Thursday, October 20, 2011

COLLECTOR'S EDITION Excerpt #5: The Motion Picture Log

It was the dawn of the Eighties, or the end of the Seventies, depending upon how you look at those things. In January of 1980, having just turned 15, I decided that I needed to start chronicling my motion picture attendance. I felt that my keen critical analysis demanded to be put to paper, that future generations would benefit from my unique perspective and razor sharp deconstruction of the art form of film. So I took a hardbound 6x8.5” sketchbook, grabbed some markers and started The Motion Picture Log.

From the start, I took the Log very seriously. As with commercial books, I left the first page blank, followed it with a hand-lettered title page and a disclaimer about accompanying photos being © the respective production companies and used without permission (the photos were mostly clipped from New York Times ads procured at the Paper Shack, but more on that elsewhere). The next page held an official introduction:

The following is a list of movies I have seen over a period of several years. The entries go as follows: Title; Date, Price of Admission; Theater seen in; Number of times I saw it; Who I saw it with; The cast; General notes and what I thought of the film; Rating; And my rating of the film...
* - P-U! Awful! Terrible!
** - Eh! Pretty bad, not awful.
*** - Average
**** - Good film. Worth money.
***** - Fantastic. Great film.
Note: I am not Gene Siskel. This is not meant as a guide for the general public. This is merely a reference book for me to remember things I’ve always found the need to with movies. So what are you reading this for???

Ah, the grammatically challenged self-absorption of the teenage geek. If memory serves, a prototype volume also listed what snacks were consumed, but I guess I was at least prescient enough to realize that I wouldn’t give a crap whether I had Sno-Caps or SweeTarts with my popcorn in years to come. After a year and a half, I realized that my incisive five-star system wasn’t wide ranging enough, so I switched over to the numerical grading, penning this addendum to the introduction:

--- New 1-10 rating: Read like the movie was a girl.

At least I didn’t switch over to a grading system that utilized the names of objects of lust at the time (“This movie was a total Jan Smithers!”).

The first movie entered in the first volume was STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE (which may have dictated the formal “motion picture log” tag instead of the more colloquial “movie diary” or “flick journal”).

For the record, I saw STAR TREK on January 5th, 1980 with my pals Bill and Jeff at the Wonderland Cinema in Lancaster PA and the ticket cost four bucks. I noted the cast (it wouldn’t be until 1984 that I’d start listing the director), film rating and gave it a short review. “Great job on all cast members - esp. DeForest and the Enterprise!” Awkward syntax aside, I feel proud that I was one of the first cineasts to note the burgeoning acting ability of the federation starship. Who can forget the NCC-1701’s heart wrenching turn as the blind gospel singer in THE COLOR PURPLE?


STAR TREK: TMP rated four and a half stars. I often waste time trying to determine the protocol of things that are entirely open. It’s MY frickin’ Motion Picture Log, I can rate movies on a sliding scale of bacon to rocking chairs if I want, but I seriously debated whether or not “halves are allowed.”

When I moved to the 1-10 grading system, I retroactively re-graded the films in the log, and the movie was given an 8. Which now seems a tad high. I think I’d bump that down to a 7 or perhaps a 6 and a half (if halves are allowed). And in fact, at numerous places throughout the Motion Picture Logs, initial ratings have been crossed out and replaced with one reflecting second thoughts.

My Pauline-Kaelocity continued. The Kristy MacNichol / Tatum O’Neal virginity flick, LITTLE DARLINGS evoked this passionate critique: “Eh! Some of this film was good, but other parts stank.” Upon viewing THE SHINING, I noted, “Although it isn’t an exact adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, it is fantastic.” Which is funny because I’d never read the book. That summer I saw THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK five times (despite having the climactic twist spoiled in advance) and I deemed the “sfx well up to par,” which was really pretty low in 1980.

In that first year, I also included “Interludes.” The first one came early in 1981, after two screenings of CADDYSHACK, where I wrote three and a half pages worth of memorable quotes from the comedy, including “Thank you very little,” “No one likes a tattletale, Danny…. Except of course, me,” “Hey baby, you wanna earn 14 bucks the hard way?,” “You want your fat?” and my personal favorite, “Don’t sell yourself short, judge… you’re a tremendous slouch.” What I couldn’t predict at the time was how superfluous this transcription was… to this day, myself and millions of other dorky men (and a few women) can practically recite the whole of CADDYSHACK verbatim.

