late '80s.

While it is easy to point out the flaws, we musn't forget that Batman was really the first movie of its kind—a dark, serious comic adaptation. Those might be a dime a dozen these days, but back then they were really making it up as they went along. You have to give credit where credit is due. For the few things that they got wrong, there was so much more that they got right.

Grade: B+