General Zod is a Krypto-Zionist

Connor Kilpatrick, in his review of Man of Steel for Jacobin:

If anything, Shannon’s Zod reminded me of an ultra-right Likudnik. The big, loud climax of the movie comes when Zod sends two gigantic robo-drills to terraform Earth into a New Krypton, which would of course end with the total extinction of the human race. But Zod’s not too worried about that. He all but says “can’t make Space-Zion without breaking a few eggs.”

For a character dreamed up by two Jewish boys in Cleveland as a kind of Moses-cum-Christ figure, it’s bizarre that no one’s made this connection yet. Which goes to show you just how off-the-radar the plight of the Palestinians is for both mainstream America as well as our circle of liberal film critics.

Zod’s fervent Krypto-Zionism versus Kal-El’s pluralism and universalism reminded me of a passage from Eric Hobsbawm’s memoir:

“As a historian I observe that, if there is any justification for the claim that the 0.25 per cent of the global population in the year 2000 which constitute the tribe into which I was born are a ‘chosen’ or special people, it rests not on what it has done within the ghettos or special territories, self-chosen or imposed by others, past, present or future. It rests on its quite disproportionate and remarkable contribution to humanity in the wider world, mainly in the two centuries or so since the Jews were allowed to leave the ghettos, and chose to do so. We are, to quote the title of the book of my friend Richard Marienstras, Polish Jew, French Resistance fighter, defender of Yiddish culture and his country’s chief expert on Shakespeare, ‘un peuple en diaspora.’”

How to fix Man of Steel’s ending

(Warning: This post focuses on the ending to the recently released Man of Steel. If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t be an idiot and continue reading because obviously there will be spoilers.) 

Man of Steel, the first Superman film in seven years, finally came out last Friday after nearly a year of teasers and hype-building. The end result of a collaboration between Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan, and David Goyer, the film gets a lot right: we see an interesting take on the Fortress of Solitude and the presence of Jor-El in Superman’s life, a cast of strong female characters that don’t simply scream at every explosion (Pepper Potts, I’m looking at you – how many times in the Iron Man series has she screamed “TONY!”?), and a fleshed-out backstory of Superman growing up feeling like an outsider. Clark’s powers manifesting as autism-like symptoms was brilliant in this regard.

But the movie also got a lot wrong. As much as I love the guy, Michael Shannon was terrible as General Zod. The eye-bulging, rage-mode screaming can only carry a villain so far before it wears thin. The flashbacks to Clark’s childhood could have been executed better – it was blatantly obvious that Clark pushed that bus out of the water, and how did Pete get out of the bus for Clark to have to save him anyway? I won’t even get into how odd it seemed that Zod and company had all of Clark’s powers after less than 24 hours on Earth. These complaints are relatively minor compared to the problems facing the final thirty minutes.

As mentioned in basically every review on the web, the final battle between Superman and Zod took way too long and deviated way too much from the character in order to give the audience a massive, city-destroying battle. It’s absurd to show Superman killing to save a handful of people when the destruction wrought in the fist-fight moments before likely killed dozens of innocent bystanders.

Here’s how you fix the ending to Man of Steel in a way that reduces the total length of the film without taking away the badass fight scene: replace the giant Kyptonian ice-snakes at the World Engine with Zod. It makes logical sense: have Faora and the other Zod minions protect the main ship, have Zod protect the very machine that will turn Earth into Krypton, Zod’s stated one-and-only goal

This allows Superman and Zod to fight as hard as they want and not put any civilians in danger, which fits better with Clark’s M.O. for most of the movie. It would let Zod disappear without Superman having to kill him: just give us some BS about the two machines being sucked into the Phantom Zone at the same time because they’re synced up. I’d buy it. 

It also allows for a throwback to the original 1978 Superman. As the hole to the Phantom Zone opens, Clark hears Lois Lane on the other side of the Earth getting pulled in from her end. He flies faster than ever to go save her. Here, we insert some voice-over from Jor-El, along the lines of “The only way to see just how powerful you’ve become is to keep pushing yourself” and “You can save her.” This would make fans of the Reeves Superman a little bit more content with the reboot and make him saving her more impressive – no one thought he might fail when he was starting from a few hundred meters away.