The second “Interlude” tried to make up for the oversight of not starting the Motion Picture Log at a younger age. Omitting kiddie fare such as BEDKNOBS & BROOMSTICKS, I retroactively rated as many pre-Log movies I’d seen in a theater as I could remember, bestowing solid 10s on JAWS, NATIONAL LAMPOON’S ANIMAL HOUSE, SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE and ALIEN, while the lowest grades went to WHEN A STRANGER CALLS, SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND and THE SWARM.

It’s also worth noting that a large percentage of the movies in the first volume were seen at the Park City Cinemas, situated in the bottom floor of one of the secondary arms of the local mall where my friends and I hung out every Friday after school. The Park City Theater had two screens, one dedicated to discounted second-runs of mainstream fare, the other showcasing what the marquee out front referred to as “Two Adult Hits.” For those of you born after Jimmy Carter left office, lemme explain. In the days before home video and the internet, most people got their porno fix at actual movie theaters, frequented primarily by businessmen on lunch, unemployed guys with nowhere else to go and taxi drivers trying to impress Presidential campaign volunteers. It was always hilarious to watch the men buy their tickets and hide their faces as they rushed behind the black curtain into the no doubt stickier side of the cinema (they almost never paused for popcorn).

For those of us still in High School, the cool thing about the Park City Cinemas was that its mere presence and cheap ticket price ($1.50 in 1980) meant that we went to see almost anything that was playing. Sometimes it was something we’d already seen (like SUPERMAN II, which got bumped up to six times listed in the Log), but every so often we’d plunk down to view something that our little teenage sensibilities might not have otherwise: ORDINARY PEOPLE, FORT APACHE, THE BRONX and ABSENCE OF MALICE being three examples. Of course, I didn’t like any of those movies (saying about ORDINARY PEOPLE, “Okay – not great, in my opinion.”), but at least I saw them!

Some of my reviews took on a poetic simplicity. In regards to HALLOWEEN (in re-release), I decided “Best victim, but kinda dense: Jamie Lee. Jerk: Donald Pleasance.” I called BRUBAKER “realistic as hell,” and who should know the penal system better than a teenager from rural Pennsylvania? Well, at least I had the cinematic good sense to realize, even back then, that SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT 2 was “not nearly as good as the first one.”

My review of CHARIOTS OF FIRE, over three decades later, evokes a stinging regret, not because I didn’t appreciate the film, but because it reminds me of how rude my friends and I were at the showing. I wrote, “We were pretty much in stitches at some of the performances… there’s really not a lot to say about this; It was good and we were unusually obnoxious. So much so that at the end, a man in front of Chris turned around and stared at him and a woman commented ‘obnoxious kids’ when she left. Heh. Sorry, but oooo, we were soooo funny!!!”

No doubt. Yeesh.
________________________________________________________________________________________
from the forthcoming book, COLLECTOR'S EDITION: Confessions of a Pop Culture Obsessive-Compulsive
by and © Karl Heitmueller Jr.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Talk to the hand... lettering

Of all my beefs with modern mainstream comics, computer coloring and lettering are near the top. I’m not enough of a purist / luddite that I think those two steps in the comic art process should still be done by hand; certainly computers have made those jobs not only easier, but given the artists a much broader palette in which to work. The problem comes from a frequent lack of judiciousness on the part of the colorist or letterer.

A lot of times the color artist gets so excited about the full spectrum of colors and effects that there’s no restraint, resulting in overdone, garish, distracting color, enhanced with gradients, flares and all kinds of effects. The resultant busyness is exacerbated by the lack of panel-separating gutters and margins in modern comic books, creating an overall cluttered look to the page.

Lettering, as I’ve stated before, just looks better to me when done by an artist with a pen. The organic expressiveness of hand lettering is far more appealing to these jaded fanboy eyes than the rigidity of fonts, even dynamic ones.

Still, I get why captions and dialogue balloons are done using typeface. I can even see the appeal of computer lettering for sound effects. But I have a hard time understanding when computer lettering is used to illustrate writing that is done by the hand of a character in the story.

