30 June, 2015

Rawhide

          There seems to be something of a Birthday Special in this round of our Top 5 Retrospectives.  We're celebrating Mr. Tyrone Power whose first entry -- Jesse James -- posted on what would have been his 100th Birthday.  The Mark Of Zorro posted on what would have been that leading lady's -- Linda Darnell's -- birthday.  And this entry posts on what would have been today's leading lady's birthday:  Miss Susan Hayward.

            But that’s not the only benchmark in today’s write-up.  As I mentioned in The Black Swan, how surprising it was that was Ben Hecht’s first we’d talked about, it’s as surprising today’s film is the first we’ve talked about that was shot in that marvelous maze of boulders I so often mention in these Top 5s (and other posts).  Today, indeed, you not only get Tyrone Power and Susan Hayward, Dean Jagger and Jack Elam, Henry Hathaway at the helm from a script by Dudley Nichols -- as if all that wasn’t enough, dear readers -- today we go on location in Lone Pine. 

You fans remember how today’s movie begins, don’t you?  The stagecoach barreling through desert and mountains, sun and snow, as we hear, “Yes sir, that’s it.  The Overland Mail.  San Francisco to St. Louis in twenty five days.  Twenty seven hundred miles in twenty five days and twenty five nights.  When the weather and injuns behave.  A lot farther and longer when they don’t.  People said it couldn’t be done.  They laughed.  Called it The Jackass Mail.  But when mail and passengers and gold began coming through from California day-in and day-out, the whole country sat up and took notice.  San Francisco to St. Louis.  The shortest, fastest, back-breakingest ride you could buy for two hundred dollars gold.  Meals included.  Yes sir, that’s it.  The Jackass Mail.”  And where does the stagecoach pull up for a quick breather … and our adventure?

‘Rawhide’ (1951)
d Henry Hathaway
w Dudley Nichols

First, let's (of course) not confuse this with the Clint Eastwood TV Show.  

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The Black Swan

The Swashbuckler.

The name alone evokes great high-adventure;  pure fun in entertainment.  The hero?  Idealistic to the bone.  The villain?  Dastardly.  The damsel?  If in distress – even in the classics – still strong-willed.  And the weapon of choice?  The sword.  There are often pistols, sure, but in the final fight, when hero and villain go mono-a-mono, sparring dialogue as wonderfully staged, it’s gotta be the sword.  From Cyrano de Bergerac to Jack Sparrow, if adventure has a name …

The word swashbuckler emerged in the sixteenth century;  the likeliest derivation from using a side-sword in one hand – swashing through the air – and buckler (shield) in the other.  The Spanish Rodeleros were well known for mastering the sword-and-buckle and made up the majority of Hernán Cortés troops in his swash of The New World.

The Renaissance saw the introduction of the sword as a civilian weapon and the rise of the “duel of honor.”  Victorian-era authors – Scott, Dumas – found dueling romantic, heroic, and propelled a significant and widespread role of swordsmanship – soon fencing – as far as the theatre stage.  By the time Movies were birthed, dueling was immediately a heralded genre.  Because they started as Silents, flamboyant action spoke volumes.

                 Oft considered the poster boy of the genre is Rafael Sabatini (1875-1950).  Born in Italy but living mostly in England, he spoke six languages, choosing to write in the last he learned because, he himself said, “all the best stories are written in English.”  He wrote for twenty-five years before finding success with ‘Scaramouche’ (1921), followed by ‘Captain Blood’ (1922).  Riding this one-two-punch, his publisher reprinted earlier work, including ‘The Sea Hawk’ (1915).  It should be no surprise that Hollywood embraced him – just look at those three titles – and it was in 1932 – his twenty-second novel – that he wrote our story today. 

The Daily Telegraph captured Sabatini and his work the best:  One wonders if there is another storyteller so adroit at filling his pages with intrigue, with danger threaded with romance, a background of lavish colour, of silks and velvets, swords and jewels.”

