Culture News

Batman Oral Uproar: Zack Snyder Confirms, Heroes Do Go Down

Zack Snyder has declared Batman's oral "canon."

This week a conversation with Harley Quinn series co-creators Patrick Schumacker and Justin Halpern was published in Variety and sparked a firestorm on social media.

Specifically, a detail that Justin Halpern shared about a disagreement between the series creators and DC Comics caught fans' attention. While Halpern was noting the freedom the animated HBO Max show allows — thanks to its focus on villains, rather than the hero characters, who are generally treated more preciously — he offered a telling counterexample to illustrate the point.

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What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a fashion industry that ignores her?

You get inappropriate laughter, white face paint, and a mononym title for a villain's gritty origin story. In other words: exactly what you deserve.

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"I'm crazy, b*tch," screams Jucee Froot on "Danger," the ninth song on the Birds of Prey soundtrack. "But I'm that b*tch."

That could be the central mantra of Birds of Prey's companion album, which features fifteen sparkling, saccharine, vicious pop songs from some of pop's brightest anti-popstars. These songs are aggressive, feminine, sugary, vicious, and off the rails, just like the movie promises to be.

The film—full title Birds of Prey: The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn—debuted this Friday night. It tells the story of Harley Quinn, finally freed from her abusive relationship with the Joker, as she heals from the breakup and develops her own super-villain identity.

Harley Quinn's cinematic emancipation has received mixed reviews. "Birds of Prey is happy to play at provocation with swear words and violence while carefully declining to provoke anything like a thought," writes A. O. Scott in The New York Times. Anthony Lane called the film "unholy and sadistic mess" in The New Yorker.

For others, the film's fizzy brutality is exactly the point, and many argued that the film provides a welcome change from both the self-serious superhero machismo that tanked Suicide Squad and the idealized kind of femininity that defines Hollywood's movement towards corporate feminism. "In a world gone mad, the catharsis of Prey's twisted sisterhood doesn't just read as pandemonium for its own sake; it's actually pretty damn sweet," writes Leah Greenblatt for Entertainment Weekly. "Theirs is a contemporary verve that offers a glimpse of something heartening: a future in which all kinds of people get to tell these stories, and we're all the better off for it," writes Richard Lawson for Variety.

As the reviews roll in, certainly more debates will ensue. But if Birds of Prey companion soundtrack is any indication, the movie will inspire a whole host of women to take their power back by any means necessary—most likely while wearing glitter.

The all-female soundtrack is brutally empowering in every sense. It's the sound of sweetness in a world gone mad, of lady mad hatters sitting around and cutting their losses over egg and bacon sandwiches. It's the sound of women relishing in the tropes of pop music and popular femininity while spinning them on their heads. It's a triumph and a delight in the sweetest, bloodiest of ways.

Highlights include Doja Cat's utterly unhinged "Boss Bitch," which leans into archetypical empowerment and breakup narratives so hard that it shatters and becomes something almost mutated and definitely dangerous. Megan Thee Stallion and Normani do something similar with their aggressive riff on "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend."

Halsey's "Experiment On Me" is probably the most aggressive track on the album; it's also one of the hardest to listen to. It's a yowling, overwhelming tune that layers Halsey's shrill screams over punk-inflected guitar.

Charlotte Lawrence's "Joke's On You" is more palatable and just as powerful, leaning into the darkness and complexity of Harley Quinn's story (and of the idea of female redemption through violence on the whole) while layering sultry vocal lines over a tense beat. "We've had our fun; now your sugar makes me sick," she sings. "My makeup's ruined, and now I'm laughing through my tears." All the world's part-time Harley Quinns are, undoubtedly, feeling seen.

www.youtube.com

True to form, the songs are gleeful, dark, celebratory, and free. They're embroiled in the business of shaking up existing power structures; and as the voices grow hoarse and furious, their beats resist pleasantness and neutrality, instead leaning towards hyperactive mania. Perhaps because this is a revenge story, there's a sense of perpetual bittersweetness. Lauren Jauregri's "Invisible Chains" dives deeper into the pain and struggle that accompanies Harley Quinn's liberation from the Joker.

There's also a deeper sense of bittersweetness to the whole project, which celebrates Harley Quinn's story as a clear tale of feminist liberation. When women free themselves from men and take power, only togo ahead and commit evil acts and relish in all of capitalism's and the patriarchy's bitterest signifiers of victory, is that something to celebrate? Are we really looking for female villains who kill others and hoard wealth and don't support others, just like men always have?

