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Holy Camp, Batman: The Redemptive Queerness of “Batman & Robin”…

The podcast that I co-host, The 250, will be looking at Batman and Robin this weekend. It is a fun discussion, well worth a listen, and I hope you enjoy. However, I had some thoughts that I wanted to get down before specifically about the film.

Batman and Robin is not a good movie, by any stretch of the imagination.

However, it is somewhat unfairly vilified. This is particularly true in comparison to its direct predecessor, Batman Forever. Very few people would attempt to argue that either Batman Forever or Batman and Robin were good films on their own terms, but the consensus seems to have formed around the idea that – to paraphrase Edward Nygma – Batman Forever was bad, Batman and Robin was worse. This calcified into the idea that Batman and Robin is among the very worst comic book movies ever, and Batman Forever is not.

It is interesting to speculate on why this might be. Batman Forever and Batman and Robin are both cynically constructed blockbusters aimed at the youngest and least discerning audiences, eschewing concepts like plot and characterisation in favour of cheap thrills and terrible jokes. Both films offer incredibly condescending exposition, betraying the sense in which they have been constructed for audiences with the shortest possible attention span. However, while Batman and Robin embraces this cynicism, Batman Forever clumsily tries to disguise it.

Much has been made of the fact that director Joel Schumacher wanted to make a better movie than Batman Forever. He singled out Batman: Year One as the Batman movie that he wanted to make. Traces of this better movie occasionally surface in discussions of Batman Forever and are often framed in reference to the film’s admittedly darker and more artistic deleted scenes. There is a clear sense that Batman Forever harboured something resembling ambition before it was brutally bent and broken into its final released form.

However, Batman Forever also offers its audience condescending and trite pop psychology. The result is a veneer of faux profundity that suggests hidden depths that the movie is unwilling and unable to explore. Batman Forever vaguely touches on the question of whether Bruce feels responsible for the death of his parents and the trouble he has reconciling the two halves of himself, but in no real depth. Two-Face is one of the primary antagonists of Batman Forever, and the film can’t even be bothered to make that thematic connection.

It’s interesting to wonder if Batman Forever has a slightly warmer reputation because of this unearned grasp at weightiness, these small gestures towards the idea of “psychological complexity” and “psychological nuance” in the most trite manner imaginable. After all, Batman Forever is a movie that has Bruce Wayne dating a psychologist, and feel inordinately proud of that idea. It’s easier to pass off Batman Forever as more mature or more considered than Batman and Robin, because it gestures broadly at ideas that are a little darker and more complex.

This is strange, because there’s a lot more interesting stuff happening in Batman and Robin. Unlike its direct predecessor, Batman and Robin makes no broad gesture towards profundity or insight. It is a profoundly stupid movie, and it is cognisant of both that stupidity and the audience’s relationship to that stupidity. However, there’s something much more interesting going on underneath the surface of Batman and Robin, in direct response to Batman Forever.

Batman Forever feels like a moral panic picture, a direct response to some imagined public outrage about certain earlier interpretations of the Caped Crusader. As such, it aims to produce the most generic and vanilla iteration of the character, the most boring and the most normative. What makes Batman and Robin so interesting is that it represents a firm rejection of that conservativism, and actively works to inject a lot of the queerness back into the Batman mythos. It doesn’t do this especially elegantly or smoothly, but it does it nonetheless. The results are compelling and engaging.

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188. The Truman Show (#177)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Kurt North, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Peter Weir’s The Truman Show.

Truman Burbank has the perfect life. He has a good job, a loving wife, a charming best friend. He lives an idylised existence, one where he wants for nothing. However, a series of freak occurences jolt Truman out of his blissful world and force him to confront a potentially horrifying reality: what if everything that he knows is just an elaborate lie?

At time of recording, it was ranked 177th on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2018) #2!

And we’re back to doing it almost weekly!

The new and improved Scannain podcast continues. A one-stop shop to talk about the week that has been in Irish and world cinema, the Scannain podcast features a rotating pool of guests discussing the week in film – what we watched, film news, the top ten and new releases. This week we’re celebrating both the Oscar nominations and the announcement of the line-up for this year’s Audi Dublin Internation Film Festival.

I’m thrilled to be part of a panel including Phil Bagnall, Jay Coyle, Ronan Doyle and Stacy Grouden. Give it a listen below.

61. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – This Just In (#122)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Stacy Grouden, This Just In is a subset of The 250 podcast, looking at notable new arrivals on the list of the 250 best movies of all-time, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

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Is It Just Me Or Does The Artist Backlash Seem a Little Half-Hearted?

The annual Oscar race is a process so predictable that it could be a movie formula all of its own. You have your initial race to nominations, with various films falling at certain hurdles, leaving you with a fairly well-spaced field. You have the frontrunner surging ahead, but a dark horse waiting in the wings. And, every year, you have a very eager publicity industry ready to launch a very vehement attack on that frontrunner simply because it has the tenacity of pulling ahead. This year is no different, and The Artist seems to be seeing its share of controversies. However, these seem to be unfolding simply because it’s expected at this point in the race. I can’t help but feel like any of the attacks on The Artist are anything more than half-hearted.

Barking up the wrong tree?

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Fanboys and Fandumb – Or Why Cult Media Can’t Have Good Things…

I am a nerd. I openly acknowledge that. In fact, I revel in it. I like to think I enjoy a broad sampling of all artforms, enjoying a nice play, a well-illustrated comic book, a compelling television miniseries, a smartly put together Oscar-baiting drama and a nice book, among other things. I’m not a snob – I love ‘big dumb fun’. I also like niche and wacky nerdy stuff. And I can appreciate the occasional bad writing that creeps into these genres – because isn’t bad writing everywhere? (Anyone reading this blog would likely agree.) And I really enjoy the vast majority of fans – the people who have a genuine interest in the subject matter. I never got why if you were an expert in Lewis Carroll Stevenson you were a literary connoisseur, but if you embraced the world of JRR Tolkien you were a fan. I love that people embrace these works and discuss them and think about them. That’s something encouraging to see in any media – engagement. But there is one element about these niche artforms that does throw me for a whirl, and it’s a perception that makes my somewhat shy to acknowledge that I embrace these forms of art. Yes: it’s the dreaded fanboy.

Things David Tennant would rather listen to than fanboy complaints...

Things David Tennant would rather listen to than fanboy complaints...

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Backlash to Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash…

I’m on a bit of a comic book binge this week (it helps that Hollywood is churning out so many of the damned movies), and I couldn’t help but not with a wry smile on my face the internet response to the first pictures of Mickey Rourke as the villain (or “a” villian, given the ambiguous roles played by Sam Rockwell and Scarlett Johansson as a business rival and catsuit-wearing spy) in the new Iron Man film. There had been a lot of gossip about whether the loud-mouthed Oscar-nominated actor would be playing Whiplash or Crimson Dynamo. From what fans are saying about the image (appearing below), it appears he’s playing a weird amalgamation of both… and a few more to boot. Though most of fandom appears to have taken this pastiche in their stride, there are a few cynical souls remaining out there who are a little ticked off to see these characters revamped in such a strange way. However, mixing and matching and distorting is by no means anew thing when it comes to adapting iconic characters to the big screen.

It looks like someone has finally tamed Mickey Rourke's wild streak by making him wear an over-sized shock collar

It looks like someone has finally tamed Mickey Rourke's wild streak by making him wear an over-sized shock collar

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