'The Black Swan’ (1942)
                   w Ben Hecht & Seton Miller from the novel by Rafael Sabatini
                   d Henry King

                 We’re passing the middle of our Ty Top 5 – following ‘Jesse James’ and ‘The Mark Of Zorro’ – as we come to his first Pirate Epic, a dash-and-bluster opera played for fun and romance as Cast & Crew are clearly having as much fun as we are.  If not as well known, this film stands strong next to Errol Flynn’s ‘Captain Blood,’ ‘Robin Hood’ and ‘Sea Hawk’ as a great swashbuckler;  and, just as significantly, plays precursor to all modern fare.

                 Speaking of Flynn, I wrote in his ‘Robin Hood’ post that it’s “the unequivocal swashbuckler.”  And while I don’t regret writing that – and doubt anyone would disagree – I’m just thinking out loud as I now write, “I wonder what we think of when we hear the word swashbuckler.”  Personally, I think Pirates.  No reason, that’s just me.  There are a number of great non-Pirate swashbucklers – I’m just talking characters now (there are so many movies made about each) – like Robin Hood and Zorro and Prince Valiant and The Three Musketeers – but, gut reaction, I think Pirates.  And today’s movie is the first “Pirate film” in these Top 5s.  (The “Pirate film.”  That’s kind of its own genre, isn’t it?)  Well, rest assured, you’re in fine waters. 

‘The Black Swan’ – the titular ship and the movie – swaggers up and down The Caribbean under full sail, its pirates wearing enormous sashes and brandishing shining cutlasses;  sweeping merrily through the streets;  breaking heads, stealing maidens, and brawling over rich brocades.  And should one find himself on a dungeon’s rack?  Aye, perhaps the only code among them is to set the captive free! 

Amid this color is Sir Henry Morgan's return to grace as Governor of Jamaica and his attempt to sweep a former henchman, Billy Leech, from the seas.  Tasked is Morgan’s good friend Jamie Boy (Tyrone Power) who heartily dives in after making a midnight abduction of a certain aristocratic lady (Maureen O'Hara) to, well, make the voyage more bearable.  How Jamie Boy brings the villainous Leech to bay while winning the lady’s heart is all of course told in the final – and doesn’t-disappoint – battle as ships rake each other with cannon fire;  their pirates dueling across the decks!

            (And you bet I ended both those paragraphs with exclamation marks!)

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            Let’s begin this film’s Behind The Scenes with our leading lady;  one of the last leading ladies from Hollywood’s Golden Age still with us.  The incomparable – go on, compare her to someone, I dare you – Maureen O’Hara was born Maureen FitzSimons in a suburb of Dublin, Ireland.  Her parents were clothiers which, while true, isn’t as much fun as saying Robert Evans started his career in women’s pants (also true).  Miss O’Hara, even as a young girl, always dreamt of being a stage actress.  She trained in drama, music and dance – did you know she sang, and well? – and, in the evenings after classes, worked in amateur theatre.  Her father was a practical man and insisted she learn a “proper” education so she enrolled in a business school and became a proficient bookkeeper;  a skill that, years later, proved presciently useful when John Ford had her transcribe his notes for “a little love story he wanted to shoot in Ireland.”  Young Miss O’Hara shined enough in her stage classes that she landed a Screen Test in London.  It wasn’t noteworthy, per se, except for one man who saw it and thought it better than most:  Alfred Hitchcock.  He cast her in her first major motion picture, ‘Jamaica Inn’ (1939), opposite another notable Englishman – Charles Laughton – who, so entranced with her, had her cast opposite him again in ‘The Hunchback Of Notre Dame’ (1939).  And it was Laughton who suggested she change her last name, reportedly quipping, “Bit shorter for the marquee, you know.”  Of course, it probably didn’t hurt that ‘Gone With The Wind’ came out that year as well (and more on ‘GWTW’ in a bit). 

World War II began and O’Hara’s contract was sold to RKO who cast her in low-budget films until she was rescued by John Ford – this is the first time they met – where she first shined in his 1941 Best Picture Winner, ‘How Green Was My Valley.’  They would go on to make many films together, including that “little Irish love story,” the classic – and many consider it Ford’s best – ‘The Quiet Man’ (1952).  O’Hara is often remembered for her undeniable chemistry with another Ford regular, John Wayne.  They made five films together, and if you haven’t seen ‘Rio Grande’ (1950) please put it at the top of your list.  With over sixty films to her credit, it’s most likely a little holiday movie for which she’s most famous, starring as Natalie Wood’s mother in ‘Miracle On 34th Street.’  Just last year [2014], The Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences presented Miss O’Hara The Academy's Honorary Oscar at The Governor’s Awards, making her the second actress to receive the award without having previously been nominated in any category.  The first?  Miss Myrna Loy. 