Perhaps not, but watching these narratives play out often offers catharsis, providing a fulfilling revenge fantasy for anyone who's ever been in an abusive relationship or who's seen others affected by them. We'll see how the movie ends up, but for now, the soundtrack provides an excuse to celebrate rage and revenge without thinking too hard about what it means.

FILM

Stop Putting Jared Leto in Movies

Jared Leto will reprise his role as The Joker in Zach Snyder's "Justice League." Below, read one whistleblower's unheeded warning.

Sony

There's a big problem with the trailer for Morbius, Sony's upcoming Marvel outing that is definitely not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe even though it has Michael Keaton reprising his role as Vulture (please let us keep our license, Disney!).

See if you can spot it.

MORBIUS - Teaser Trailer www.youtube.com

If you answered, "Sampling Beethoven's 'Für Elise' to line up with blue-tinted action shots is the absolute lowest effort, brain-dead attempt to signify 'gothic vampire movie' in the entire history of movie trailers," you're correct, but that's still not the biggest problem with Morbius. No, the biggest problem is that Morbius is played by Jared Leto.

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FILM

Why the Continuous Tracking Shot in "1917" Is More Than Just a Gimmick

1917's "single long take" aesthetic makes for one of the most tense war movies ever made.

Universal Pictures

There are very few movie scenes that have any right being shot in one continuous take, let alone entire movies.

Typically, movies aim to absorb their viewers in the content of their story and action. Long takes are distracting because, by contrast, they draw attention to the camerawork and editing––or lack thereof. Many directors, especially those who fancy themselves "auteurs," like long takes because of their visual and technical difficulty. But great long takes don't exist solely for prestige amongst film buffs. No, the best long takes work in service of the larger story and themes at play in the movie.

For instance, the tricycle scene in The Shining serves to disorient the audience as they try to piece together the impossible layout of the Overlook Hotel. The hallway scene in Oldboy mirrors the arduous gauntlet of Oh Dae-su's path to revenge. And Birdman, an entire movie meant to look like one long take (it's actually multiple shorter long takes, expertly cut together), is reflective of its leading man's transition from film to live theater.

Much like Birdman, director Sam Mendes' World War I epic, 1917, isn't actually a movie made in a single take, but rather multiple long takes with clever editing. But, perhaps even more than Birdman, 1917 doesn't just look like a single take. It feels like one. And while the concept of a feature-length war movie that looks like a single long take might sound like a gimmick, 1917 proves the narrative value of its visual direction beyond a shadow of a doubt.

1917 has a relatively straightforward premise: During WWI, two young British soldiers stationed in France––Lance Corporals Tom Blake (Dean Charles-Chapman, Tommen Baratheon in Game of Thrones) and William Schofield (George MacKay)––are tasked with the mission of hand-delivering a letter to the 2nd Battalion in order to call off a planned attack on the Germans.

What proceeds is one of the tensest war movies I've ever seen, and that's owed in large part to the single take aesthetic. Normally, a well-composed series of shots encompass all the information we need to know at any particular moment in a movie, directing our eyes to the things we need to be paying attention to.

1917 Universal Pictures

But as the boys leave the relative safety of their trenches and venture out into No Man's Land, the camera slowly tracks them across a wide expanse of space with no particular direction in which we should be looking. This results in a constant feeling of tension, as we know the danger is ever-present, but we never know where it might be coming from. In a sense, the camerawork puts the viewer into the headspace of the soldiers, always scanning the landscape for threats.

In a similar vein, the single long take treats all aspects of the movie in a similar manner, gliding along with a slow track, sometimes moving in close, sometimes circling the area, but never speeding up past the gait of Blake and Schofield. This means that both light-hearted conversations and intense moments of action move at roughly the same pace. Doing so strips away some of the audience's most basic movie instincts.

For example, during the first stretch of the movie, which sees Blake and Schofield crossing through No Man's Land and an abandoned German trench, the boys don't encounter a single enemy combatant. Eventually, after they make it out of the German trench, Blake recounts a funny story as they walk through the woods.

