Tag Archives: The Avengers

The long and the short of it

Movie writers in need of a space-filling trend piece or analytical thumbsucker have one topic they return to again and gain: movies are getting too long. Type the question Are movies getting too long? into Google and you’ll score plenty of hits from every year of the past decade. The recurrence of this topic led Roger Ebert to opine that “no good movie can be too long, and no bad movie can be too short.” Since two of this year’s biggest hits — The Avengers and The Hunger Games — are nearly two-and-a-half hours long, and other blockbusters waiting in the wings — Prometheus, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hobbit — will probably be in the same range, I expect we’ll see the topic trotted out again before too long.

Funny thing is, when you look at this inflation-adjusted list of all-time box office champions, only one Top 10 film clocks in under two hours: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which was Walt Disney’s first attempt at the labor-intensive field of feature length animation. The rest are comfortably above the two-hour mark, except for E.T., which falls two minutes short. And two of the most enduringly popular flicks, Gone With the Wind and Titanic, are very long indeed, as are Dr. Zhivago, The Sound of Music, and The Ten Commandments. The next ten titles tell the same story: except for animated films, which are aimed at a young audience with a limited attention span, the majority of the flicks are over two hours long, and sometimes quite a bit longer.

Since film is the most immersive art form, it follows that the most successful films take the time to make the viewing experience as detailed and absorbing as possible. So while I have my own list of movies I would be happy to see shortened — some of which I’d be delighted to edit myself, with a chainsaw and acetylene torch if possible — it appears that audiences tend to agree with Ebert. If the length of movies is indeed a problem, it’s mainly a problem for movie critics. If I hear of anyone shedding tears for that tribe, I’ll be sure to write it up here.  

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday finds


Spy Vibe, a site devoted to 1960s vintage spy stuff, salutes Harry Pottle’s set designs for the TV series The Avengers, specifically the memorable episode in which Emma Peel (above) is treated to a Gaslight-style night at an automated house designed by a guy who’s obviously spent some quality time with German Expressionist films. There are also knowledgable paens to Ken Adam’s work on Dr. No, Bob Bell and Keith Wilson’s highly detailed sets for the puppet show Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons, and Joseph Wright and George Nelson’s designs for The Silencers, one of the unwatchably campy Matt Helm flicks.

Here’s a really outstanding article about the poet Simon Armitage, with plenty of room for samples of the man’s verse. If you like what you read, I recommend his collections Kid or Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus The Corduroy Kid for starters.

Because the one thing we all need right now is another online time-suck, ladies and gentlemen, here is the entire Harper’s index in searchable form.

If you think things are getting bad here in the U.S., consider the future of the first multi-billion dollar ghost town.  

tollers“J.R.R. Tolkien: An Imaginative Life,” a three-part lecture series on the development of the old don’s ideas about “Faerie” and the roots of Middle-earth, is underway in Salt Lake City. The Wasatch Gnostic Society is posting each lecture on its Web site — here is the first lecture, “The Discovery of Faerie.” The second lecture, “There and Back Again,” and “Tolkien and the Imaginative Tradition” are yet to come.    

Can Eminem and P. Diddy help you survive long swims in sub-zero water?

“The Morning Glory cloud – considered one of the world’s most exotic meteorological phenomena – is best known from the Gulf of Carpentaria, northern Australia, where it is observed most often during spring, usually near dawn.  The name ‘Morning Glory’ reflects the often spectacular appearance of the long horizontal clouds at sunrise. (The Morning Glories of Sable Island might more accurately be called ‘Early Evening Glories.’)” Now that you know all that, check out these incredible pictures

Click here to see the true face of horror.

Josh Ronsen, an Austin-based experimental musician, is putting together the Clifford Simak Project, in which an ensemble will perform works based on Simak’s prose descriptions of sounds destiny-doll2in his various science fiction and fantasy works. My nostalgia meter redlined when Ronsen said he has been inspired by Simak’s novel Destiny Doll, which I read as “Reality Doll” in the short-lived quarterly magazine Worlds of Fantasy. It’s an odd combination of planetary adventure with a dreamy, surrealistic story involving multiple dimensions of existence and a tragic-looking doll with unusual properties. The story had quite an impact on me, and I can remember the cover image (by Jack Gaughan) of a centaur playing polo with a metallic sphere, a key incident in the novel. (Bird-dogged by Fred K.)

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,