And of ‘The Black Swan,’ Miss O’Hara herself said, “It had everything you could want in a lavish pirate picture: a magnificent ship with thundering cannons; a dashing hero battling menacing villains; sword fights; fabulous costumes ... [and] working with Ty was exciting.  In those days, he was the biggest romantic swashbuckler in the world.  But what I loved most about working with him was his wicked sense of humor.”

We already touched on our Director, Mr. Henry King, in the ‘Jesse James’ write-up – and remember he and Ty made eleven films together – so let’s talk our Writers (adapters here of the Rafael Sabatini novel):  Ben Hecht and Seton Miller.  Mr. Miller you might remember from our Flynn ‘Robin Hood’ write-up – and he did ‘The Sea Hawk;’  savvy swordplay well in his wheelhouse – so let’s talk about the other gentleman, Mr. Ben Hecht.  Of these Top 5s, this is my eighteenth, and I’m actually surprised he hasn’t come up before.  It was once said of Ernest Lehman – look him up if you need to – that “even his flops are hits.”  Well, the same can be said of our guy today.  Look up Ben Hecht’s titles.  Realize (and I hope appreciate) their diversity and the impact they’ve had not just on Hollywood but how we tell stories (in this town or anywhere else).  He was a Journalist, a Playwright, a Novelist and a Screenwriter.  But there’s really no better way to say it:  Ben Hecht was a Writer. 

You may know his name for writing the play ‘The Front Page’ which he turned into its second filmed outing, the instant classic ‘His Girl Friday;’  not just the best of the play’s many adaptations but the blueprint for romantic screwball comedies (and never since done so well).  He was the Script Doctor (certainly for Hitchcock but perhaps most famously for ‘Gone With The Wind’) and wrote many of his Screenplays anonymously to avoid British boycott of his support of Judaism (another story to be told;  but so appreciative were Jews the world over that the Israeli Naval Flagship is the S.S. Ben Hecht).  It was written of his Autobiography, ‘A Child Of The Century,’ that “his manners are not always nice, but then nice manners do not always make interesting autobiographies, and this one has the merit of being intensely interesting.  If he is occasionally slick, he is also independent, forthright, and original. Among the pussycats who write of social issues today he roars like an old-fashioned lion."  Over his nearly one hundred films, six were nominated for The Oscar, and he took home two. 

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                 I sometimes browse the internet specifically for these write-ups – vintage reviews, like from our old friend Bosley Crowther;  or modern takes from TCM’s great website, things like that – and I came across a charming blog called ‘They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To’ where I found this fun bit, written during Ty’s centennial celebration last year:  As part of Maureen O'Hara's 93rd birthday bash last August, ‘The Black Swan’ was shown on the big screen of Boise, Idaho's historic Egyptian Theatre.  (Miss O'Hara currently lives in Boise.)  As a Boise resident, [that blog's author] attended the event and was able to catch ‘The Black Swan’ in this incredible environment.  I'm tellin' you, until you've seen Tyrone Power ‘up close and personal’ on the big screen, you are missing out.  Truly, that is how he was meant to be seen!”  Adorable?  Sure.  But what always stands out when I come across things like this is how well classic movies still resonate today.  How passionate modern audiences still are.  See, it’s not just me!  Indeed, there are a lot of us out there still carrying the torch.    

In 1942, Crowther noted for The New York Times, “After seeing ‘The Black Swan,’ a good many boys will be brandishing wooden swords in the parlor and slitting sofa pillows for some time to come.”  And if that isn’t how a swashbuckler should make us all feel, well, that’s our fault.

                    Up next?  We go on location in Lone Pine in Ty’s Dramatic Western ‘Rawhide.’