Compared to the danger of the German trench, the woods feel much safer, but the contrast puts anyone well-versed in plot structure on their toes: If the trench seemed dangerous but nobody was there, then perhaps the woods will hold the real danger, ready to emerge during a moment of downtime when we finally feel safe. But nope. The boys make it through their conversation in the woods without a hitch and proceed to the next leg of their journey.

1917 Universal Pictures

Eventually, when battle scenes do occur, the long take style enhances the experience, as well. With the camera sticking to a single person, we get the chance to navigate battlescapes right alongside him. His danger is our danger. His enemies are our enemies. In other words, the long shot doesn't just function to show us battles, but make us invest in them.

1917 isn't a movie content with just depicting a war story. It requires our participation. By watching and following Blake and Schofield's journey, we enter the headspace of soldiers on a perilous mission right alongside them. So while 1917 is most certainly an impressive, ambitious act of technical filmmaking, it also offers an incredible narrative for which the technical elements serve a greater purpose. After experiencing 1917, it's hard not to wonder whether traditional film editing has been the real gimmick all along.

CULTURE

Pornhub Halloween Statistics Say A Lot About Society

I can't believe I'm writing this.

Pornhub

After every Halloween, Pornhub–the Internet's favorite purveyor of smut–releases a post-mortem on their Halloween traffic.

These statistics give deep, dark, and spooky insights into the depths of human culture, because when you really think about it, the things we flick our junk to says a lot about how screwed up we are as a society. So, as a handsome stud who couldn't pass a high school acting class might say to his pretend step-sister, let's dive in.

Pornhub Halloween stats 2019 Pornhub

Pornhub's Halloween Traffic Change chart is nice and simple. It shows that, compared to their average numbers, viewership dipped on Halloween night between 2 PM and 11 PM, with a peak -22% low at 7 PM. These numbers line up well with what one might expect, considering those are the hours during which most people are attending Halloween events or, at the very least, attending to trick-or-treaters.

Then, after 11 PM, when they get home from their parties and the trick-or-treaters have all gone to bed, they begin hog-wrangling or bean-tossing at higher-than-average rates. Certainly on Halloween, people are more likely to see something they wouldn't normally see that turns them on. So what are people searching for?

pornhub halloween insights 2019 Pornhub

Oh god. So as it turns out, people really, really, really want to bang the DC Universe. Harley Quinn and the Joker topped character searches this year by a pretty huge margin, with only "teacher" trailing close behind. Harley Quinn makes sense, to some extent. Her outfits tend to be traditionally sexy and form-fitting, all midriff-revealing tops, mesh leggings, and spandex.

But how is the Joker sexy? He's a literally insane man, and if we're going by the most recent movie, a clinically depressed one too. Is that attractive to women now? Or maybe it's the clown aspect, because women seem to like those a whole lot, too.

A lot of the other searches are just about what you'd expect––women like cowboys and men like sexy bunnies––but a few of them are very troubling. Like, why are women specifically searching for Michael Myers? He is a masked serial killer in a blue jumpsuit, and Jesus H. Christ, is that what women want? I mean, I understand power fantasies, but the man's entire personality is murdering you.

Men aren't off the hook either. Why would you ever want to have sex with a zombie? Zombies aren't sexy. They are hotbeds of decay and disease, and sticking your willie into one would definitely cause you to become infected, too. And that's best case scenario. Worst case scenario, it falls off. Is your pecker falling off part of your zombie sex fantasy, because let's be honest here, that would be the reality.

I'm not trying to kink shame here, but human sexuality is terrifying. Women want to f*ck murderers and men want to f*ck corpses. But okay, these are just costumes, and on Halloween, anything goes, right? So let's talk meat and potatoes. What kind of terms are people searching for on Halloween.

pornhub halloween search terms 2019 Pornhub

"Halloween pumpkin." There was a 6957% increase in the search for "halloween pumpkin." There is only one possible reason that people would be searching for the term "halloween pumpkin" on Pornhub, and the reason is that they want to watch videos of people f*cking pumpkins. In fact, some people with a lower capacity for subtlety straight up searched for "d*ck pumpkin." How big is the market for pumpkin porn? How many pumpkin porn videos exist? There can't be that many, right? Which means that there might be a real opportunity here for innovative pornographers to serve the apparently severely underrepresented market of people who want to watch dudes bone pumpkins. Is there money in pumpkins? Could I make money from porking pumpkins?

BRB, telling my editor I quit.

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