I picked up a few of DC Comics’ new first issues from their rebooted universe, and the results have been a very mixed bag (see my 50 WORDS OR LESS… blog for reviews). BATGIRL #1 is one of the better entrants, and I’m happy to see Babs Gordon back on her own two feet. The story (by Gail Simone) is promising and Ardian Syaf and Vicente Cifuentes’ art is pretty damn great… except for a few details that stuck out like nipples on a batsuit.

The very first panel shows the villain (a guy named The Mirror who seems to be straight out of FINAL DESTINATION) holding a list of names of people who somehow escaped death. The list is handwritten, but instead of the names being drawn, they’re typeset (presumably by letterer Dave Sharpe) in a font that approximates loose handwriting. It’s jarringly unbelievable (and probably took more time to type and lay out than if it would’ve just been scrawled in ink).

But even less convincing is a scene later in the book wherein Barbara Gordon’s new roommate shows how much of a rebel she is via a hand-painted scrawl of “FIGHT THE POWER” on the living room wall. The words were supposed to have been painted with a wide paintbrush, but are obviously, painfully printed on the wall with a font. WHY? Why wasn’t this done with a brush pen on the original artwork, or, if it’s going to reappear in later issues, wasn’t it created on paper, scanned in and saved as a Photoshop file that can be re-placed in the future? It doesn’t look like it was painted on the wall; it looks like the roommate (as yet unnamed) bought some giant vinyl letters at Staples and placed them on the wall after carefully making chalklines so they’d be straight. Not very anarchic.

Conversely, on the very next page, we see a nameplate on a desk that, for some reason, IS hand-lettered, to ill effect! Here’s an item that SHOULD’VE been done in a font for bland uniformity. It’s an odd juxtaposition.

Technology is just a tool, as much as a pen, ink or a ruler. It’s a relatively new tool as far as the comic book medium goes, and as with any new tool (or toy), there’s as much an art in deciding when to use it as how. Don’t make me quote Jeff Goldblum in JURASSIC PARK. You know what I mean.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Prince Street News debuts in BACK ISSUE #51

It's plug time, kids! The first installment of Prince Street News, my comic strip about comics has just hit the stands in the new issue of Michael Eury's BACK ISSUE MAGAZINE, #51, an all-interview issue featuring writer Steve Englehart, artist Walt Simonson in conversation with frequent collaborator Erik Larsen, a writers discussion between Doug Moench and Len Wein, letterers Janice Chiang and Todd Klein and the final interview with the late colorist Adrienne Roy.

My strip is the centerspread of the magazine, printed in full color. It's entitled, "Icon" and it's about the evolution of Superman's appearance in light of his new costume in the comics. I'll post the full strip on my art site, TOUGH GUY GOODS and SERVICES when BI #52 comes out, so if you want to see it now, head on to your local comics store, Barnes & Noble or order Back Issue from the TwoMorrows website.

The next episode of PSN will be in BACK ISSUE #54, the Liberated Ladies issue, shipping in January, 2012. It's a look at the thin line between acceptably sexy and exploitatively silly in the context of superheroine costumes. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

COLLECTOR'S EDITION excerpt #4: Found a Job

In the late 1960s, magazines such as EERIE, CREEPY and FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND featured advertisements for “200 feet 8mm HOME MOVIES” of old horror and science fiction films like I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN, THE BLOB and a particular Saturday afternoon monster movie favorite of mine, WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST. Also available was the clunky 1943 BATMAN movie serial, its twelve chapters edited into six 8mm reels. The full-page ad—replete with then-contemporary BIFF! BAM! POW! embellishments—erroneously touted the low budget, unintentionally campy series (unseen for decades) as “spine-tingling,” but neglected to mention that the edited reels did not contain any audio!

To facilitate viewing, you could also order, for a mere $9.98 (plus $3.00 shipping and handling) a portable 8mm movie projector, with accompanying screen. In those ancient pre-VHS days, this was the only way a collector could build a library of movies (unless, of course, he owned a motion picture studio).

