An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2011-11-06 08:38
Subject: [child|movies] Who watches Watchmen?
Security: Public
Tags:child, culture, movies, politics
Last night [info]the_child and I viewed the director's cut of Watchmenimdb ] together. For a bunch of reasons, this is one of my favorite movies of recent years, especially in the extended director's cut which incorporates the Black Freighter sequences along with other useful material.

(What is it with director's cuts and theatrical releases, anyway? I've rarely seen a director's cut that wasn't a significant improvement on the edited-down full release. Immediately leaping to mind are Bladerunner, Dune and Lord of the Rings.)

Every time I watch it, and last night was perhaps my tenth viewing, I see new details in that film. At a minimum, the sheer density and crunchiness of the production design is well worth studying. The way that the background details in almost every shot foreshadow and feed the story can be breathtaking, if one watches with that critical eye.

[info]the_child has a pretty good critical eye. We've always watched movies with a fair amount of discussion where warranted, and she is a long-time aficionado of the bonus discs that come in DVD packages. But Watchmen was a funny case because of all the political and cultural loading circa the movie's alternate 1985 setting.

In 1985 I was in my junior and senior years of college. My direct political and cultural memory stretches roughly back to Watergate and very end of the Vietnam War, while the entire post-WWII/Cold War era counts as recent history to me. This is the dialectic of the movie. Everything from the music of this movie to the Woodward and Bernstein reference midway through pushes my buttons bigtime. But that dialectic is absolutely opaque to a fourteen year old who was born in 1997 and is only now beginning to develop meaningful wider political and cultural awareness. Her buttons don't exist to be pushed.

So we spent a lot of time pausing or talking over the movie to discuss who the historical figures were. Why was it so unnerving to have a world where Richard Nixon was still in office in 1985. What Woodward and Bernstein had done in real life and what the Comedian meant with his throwaway line about them. Why I love the song "99 Luftballons" so much. Not to mention all the story-specific issues such as tying Rorschach to the little man with the end times sign, discussing why the heroes had gone underground, parsing the rape scene between the Comedian and Sally Jupiter and how that in turn fed the complexity of Laurie Jupiter's life, what the possible significance is of the Gunga Diner blimp and why a pokey little restaurant could afford such a thing, how Dan Dreiberg managed to both locate and afford to keep such a huge underground complex beneath a normal townhouse. And so on and so on and so on.

It was a weird kind of double vision, walking through the politics and culture of my childhood and the first years of my young adulthood with my daughter while simultaneously breaking down the film's plot, setting and design elements. She asked a lot of smart questions, and had some good insights.

Times like this, I really love being a parent.

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User: mlerules
Date: 2011-11-06 16:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
She's a bright one. So glad you're finding time/energy for such as this nowadays. :-)
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Kari Sperring
User: la_marquise_de_
Date: 2011-11-06 16:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Whereas I don't get on with either the graphic novel or the film because of the off-hand way women are presented throughout -- as toys, as victims, as possessions, as bitches, but never just as people.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2011-11-06 16:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Actually, the_child spotted that one right out as well. She complained at the end that none of the women in the story had every much to do with it, with the partial exception of Laurie Jupiter.

Edited at 2011-11-06 04:57 pm (UTC)
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Kari Sperring
User: la_marquise_de_
Date: 2011-11-06 17:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
She's a girl after my own heart. It's a big problem with Moore: even V for Vendetta falls down on this (and Mr Gaiman can also fail in this area). The idealised comic book woman is still with us far too much, in all her iterations.
I'd be interested to know what she would make of Inu-Yasha, say, which I love for its thoroughly real female characters, or Ooku, which is really sharp on what gendered behaviour means (but might be a little old for her).
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Twilight: WriterRose
User: twilight2000
Date: 2011-11-06 17:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Directors without editors are a lot like writers - *very* few improve without editing ;>.
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Geoffrey H. Goodwin -- I Can See in the Dark
User: readingthedark
Date: 2011-11-06 18:04 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The only movie I can think of where the Director's Cut is worse than the original is Donnie Darko. It was Kelly's first film and the original was too sprawling. The story goes that producer Drew Barrymore sat him down and said something along the lines of, "Listen, I met you at a party, you'd never done anything and you had this crazy idea and I got you the money and everything else you needed--but you used too much footage of me and the film really needs to focus on Donnie." (There are also these weird interstitial Matrixy graphics that got deleted.)
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Chris McKitterick: mushroom cloud
User: mckitterick
Date: 2011-11-06 19:01 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:mushroom cloud
You seem like such an awesome dad! And that movie is amazing for all of us Gen-Xers. I was surprised that they made a movie specifically for us, considering most of the movie-going audience is college age or younger. But I'm so very happy they did.
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User: adelheid_p
Date: 2011-11-07 04:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I was blown away by the musicology in this film. However, as another poster noted, the treatment of women in this film bothered me.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2011-11-07 04:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I was in my junior year of High School when the comics came out. So my political and social memory is mildly different from yours, yet somehow the same. We had the Iran Contra Affair. And I can recall the feeling of those time; that I was being lied to repeatedly; the news calling Oliver North a hero over and over again. Of the lily being clad in something other than gild. I recall the feeling of only being able to trust what you could put together yourself. That everyone had an agenda, and it was the one that was most comforting to them. It was a time when I felt that my adult life would be dramatically different from my peers.
I found the movie to be a bit disturbing, as if I was watching the comic unfold, and how I felt a bit cheated, as if Mr. Snyder couldn't add his own voice to the film. You've given me some insight into watching it now.
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