If you’ve got any comments or other ideas about how things should have gone down, I’d love to hear them. Hit me up, I’m @kylebrussell on Twitter.

Dan Harmon likens Community‘s fourth season to rape

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Pajiba:

He also relayed a story about how he called Bill Murray afterwards (Murray, famously, doesn’t have an agent; he has a 1-800 number where people leave their pitches). Harmon basically just called to say, “I just watched season four. Call me back.” Harmon had wanted Murray to play Jeff Winger’s Dad. (He named Jeff Winger after Murray’s character in Stripes), and he was disappointed that the opportunity had been taken away from him.

It’s like “being held down and watching your family be raped at a beach. It’s liberating! It makes you focus on what’s important.”

Harmon has since expressed regret for the comment.

This is no new tale to tell in the Hollywood pantheon, of course. Daniel Tosh is a recent, inflammatory example; Chris Brown and Sean Penn briefly came under scrutiny for far worse. What continues to boggle my mind, however, is the lack of recrimination for their misdeeds. All three of these men have continued and will continue to enjoy careers of considerable richness, as Dan Harmon surely will now that Sony’s plans for a fifth season of Community are firmly rooted. The entertainment industry is singular in that you can be as foul a person as you want and, short of murder or actual rape, you’ll usually be able to keep your job as long as your work remains profitable and/or quality.

For most audiences, moving past matters like this is a question of separating the art from the artist, a fraught but generally easy process. Likewise, this quote will probably be viewed by the majority as a typical case of verbal runoff from a notorious showbiz grouch. Harmon bleeds inextricably into his work, however, and Community has soured further with each report of behind-the-scenes drama. Can anyone enjoy Chevy Chase in the show’s recent seasons, aware of the tension between him and Harmon during shooting? When a creative project is so informed by the demeanor and nature of its creator, incidents like this only become harder to ignore.

Community‘s fourth season was awful, by and large, but it doesn’t merit a lighthearted treatment of rape to describe something as silly as a bad season of television. Likewise, Harmon has the right to say whatever he pleases in the confines of a personal podcast (as does Tosh, to the chagrin of any parties with good taste). In doing so, he should also recognize that as a public figure, his words and actions reflect upon both himself and, if only for a time, the work he produces. There is a way for him to draw his point against the soulless Sony machine without dragging a traumatic issue into a comedic forum. A melodramatic, off-base proclamation is not the way, and it is unfortunate that such comments will continue to be roundly ignored by Harmon’s fanbase. Unstable artists will be unstable artists, no matter who they hurt.

Drew Byrd-Smith – drewbyrd.blogspot.com

Netflix’s next market: children

Netflix signs exclusive deal for over 300 hours of original DreamWorks Animation content:

Netflix is to create new shows based on characters from DreamWorks’ feature films, while the studio will open its Class Media library which it acquired in 2012. Having found success with House of Cards and a new series of Arrested Development, Netflix is now looking to children’s shows in order to expand its content selection and cater for one of its most important demographics — although there is no word on whether we will see a new Shrek show or Kung Fu Panda mini-series.

Last year, the company announced it had signed an exclusive deal to bring content from Disney, Marvel, and Pixar movies to the service. Today’s announcement means it now has the two biggest animation studios on board. Netflix will begin airing its original series in 2014, adding animated movies The Croods, Turbo, and Mr. Peabody and Sherman at the same time.

There’s already a ton of kid-friendly content available on Netflix, but having exclusive rights to hundreds of hours of animation from Disney and DreamWorks that has none of the commercials on Disney/Nickelodeon/Cartoon Network basically makes it the most attractive option for parents looking to keep their kids entertained.

Don’t become a Sony fanboy just yet

Please Don’t Bring Back The Console Wars:

I mean, come on. Let’s stop pretending Sony is valiant. If they were so committed to the idea of used games, why didn’t they announce this policy in February? Microsoft made a move and Sony reacted; fine, it was the smart thing to do in context.