08 May, 2015

Hey Marvel, It's DC Calling (Part 3)


So last Spring I wrote a couple articles on what boiled down to DC’s response to The Marvel Juggernaut, and a few thoughts thereof.  I called them … well, you can see for yourself right at the top of this article.  And I recently started to think a little bit more about that.  The Marvel Juggernaut;  DC knocking on that door.  Where are we in those Super Hero worlds?  So I thought it was time I write them up again.  ‘Cause opinions aside – both companies have leaps and missteps – it’s a good time to be a geek.

First, where are we?  A quick dart-throw at the map:  It’s Spring of 2015 now which means we’ve seen Avengers:  Age Of Ultron, a second season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., the first seasons of Agent Carter and Daredevil – those three TV Shows all coming back for more – and Ant Man is right around the corner.  On the other side of the river?  The first trailer for Batman v Superman:  Dawn Of Justice (God, they really couldn’t help that title), the first seasons of Gotham and The Flash (and their Arrow is still popular), and we’ve heard Supergirl and Legends Of Tomorrow are goes.  (“Goes,” yes, they really do say that.)  And both camps have more movies on the way, but more on those later (including touching on Sony Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox who have tabs on Spider-Man and X-Men). 

Second, what we talked about in those first two articles?  Let’s see where all that is now.  We touched on Captain America 3 (which we now know will be Civil War) being released the same day as Batman v Superman (6 May, 2016).  Would BvS flinch?  Turns out yes, but perhaps to their advantage, as BvS now releases nearly two months before on 25 March, 2016.

We touched on DC trying to adapt the “it’s all connected” ideal Marvel successfully built with their “phases.”  How’s that going?  Well, I still preface that DC is working from a different starting point than Marvel -- they don’t have to say who Batman and Superman and Wonder Woman are as much as Marvel does with, say, Ant Man – but are they connecting?  Let’s go back to David S. Goyer’s comment last year:  “I know that Warner Bros [who owns DC] would love to make their universe more cohesive [but] it’s just been vague conversations so far.”  Just vague conversations so far?  Well, a year later, and they’re announcing their Flash movie will be with a different actor than the TV Series.  Obviously a conscious decision, but how does that make their universe cohesive?

We touched on Ben Affleck’s return to comics, “switching sides” from Marvel (he was Daredevil in their 2003 feature) to DC (he’ll be playing some guy in a cape and cowl).  His next Directorial effort, the Prohibition Drama Live By Night, still lingers, and initial crowd reaction to his donning that cape and cowl seem favorable.  (This writer’s concern with Batman v Superman – God I really hate that title – has nothing to do with Mr. Affleck but rather that pesky little thing called Story.)  It still stands to reason that The Brothers Warner greenlit Live By Night because of Affleck’s agreeing to play with DC, and I still say it was a fair trade.

Then we touched on (the then upcoming) Marvel-Netflix series Daredevil.  And talk about a property switching hands but – they all do, of course, but – this was forefront and many.  Let’s just talk Showrunners.  What started with Joe Carnahan went to Drew Goddard.  But then he was pulled decided to work on Sony’s The Sinister Six (and, yep, more on Sony/Marvel to come).  So Steven S. DeKnight took the reins.  But before Season 1 of the Netflix Series finished, he left, relinquishing duties to Doug Petrie & Marco Ramirez (that duo officially taking over for Season 2;  and, interestingly, Goddard, DeKnight and Petrie are all Joss Whedon Buffy alums).  Thankfully the talented Jeph Loeb – who wrote the excellent Daredevil:  Yellow comic (among others, look him up if you need to) – is still on board;  the show and as Marvel’s Head Of Television.

And that kinda brings us current.  And Daredevil (the show) is as good a place as any to start anew.  I hope I don’t anger too many people with this but, in the interest of being fair to both companies’ leaps and missteps, I have to share my opinion.  Sadly – and I hate to say this given the character’s pedigree – the new show’s not much more than "what might have been."           