When VCRs hit the market in the 1970s, compiling a home video collection was still pretty much inconceivable due to the high cost of commercial videotapes. Since the home video industry was initially focused on the rental market, the studios would charge an average of about $75-100 per cassette, knowing that Blockbuster Video was going to make many times that on rentals of each unit. Once VHS recorders became ubiquitous, the average list price lowered to make videotapes more affordable to the general public.

But even after VHS became the standard format, building a library of TV shows was next to impossible. The few shows that were available on videotape were either samplers of “best” episodes or merely the pilot and maybe one or two subsequent shows. Which meant that we pop-obsessives had to make them ourselves.

I began collecting movies and TV shows in the late 1970s, but in the beginning, it wasn’t on video.

When I was 13 years old, my father bought me a portable Panasonic tape recorder, the kind with the little built-in speaker and the row of control buttons on the front. My younger brother had received one for his birthday a month earlier and I was stealing it from him and using it so much that I had to be given my own (much to Ken’s disgust).

I recorded some songs off the radio, made some “comedy” tapes (look for the CD reissue of my Three Mile Island and Superman interviews sometime soon), but mostly, I taped stuff off of TV. At first I just recorded random things like theme songs, commercials that I liked, favorite Warner Bros. cartoons and stand-up performances from THE TONIGHT SHOW. But soon, I started recording full television shows.

I’d set the tape recorder on a stool right in front of the TV’s speaker and kneel before it—call if genuflection if you will—manning the Record/Pause buttons to edit out the commercials. Timing was crucial, I had to make sure I got the very beginning of the show and every bit of the broadcast right through the end theme. If anyone walked into the room while the tape was recording, I’d make the “shushing” motion with my finger at my lips. However, if it was a show that displayed the name of the episode at the beginning, I would speak the title aloud into the mic, in as dramatic a timbre as my changing voice could muster. Aside from that, the only acceptable background noise was laughter during comedies (my own laugh track enhancement, I guess). But any questions about what was going on (my Dad was always one of those “Who’s that? What did he do? Did that guy kill that other guy? Where is this?” viewers) were angrily ignored. Yep, I was one annoying little dork.

The first show I recorded regularly was CBS’ misfit radio station sitcom, WKRP IN CINCINNATI . 60-minute cassette tapes (bought at Lafayette Electronics in three packs with no clamshell cases) holding one episode per side began filling my desk drawers. Every episode was given a title—which I had to make up in those pre-IMDb days—and labeled with volume numbers. I started recording WKRP around the time that the first 1978-79 season went into reruns, so I didn’t have a complete chronological archive in order, but that didn’t matter. Hey, I’m anal-retentive, not insane .

With WKRP, there was added pressure to get the entirety of the end credits theme song, a rockin’ number with some really hard to decipher lyrics. While most of the time, the song would be interrupted by a voiceover of a CBS announcer telling us what hijinks were coming up next on ONE DAY AT A TIME, there were a few instances where the song played in full . I would listen to the tape over and over again, trying to figure out what the hell that guy was singing. It sounded like he was telling a bartender that he was going, going, going like mad, aw-haw.

While singing karaoke to the end theme wasn’t in the cards, I listened to those tapes frequently enough that, to this day, there are whole episodes of WKRP I could perform as a one-man show (such as the one where the staff crafts a bouncy jingle for the Ferryman Funeral Home and the amazingly prescient episode where the horny, leisure-suited salesman Herb Tarlek and his family enter reality TV hell by appearing on a show called “Real Families”).

The next show that I regularly recorded premiered in 1980 and took up twice as much tape as WKRP, being an hour-long drama about a former navy intelligence officer who lived for free on a wealthy novelist’s estate (to the perpetual annoyance of its major domo) while eking out a living as a private investigator, often employing the begrudging assistance of two friends with whom he fought in Viet Nam.

That’s right. I audiotaped MAGNUM, P.I. For years. And listened to it. A lot.

Okay, so maybe the Hawaii-based detective show wasn’t exactly Mamet, but I found the banter of Magnum, Higgins, Rick and T.C. (and sometimes Robin Masters, voiced by Orson Welles, which I knew was a big deal even at the age of 15) highly entertaining, and I still hold the opinion that the first two seasons of that show were some really well-written little dramas (it got spotty after that). Besides, the show’s score (including both themes, the initial jazzy one by Ian Freebairn-Smith that was replaced with the more iconic Mike Post anthem in the tenth episode) was sometimes as good as a James Bond soundtrack as far as I was concerned.

Again, there are some bits of dialogue that remain forever lodged in my brain, popping out of my cake hole in Pavlovian response to the proper stimulus. Any time someone orders a boilermaker at the bar where I tend, I pull out a line from the first season episode “All Roads Lead to Floyd” explaining that “a beer and a shot—that’s one drink.”

I audiotaped all Steve Martin’s NBC comedy specials of the late 1970s, and made compilations of skits from SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, SCTV (for my money, the greatest ensemble sketch comedy show of all time), and LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN. The nice thing about recording those shows was that if a sketch, monologue or interview wasn’t worth keeping, I would stop recording, rewind to the end of the last good bit, then start again with the next segment. Depending upon when I decided to kill the bit could cause some stress, however, as I had to make sure to get to just the right spot before the next recording could start. There was a lot of frantic FF and REW button pushing.

As far as movies went, the only time I audiotaped a film off of televison was when ABC aired an extended cut of SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE in 1982. The full 182 minutes took up three cassettes, but it was worth it. It would be almost two decades before some of the added scenes would make it onto home video, and to this day, a scene where Otis “feeds the babies” (meaning some offscreen lions or tigers) has somehow remained absent from any deluxe reissue.

Random bits recorded off of television fell under a catch-all umbrella series called FOUND A JOB, named after a song about a television-writing couple from Talking Heads’ second album, MORE SONGS ABOUT BUILDINGS AND FOOD. FOUND A JOB was also the destination for the rare times when punk or new wave groups that I loved would appear on TV.

When DEVO’s single, “Whip It” became an unexpected hit, the band made an incongruous appearance on THE MERV GRIFFIN SHOW. When Merv—manifesting his usual awkwardness when interviewing anyone outside of the mainstream—remarked to Mark Mothersbaugh, “And it must be a THRILL to have a big commercial hit!,” the bemused flower-pot-helmeted lead singer countered dryly, “Oh, it is a thrill, Merv.” Merv cracked up, but I really don’t think he got the joke. It didn’t matter; I did.
_________________________________________________________________________________________
from the forthcoming book, COLLECTOR'S EDITION: Confessions of a Pop Culture Obsessive-Compulsive
by and © Karl Heitmueller Jr.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Frattoo-Pop!

As much as I despise jam bands (and oh, do I despise jam bands), I think my most visceral rock hatred is reserved for the much-and-justly maligned genre known as Emo. The merger of introspective lyrics with loud and fast guitars, whiny vocals and hardcore imagery that broke big in the early aughts with horrible bands like My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy sounds more painful to my ears than a thousand covers of “Box of Rain.”

Now, I grant you, this music is not for me. I am, as they say, Old. And if you’re an angsty teenager, then I shall let the baby have his or her bottle. Copy those New Found Glory lyrics onto your Facebook page and swoon over those Dashboard Confessional heartthrobs to your wee heart’s content. Someday you will grow out of this phase and realize this music is poop. Hopefully, anyway.

But what galls me the most about Emo is the self-denial, the fact that barely anyone who plays or listens to it acknowledges that they are, in fact, Emo. For some reason, these deluded souls seem to think they’re part of some scene that has something to do with what we used to call punk rock. And aside from fuzzy, fast guitars and a visual look that’s only punk as Hot Topic defines it, I don’t see it. The melodies under the fuzz are usually as light and poppy as a Bieber song (they even used to have the same hair… and even Justin fucking Bieber finally ditched that stupid ‘do!).

There’s a kind of frat boy mentality to many (not all, but many) of the practitioners and fans of this music that pisses me off in the same way I can’t stand it when jocks sing along to “London Calling” on the jukebox (even if they only know the line “I live by the river!”). I hear them using terms like “aggro” and “chillin’” and talking more—way more—about their tattoos than politics, or even music. Image is paramount with these bands, moreso than any musical genre this side of hip hop.