But did you notice how every time Sony referred to “used games” they made sure to include the modifier “disc-based”? Did you also notice how Sony, much more than Microsoft, has emphasized the game-streaming capabilities of its new console? If you think that Sony is going to let you freely trade digitally-downloaded and streaming games, which are going to be all games in the near future, I have a piece of swampland in You’re a Fucking Moron to sell you. Sony is not some noble underdog. They are the company that won the last console generation by selling SIX TIMES as many PlayStation 2s as Microsoft sold Xboxs, and the one before that by selling three times as many PlayStations as Nintendo sold N64s. (And, less than 24 hours after receiving an internet handjob for his company’s supposedly benevolent used game policy, Tretton is already walking it back.)

I don’t plan on buying a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One. They’re both basically PCs – most games will be available on the PC at or around the same time and with Steam I’ll be able to get them at significant discounts.

How Miley Cyrus made drugs uncool

Miley Poppin’ Molly: How Miley Cyrus Officially Made Singing About Drugs Uncool:

Miley Cyrus referring to being at a party where these drugs are in use is much like seeing a kid you used to babysit chugging a 40 at a high school party as you scroll through your Facebook feed. You knew it was going to happen one day, but you’d rather not hear about it or see evidence of it. Naturally, her inferences to the drugs feels a little awkward, as she still struggles to fully gain the type of rebellious and mature pop star status she’s been trying to achieve since she became legal. Now she hangs with rappers! She chopped off her hair! She takes half-naked pictures without her father’s presence! She also no longer sends those pictures to Nick Jonas! Cyrus has been less blatantly self-destructive than Justin Bieber as he tries to catapult his way into “manhood,” but that doesn’t mean it feels any less forced.

If I ever have a kid with any real amount of raw acting or musical talent, they’re going to have to wait until they’re an adult before they start down that career path. Starting as a child doesn’t let you properly figure out what the world is like and what you want your places in it to be.

George Clooney almost played Mexican Mitt Romney on Arrested Development

Asawin Suebsaeng, for Mother Jones:

During a conference call on Wednesday, Arrested Development creator and executive producer Mitchell Hurwitz revealed exactly why he and his creative team focused so much on lampooning Cain in the show’s fourth season. Hurwitz had already planned on mining the Republican presidential field for satire and topicality. One idea was to cast some famous and extremely good-looking actors—including George Clooney—to play a family of “Mexican Romneys” in the new season. That idea was ultimately left unfulfilled, which gave Hurwitz time to turn his attention to Cain.

I could see it. Maybe next season? *crosses fingers*

Forbes tells female game developers what to wear to E3 game expo

I recommend not clicking the following link. Seriously, don’t even give them the page views.

Going to E3 2013? Here’s What To Wear:

If you’ve been to E3 before, you know the challenge.  How do you convey credibility in promoting your game, your studio and yourself at the convention in a room full of guys gawking at larger-than-life, theme-park-like attractions and scantily clad ‘booth babes’?

Many women prefer to keep a low profile with “non booth babe” wear – like a baggy t-shirt and jeans.  But in an industry trying to attract more female gamers, its worthwhile to spend some time thinking about how what you wear can help you stand out as the savvy gaming industry expert that you are.

Here are two outfits to inspire your E3 wardrobe – one for a day at the convention center and one for the even more popular after parties.

There’s a lesson to be learned here: Forbes’s video game section is a joke.

Cloud gaming startup thinks the next generation of AAA gaming will be pay-by-the-hour

Today I had the chance to interview Peter Relan, Chairman of cloud gaming startup Agawi – short for Any game, anywhere, instantly. We had an interesting discussion about the state of gaming, why past entrants into the cloud gaming space have failed, and what he sees as the future of the industry.

We started by looking at gaming today and the recent console announcements made by Microsoft and Sony. The first thing Relan pointed out is that both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 have moved to what amounts to PC hardware. Fairly fast PC hardware mind you, but not very different from what you’d get in a low- to mid-range gaming desktop using parts from AMD: both have an x86 processor, 8 GBs of RAM, and a decent graphics chip.