Sure – and we’ve touched on this already – it didn’t help it didn’t have a consistent Showrunner.  Goddard’s first two episodes are distinctly different from the rest of the first-season thirteen.  And by “the end” – let’s say the last two episodes – you can feel DeKnight running away, practically before The Martini (and I’ll let you figure out that reference).  The leads are fine enough – except for Vincent D’Onofrio who shines above the rest;  he was born to play Kingpin – but the shows themselves are like walking through drying cement.  There were great moments -- the apparent one-shot fight in the hallway -- but they're so far in-between that every episode feels as if they stretched a forty-minute show into a one-hour slot.  Then the whole season felt that way;  too-little story stretched to fill too many episodes.  (How many scenes were there where The Chinese Druglord asked Kingpin to get his house in order?  How many scenes were there where Karen asked Ben Urich to work on the story?  You count, I've embarrassed the show long enough.)  This article isn’t a Daredevil review.  In fact, I hope Jo Blo’s wonderful column “The Unpopular Opinion” gets a crack at it.  But I remember looking forward to it -- loving the character -- then finally seeing it and forcing myself to finish it.  Dry cement?  I wished it was Marvel good.

“Marvel good.”  That’s quite the bar they’ve set for themselves, isn’t it?  And their hard work is just beginning.  With Ant Man closing out Phase 2, let’s take a look at what’s on the horizon for Phase 3:  Captain America 3 (Civil War), Doctor Strange, Guardians Of The Galaxy 2, Thor 3 (Ragnarok), Black Panther, Captain Marvel – not to be confused with DC’s Shazam! – Inhumans and, if these weren’t enough, closing those out, Avengers:  Infinity War (a two-part film that takes us through May of 2019).  

As Velma would say, “Jinkies!” 

But what’s encouraging about such an undertaking is how thought-out their plan continues to be, on-screen and off.  In a decision that surprises no fans – especially with Joss Whedon closing his Marvel run from Captain America (he doctored that script) through UltronInfinity War will be scripted by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, the same duo behind Captain America 2 (Winter Soldier) and 3 (Civil War);  these after they co-wrote Thor 2 (The Dark World) and created Agent Carter.  And with Civil War and Infinity War being directed by Joe & Anthony Russo – love or hate that team, corralled by the indisputably great Kevin Feige – it’s a consistency one can’t help but applaud.

Which takes us to Sony Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox.  You remember them, don’t you?  The little studios that could, often still do.  The former has control of Spider-Man and, the latter, X-Men.  And, yes, both of those properties are Marvel, but not owned by them (or Marvel’s now Parent, Disney).  And, yes, both properties have done just fine.  Many people consider Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man to be the birth of the modern-day super hero movie (and rightly so) and many people consider Bryan Singer’s X-Men 2 to be one of the best super hero movies of all time (and rightly so).  But how do those companies get in the way of even more consistency, something Marvel would looooove?  Case in point:  We meet twins Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olson) in Ultron but do you know who their father is?  None other than X-Men-rival Magneto (Ian McKellan).  (And, yes, to complicate matters even further, we already met Quicksilver -- Evan Peters' great take -- in Days Of Future Past.)  Case in even better point?  You know who’s at the center of our Civil War:  none other than Mr. Stan Lee’s most popular creation, Peter Parker / Spider-Man.  But due to companies being companies, our MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) -- the "Iron Man side" -- can't mention it.  However much they’d like to play with those toys, they just can’t.

Or couldn’t.

In a move that surprised more people than The Hack, Sony and Marvel came to an agreement that finally bridges the Spider-Man void as it was announced that Peter Parker / Spider-Man would appear in Civil War.   And what’s even more significant is Sony and Marvel are jointly casting the new actor because, when Sony relaunches that franchise in their world, they’ll keep him.  (See?  Cohesion.)  And I’m sorry to see Andrew Garfield go.  While his two movies weren’t amazing – see what I did there? – he was good in them, and I think he’d have been fun in The MCU.  Alas.

While at the moment Marvel rules the movies, DC – continuing to knock on their door – is expanding TV with a fifth series.  And this seems to be DC’s “cohesion focus.”  Joining Gotham, Arrow and The Flash are Supergirl and Legends Of Tomorrow.  Having a third show on The CW (Gotham is on Fox and Supergirl will be on CBS) increases the cross-over potential for those three shows and creates a DC Television Universe, something Marvel has been toying with but – interestingly, given their films plan – hasn’t had better luck.  Perhaps their deciding not to go forward with (on ABC) the S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff gives them more time to focus on expanding (on Netflix) Daredevil to A.K.A. Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Defenders.

So DC’s Movies?  How one considers Zack Snyder’s work aside, I had the pleasure of working with him on 300 and can honestly say he’s a nice guy.  He cares.  But there is his work to consider and Man Of Steel was good but not great;  more troubling is how coddled he is by Warner to lead both Batman v Superman and Justice League.  And, yes, on their way are Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad and Shazam! (again, not to be confused with Captain Marvel;  who, PS, in Marvel, is a girl).  DC is clearly going for a – I know this word is thrown around too much, but – darker approach, capitalizing on Christopher Nolan’s Batman series (and, remember, Mr. Nolan Co-Storied Man Of Steel).  So we have to imagine Wonder Woman et al will be in the same vein.  (Which is fine.  I just beg them to focus on Story.)

I watched the Flash Pilot and, sorry, it’s another “eh.”  (And, given how bad the last five years of Smallville were, I haven’t been able to bring myself to try Arrow.)  Gotham has been both entertaining and a train wreck;  I continue wanting it to be good, but their lumbering writing and over-the-top character lore is frustrating.  And then the Batman v Superman trailer was released and, again, “eh.”  So as much as I love to rewatch Donner’s Superman and Nolan’s Batman Begins – both truly great films – I’m disheartened to see two of my favorite characters’ next incarnations just be “eh.”  (Let’s be fair, we all hate it when something we’re looking forward to turns out to be “eh.”  I’m looking at you, Star Wars Prequels.)

Still with the fair, we can judge all upcoming Marvel and DC work however we want but we know one thing for certain:  we’re going to see it.  And, really, that’s what’s important to them:  our money we’re fans.

I closed the first of these three articles with “What’s next?” because where we are is just where we are today, and there’s a lot of excitement from both sides of the river right around the corner.  To each his own?  Sure.

But it’s definitely a good time to be a geek.




06 May, 2015

I Have To Go To The Quiet Place

For those of you that frequent here – and I thank you – the bulk of this blog are my “Top 5s” where I rant on an Actor or Actress;  my picks of their “Top 5 Films.”  I’m currently in the middle of the latest – Tyrone Power – and my dear Diana remarked yesterday that it was Ty’s birthday.  Which made me think that’s when I posted the first of his Top 5 – Jesse Jamesa year ago, on what would have been his 100th birthday.  Which of course means it’s been a year and I still haven’t finished his (I’m currently writing up the third of his five, The Black Swan).  It’s a little embarrassing, not having finished five relatively short blogs in a year, so – invigorated! – I popped open my laptop, poured a cup of coffee and dove in --

            -- to this piece on Joss Whedon. 

(It’ll make sense in a little bit.)

            By now you may have heard that Joss’ Avengers:  Age Of Ultron has been released and there’s feminist backlash against (mostly) his use of Black Widow [Scarlett Johansson];  that Joss' take was – and, remember, this is from a proud, vocal feminist – misogynistic.  (I know.)  This week he decided to delete his Twitter account and it prompted speculation it was due to the militant feminists attacking him (an actual tweet-quote was that his head should be “curbstomped”).  But Joss calls it “horseshit.” 

            First, let’s get back to my writing.  Or rather Joss’.  Or rather that I said my not writing about Tyrone Power prompted me to write this and that it would make sense in a little bit.  Well, I want to begin talking about said horseshit by first pointing out that – if you only read this far please take this away with you – Joss is going to be writing again.

            Savor that:  Joss is going to be writing again.

            So if we have to deal with this Twitter Thing at all, well, at least we have a good end, right at the beginning.

            Okay, here we go.   

            “It’s horseshit,” Joss told BuzzFeed News by phone on Tuesday.  “Believe me, I have been attacked by militant feminists since I got on Twitter.  That’s something I’m used to.  Every breed of feminism is attacking every other breed, and every subsection of liberalism is always busy attacking another subsection of liberalism, because god forbid they should all band together and actually fight for the cause.  I saw a lot of people say, ‘Well, the social justice warriors destroyed one of their own!’  It’s like, 'Nope.  That didn’t happen.'  I saw someone tweet it’s because Feminist Frequency pissed on Avengers 2, which for all I know they may have.  But literally the second person to write me to ask if I was okay when I dropped out was [Feminist Frequency founder] Anita [Sarkeesian].”

            Because what did happen, he said, is that he chose to embrace his long-standing desire post-Ultron to “reclaim his personal life and creative spark.” And that meant saying goodbye to Twitter.  “I just thought,  ‘Wait a minute, if I’m going to start writing again, I have to go to the quiet place,” he said.  And [Twitter] is the least quiet place I’ve ever been in my life.  It’s like taking The Bar Exam at Coachella.  It’s like, um, 'I really need to concentrate on this, guys!  Can you all just … I have to … it’s super important for my Law!'”

BuzzFeed senior reporter Adam B. Vary notes, “While Whedon is adamant that feminist criticisms were not the catalyst for his decision, it is clear that some of the distracting uproar that was crowding his notifications and squeezing his creativity came from at least a nominally feminist point of view.”  Joss again:  “I’ve said before, when you declare yourself politically, you destroy yourself artistically.  Because suddenly that’s the litmus test for everything you do;  for example, in my case, Feminism.  If you don’t live up to the litmus test of Feminism in this one instance, then you’re a Misogynist.  It circles directly back upon you.”

It’s tough not to note the "Jurassic World instance" when Joss tweeted he was frustrated a clip from the upcoming film was “70s era sexist;" something he later regretted, telling Variety it was “bad form.”  At the same time, he was clearly frustrated by the negative reaction he received.  He says, “There was a point during the whole Jurassic World thing where someone wrote the phrase ‘championing women marginalizes them,’ and I was like, ‘Okay, we’re done.  The snake hath et its tail!’  There’s no way to find any coherence when everything has to be parsed and decried.”  Mr. Vary continues, “As far as Whedon is concerned, however, anyone blaming feminists for driving him away from social media is not only wrong, but missing the point about the relationship between internet trolls and feminists on Twitter.”  Joss again:  “For someone like Anita Sarkeesian to stay on Twitter and fight back the trolls is a huge statement.  It’s a statement of strength and empowerment and perseverance, and it’s to be lauded.  For somebody like me to argue with a bunch of people who wanted Clint [Jeremy Renner] and Natasha [Johannson] to get together [in Ultron], not so much.  For someone like me even to argue about feminism, it’s not a huge win.  Because ultimately I’m just a rich, straight, white guy.  You don’t change people’s minds through a tweet.  You change it through your actions.  The action of Anita being there and going through that and getting through that, that says a lot.”

So while some of the hate directed at Joss did take the form of death threats, he said he never saw anything on Twitter that escalated to the level of what Feminists like Sarkeesian have had to face just about every day.  “Nothing that made me go, ‘Wait, they’re calling from my house.'  It was like, ‘Okay, these guys don’t understand about hyperbole.’”

To which those of us with a brain replied, “Duh.”

But let’s take it a step further – past Feminism (‘cause no one’s knocking that ideal) – to the extreme passion of comic book fans.  And this was familiar ground for Joss well before Twitter, when he first wrote for Marvel Comics and got some advice from veteran comic writer Brian Michael Bendis.  "He said, ‘You’re going to meet a new kind of person.'  He had a letter somebody had written that just said, ‘In panel one, page 17, Daredevil would never say that, die die why can’t you just die?’  I haven’t dealt with a lot of that, because my fans have always been sweet, erudite, interesting, compassionate people.  I don’t know any Buffy trolls.  So the steady stream of just, ‘You suck, you suck, you suck’” – another verbatim Tweet to him – “I don’t really need to visit You Suck Land anymore.”

And it wasn’t just the constant hate on Twitter that Joss was eager to shut off.  “So many people have said wonderful things.  But how much approbation do I need before I become creepy?  I so appreciate when people took the time to say something nice.  But for my own self, at some point, you’re just a Compliment Leech.  That’s not going to help your writing any more than people slamming you.”

From Mr. Vary again:  “Ultimately, Whedon said he took stock of everything positive Twitter was providing for him (access to stories he found interesting, people he admired, and jokes he found funny), and everything bad it was throwing at him (the troll-y hate and surfeit of praise), and realized that the problem actually wasn’t Twitter at all.”  And Joss again:  “The real issue is me.  Twitter is an addictive little thing, and if it’s there, I gotta check it.  When you keep doing something after it stops giving you pleasure, that’s kind of rock bottom for an addict.  I just had a little moment of clarity where I’m like, ‘You know what?  If I want to get stuff done, I need to not constantly hit this thing for a news item or a joke or some praise, and then be suddenly sad when there’s hate and then hate and then hate.’”  When asked if he would ever consider going back to Twitter, he resolved, "I think the articles that I found, I can find elsewhere.  I’ll miss some jokes.  Maybe I’ll have to go out to a club to see jokes!  I think that’s already an improvement in my life.  I need to go out, do the research, turn the page, see the thing, hear the music, live like a person.  I’m not great at that.  So, oddly enough, because I always feel like I’m the old man who doesn’t get the tech, right now I’m the man who thinks he could do better without it.”

               [Audience applause]

               First, again, I’m praising him because he wants to get back to the quiet place and write;  and that’s a beautiful sound to us all.  But there were two reasons I felt I needed to share all this.  One, because it came from the horse’s mouth;  it wasn’t the news further speculating what happened but reporting Joss’ own words.  (Remember when the news reported instead of speculated?  But I digress.)  And, two, I thought it was important to share this little nugget;  replayed again here:

Anyone blaming Feminists for driving Joss away from social media is not only wrong, but missing the point about the relationship between internet trolls and Feminists on Twitter.  For someone like [Feminist Frequency founder] Anita Sarkeesian to stay on Twitter and fight back the trolls is a huge statement.  It’s a statement of strength and empowerment and perseverance, and it’s to be lauded.  The action of Anita being there and going through that and getting through that, that says a lot.

And, yeah, maybe I should have opened with that, but this writer wanted you to know Joss was writing again, and so be it.  After all, he wrote a critically-acclaimed huge money-maker and -- wait for it, this is a movie we're talking about -- had his life threatened for it.  How did he react?  By shrugging it off without shrugging off people like Ms. Sarkeesian who remain in the trenches fighting the good fight.

And that is to be applauded.

I’ll leave you with snippets from James Gunn (Writer-Director, Guardians Of The Galaxy).  (Though I’ll first share this little bit:  When Mr. Gunn turned in his script of Guardians to Marvel Head Kevin Feige, Feige shared it with Joss – Joss has been entrenched at Marvel from Cap 1 through Avengers 2, but that’s for another write-up – and Joss’ only comment was, “Make it even more ‘Jamie.’”  Indeed, quite the compliment.  Anyway …)  Mr. Gunn’s snippets:

"Imagine being Joss Whedon who has committed his life to fandom and to creating the best characters he can, characters he loves, and has spent two years of his life working on a movie, and then has to wake up to this shit on Twitter.

“My plea to all of you is that we all try to be a little kinder, on the Internet and elsewhere.  And, honestly, that includes being kind to the people who are tweeting this nonsense.

“Anger is a way to deal with feeling insecure, sad, hurt, vulnerable, powerless, fearful, confused.  Those feelings, for many of us, are a lot more difficult to deal with and acknowledge than anger.  Anger makes us feel right.  And powerful.  But it also exacerbates whatever the underlying, more uncomfortable feeling is.

“So it’s easy to be outraged by these tweets.  But whatever these angry tweeters are in need of, I don’t think it’s more anger thrown back at them.  I actually think that’s what they’re seeking.  But what they need is something different.  Compassion, maybe?  A kind request for boundaries?  I don’t know.  Maybe you guys have some ideas.

“I know there are real issues at play here.  But, again, I don’t think the way to affect change is through rage.  That is just going to increase whatever divide you’re experiencing in the first place.  The majority of us on all sides of an issue think we’re doing the right thing and are doing the best we can.  If we assume that of each other, it makes life a lot easier.”

Yeah, maybe we can all be a little more ‘Jamie.’

For this writer, I’ll pour another cup of coffee and get back to Tyrone Power (who I doubt ever threatened to curbstomp anyone).

After all, I've been at him a year.