I recently bore witness to the lead singer of an Emo band actually boasting about his punk rock cred onstage, decrying singers who use “fake rock star voices” right before launching into another song that sounded like it was straight out of the American Emo Idol Songbook in that patented, clich├ęd whining squeal that they all use. When he later said something to crowd about not being afraid to sing along because it was “a punk rock show,” I could only mutter to myself, “No. No, it’s not.”

I understand how these bands want to shy away from a term that’s so derided. After all, Mudhoney and Tad hated the term, “Grunge.” It’s a blanket with Small Pox. So I propose a new tag to replace the word “Emo,” one that I think sums up the music far better anyway: FRATTOO-POP! Frat boys with tattoos who play pop music! And it rolls of the tongue like a brand new lip piercing!

Just please, for the love of ThereIsNoGod…. Please stop calling yourself Punk. And your earlobe plug looks stupid.

Friday, July 29, 2011

More Red Shorts Mourning

I popped into Target today, and—as always—hit the action figure aisles to see if there was anything to add to the collection. A bunch of new lines were on display, including the Young Justice figures (none for me), the Batman Legacy line (nope), the Funko Pop Vinyl figures (hmmm… have Superman already, but Batman looks pretty nice), and, in the kiddie aisle, Fisher-Price’s new DC Super Friends HeroWorld figures (an awkward name, that).

I flipped through the figures on the peg, past Batman, the Joker, Mr. Freeze until I saw it, hiding in the back, almost embarrassed. The Superman figure… sans red shorts.

Now, the funny thing about this figure is how transitional it is. Obviously, when this line was first designed, this was going to be the classic Superman model with the old costume. But at some point, DC decided it was time to start introducing the redesigned character to the toy shelves, starting with this little guy.

This figure is half-classic / half-new, with the old boot scallop, yellow belt and regular shirt-sleeves, but the new high collar and all-blue pants (the extraneous texture is irrelevant). But if you look closely at the sculpt, you can see that there are lines where the red shorts and low collar were originally designed to be painted. Even the artwork on the side of the box features Superman in his traditional togs.

I stood in the toy aisle and wept openly, again mourning the pointless demise of an iconic design. After frightening off a small child, I pulled myself together, put the figure in my basket and walked to the cat food aisle.

What, I’m not gonna buy it? Yeah, right.

Smurf the Smurfs! (10 classic cartoons worthy of big-screen adaptation)

Following in the footsteps of fellow Saturday morning stalwarts Scooby Doo, Speed Racer, Yogi Bear, Inspector Gadget and many more, the Smurfs at long last make their big screen debut (only a decade or two after most would really care), begging the question: What other classic cartoons could possibly be left for a live action / CGI movie adaptation? Well, lots, actually, but we’re only listing the top ten (along with some cast and director suggestions).

SPACE GHOST
Before he was a snarky talk show host, Hanna-Barbera’s “Batman in space” fought evil aliens with his teenage sidekicks Jan and Jace and their monkey, Blip (not to be confused with the Wonder Twins’ space monkey, Gleek). A tongue-in-cheek live action version in the vein of THE INCREDIBLES could appeal to both kids and nerdy adults (and, if he wouldn’t mind mining the same territory, could be a perfect fit for director Brad Bird). Bruce Campbell, you’re not too old to don the diaphanous cape and save the galaxy from Brak and Zorak!

GARGOYLES
A group of living gargoyles in ancient Scotland are cursed to remain stone until their castle rises above the clouds. When a billionaire relocates the structure to Manhattan centuries later, the beings return to life at night, where they battle the evil denizens of the city. Now that Disney owns Marvel, this well-regarded ‘90s gothic superhero cartoon from the Mouse House seems like a no-brainer. Finally, a superhero movie that Tim Burton wouldn’t screw up!

THE SIMPSONS

The time is not ripe… not yet (as the disappointing SIMPSONS MOVIE showed). But someday, perhaps a decade after the show finally ends its historic run on TV (assuming that day ever comes), nostalgia is going to demand that Homer, Marge, Maggie, Bart, Lisa and the denizens of Springfield be resurrected, and since replicating an icon is an impossible task, why not try a live version? The big question is, where are they going to find so many actors with jaundice?

BETTY BOOP
There are two ways to go here: A period piece set in the flirtatious flapper’s milieu of the 1930s could deal with the struggling singer’s career aspirations in the midst of the depression (with Dita von Teese in the title role?). OR, bring Betty into the present, as a wacky artist who, along with her eccentric friends (Grampy!), fights a group of corporate real estate developers with their eyes on the loft building they all share (or some David-vs-Goliath tale). Zooey Deschanel, perhaps? Or (dare I even suggest) Katy Perry?

DEXTER’S LABORATORY
Genndy Tartakovsky’s stylistically groundbreaking 1996 series introduced boy genius Dexter, whose seemingly endless hidden laboratory remained a secret from his clueless parents, but sadly, not his pesky older sister, DeeDee. A live adaptation would be tricky, but could be done, hopefully capturing the multi-leveled humor and sharp satiric quality. Sounds like a job for Spike Jonze!

THE JETSONS
A live version of Hanna-Barbera’s modern space-age family has been bandied about for years, but as with so many cartoon and comic book movies, it took time for filmmaking technology to reach the point where it could do the concept justice. The opportunity is there to make the movie a smart commentary on our ever-increasing reliance on technology and gadgetry, which would require a smart, seasoned filmmaker like John Landis or Harold Ramis… with Stephen Colbert as the beleaguered employee of Spacely’s Sprockets, George Jetson and Christina Hendricks as Jane, his wife?

DARIA
Here’s a thought: Instead of repositioning MTV’s cynical cartoon heroine of the late 90’s as a live action teenager today, why not imagine Daria Morgendorffer as a woman on the cusp of 40, wallowing in the kind of tough self-analysis that middle age brings upon the lifelong nonconformists (Hello, Janeane Garofalo)? If Judd Apatow makes the movie, she’ll endure painful laser tattoo removal treatments, throw away her record collection, marry an accountant, have lots of babies and live happily ever after! Aw, nice!

SPIDER-MAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS
It seems as if next year’s Spider-Man movie reboot is aimed more at the TWILIGHT set than the older fanboys who ate up Sam Raimi’s unabashedly retro superhero flicks. But if that film flops, why not go even younger with a live action adaptation of this ‘80s kiddie cartoon, featuring Spidey (Daniel Radcliffe needs a new franchise) teaming with the flaming hot Firestar (comeback for Lindsay Lohan, perhaps?) and the wisecracking Iceman (Frankie Muniz, your trainer awaits). They could even use that stupid poodle or whatever Aunt May’s annoying dog was in that show. Nah, maybe not.

WACKY RACES
H-B’s swingin’ sixties series pitted a diverse group of racers in eleven crazy, souped up cars against each other in road races across the country every week. Would the evil Dick Dastardly in his Mean Machine win by any means necessary? Or would the trophy go to Professor Pat Pending in his Convert-a-Car? Lazy Luke and Blubber Bear in the Arkansas Chug-a-Lug? Or what about the goth Gruesome Twosome in their Creepy Coupe? Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, here’s your chance to make up for LAND OF THE LOST!

NARUTO
I guess. I can’t stand anime, but I know lots of you folks love it, so I just picked a popular anime series at random. Hey, it’s got teenage ninjas and it’s fast paced and there’s colors and stuff! Win-win, right? What’s that? THE LAST AIRBENDER was based on an anime series? Oysh… next.

ELMER FUDD
Of all the classic Looney Tunes / Merrie Melodies characters, the short-tempered schlub with the speech impediment is the most viable for a live action translation. And while it may seem like a fool’s errand, think about the possibilities of a black comedy set in a world that’s recognizable, but not quite real; Alexander Payne or Wes Anderson could meld the anarchic, surrealistic sensibilities of the classic Warner Bros. cartoons with a postmodern pathos to possibly create the first cartoon adaptation to screen at Sundance. Paul Giamatti, get to work on that rhotacism!

Okay, that was eleven, but the Naruto entry doesn’t count. Oh, and I know Miss Lion was a Lhasa Apso. I have the Internet, too, you know. The point is, as with comic books, the cartoon well is nowhere near empty, at least as far as Hollywood producers are concerned. Whether or not Internet reports of HONG KONG PHOOEY: THE MOVIE are true or not is beside the point; The fact is, it’s possible.
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