In Relan’s view, this means that we’re going to see almost every title that comes out for the major consoles – minus platform-exclusive titles like Microsoft’s Halo series – on the PC as well. Unlike in the previous generation, where developers had to put extra work to port games from the PowerPC-based processors of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 over to Windows (and maybe Mac), developing games for all three platforms should be relatively painless.

The only problem with this situation, according to Relan, is that in an age where people find themselves splitting their time between their PCs, tablets, smartphones, smart TVs, and e-readers, there’s an increasingly minuscule amount of time left to dedicate to playing through massive 10-100 hour AAA games on dedicated consoles. At a time when games for the iPhone and iPad – arguably the most-used gaming platforms today – generally cost somewhere between between $0.99 and $15 (and there aren’t many games at that price for long), people don’t want to drop $60 on games that they may or may not want to play through entirely.

Relan’s grand plan to save the AAA industry thus takes a page from the games market that has emerged on smartphones and tablets. Rather than pay upfront for big-budget games and installing massive 15 GB+ files, gamers will instead download a 15 MB app from the Windows, Mac, iOS, or Android app stores onto their desktop, laptop, or tablet – for free – that serves as little more than a link to Agawi’s servers. These servers will run hundreds to thousands of Windows virtual machines at a time, each serving up a dedicated version of the game that the user purchased.

After a quick Agawi splash-screen, the player will proceed to the game’s normal main menu. From here, they will be able to play any aspect of the game – still for free – for a given amount of time set by the game’s publisher. After that time (usually 30 minutes to an hour), the player receives a notification that they have run out of trial time and that they can continue playing for a small fee, usually $5 for two hours. Depending on the platform, this can be done from within the game (on PC or Mac) or online (on iPad or Android tablets – like Netflix or Spotify, publishers don’t want to have to pay the 30 percent cut that Apple takes for in-app purchases).

While gamers might gawk at the idea of paying $5 for only two hours of gameplay, Relan thinks that this business model works in everyone’s favor. The small downloads and trial periods will let gamers have a chance to try games before putting any money down, while the small increments let them only pay for the amount of enjoyment they think they’ll get out of it as opposed to paying $60 for a 30-hour-long game and being disappointed when they only have time to play through the first 10 hours.

As for publishers, they get to adapt to the realities of the post-App Store world by offering free-to-play AAA content using the free-to-play plus IAP business model that’s proven to be lucrative for mobile developers. While they do have to pay Agawi a fee for hosting (about a penny per minute of game time), the upside is access to an entirely new market: casual gamers who don’t want to buy dedicated consoles, don’t have expensive gaming computers, and those whose only experience with gaming is on their tablet devices – think the 30-40 crowd of “non-traditional” gamers.

Unfortunately, the first thing that comes to mind when a gamer hears “cloud gaming” is OnLive and its failure. Relan addressed this in our conversation as well. OnLive attempted to be a Netflix for games: it bought rights to the backlogs of several publishers and offered them via a monthly subscription, while newer games had to be purchased individually at full price. Relan pointed out that his put them in competition with the publishers, so why would they let OnLive have any of their good games? In addition, OnLive was ahead of its time: “the cloud” as a concept was still fairly new when it started, they had to make their hardware infrastructure themselves, and average Internet connections were slower.

In comparison, Agawi’s platform is based on nVidia’s GRID architecture – which is designed from the ground up to handle cloud gaming – and Internet speeds today are fast enough that Relan says that the latency when playing a game on its servers is about that of playing an online game on the Xbox 360. Plus, the company is already bringing in money – at a profit. Last year, the company generated over $4 million in revenue, and expects to more than double that this year.

For those of you who are interested, Agawi will be announcing its publishing partnerships next week at E3, so we’ll get to see what major titles they’ll be offering then. For those interested in the technical details of the service, here’s a presentation that Relan made at the 2013 Cloud Gaming Summit back in March: