Friday, May 25, 2018

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Disney Live-Action Remake

I love Disney.  I grew up with it and never stopped watching their movies, studying their history and paying attention to anything new they create.  One of the newer things they have been doing is live-action remakes.

For a while I didn't think they were actually going to follow through on most of these.  I assumed they were just a way to get Disney trending (as any announcement for one of these always does).  Now it is pretty obvious they are committed to Tim Burton's Dumbo, Guy Ritchie's Aladdin, etc.

How do I feel about them?  Well that's a little complicated.  On one hand I understand that a lot of these are based on familiar stories that are going to be retold every ten years anyways.  Every generation needs their Cinderella movie.

A big part of the appeal of the live-action remake is that it is a legitimization of something you love.  This cartoon you grew up with is a real movie now.  Full of more obvious adult themes and social media approved actors.  Now you can openly get excited about Disney again, because they have a new and improved version of something you like.

Which bothers me.  These are remakes of some of the most timeless and accessible movies ever made.  Movies that still work and special because of their animation.  I have not watched the new Beauty and the Beast because I think it looks bad.  Visually.  It looks dreary and unimaginative.  Look at the differences in the designs of the characters.  One is much more bland, limited and completely lacking the memorable personalities given by the world's greatest animators.  Why would I watch a lesser copy of Beauty and the Beast, when I still have a perfect version of that?

Recently however my opinion on the subject has somewhat changed based on reactions to the Christopher Robin trailers.  When his was announced I was dreading it.  Hook with Winnie the Pooh seems to miss every point and I feared that this would another forced dark and miserable take on something fun.  Not to mention that Disney completely buried their amazing 2011 version of Winnie the Pooh, their last traditionally animated feature which everyone should finally see.

Watching the trailers has not done anything to change my opinion.  The characters are unable to emote with their poor designs and generic CG.  The color scheme looks bleak and dower.  But then I started to see other people's reactions and it was... positive.  Sincere.  Heartfelt.  People were taken aback by it and excited to see this movie.  So why was my opinion so far off?

Well I never gave up Winnie the Pooh.  I took my mom to see the 2011 movie on opening day.  I still watch the cartoons and TV episodes I grew up with.  I discover older versions I've never seen before. I find Christian allegory in my annual viewings of Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too.  You know how normal kids like sports when they are young and as they grow up they continue liking it?  That is me with Disney, Pooh in particular.

But most people that viewed that trailer?  They probably hadn't heard Pooh's voice or paid attention to it since they were young.  Hearing Jim Cumming's saying "Christopher" did something they did not expect.

As much as I adore the 2011 movie, I understand why a live-action version is easier for people to get on board with.  Animation is still seen as kids stuff and a lot of adults are going to view any new traditionally animated feature as inferior to what they grew up with.  Because we don't train people to actively view animation.  It would be cool if we took animation seriously, but we don't.  It is something we are taught to grow out of.

When Beauty and the Beast came out last year of a friend a posted that she loved the new version because she didn't realize how important the original was to her.  I really wanted to tell her that she should just watch the original then, since it is still there and still perfect.  But I didn't say that.  Because is it a bad thing for an adult to be reminded of simpler times and what they loved?  Our culture puts up roadblocks between us and what we enjoy, if Disney can break them down more power to them.  That is what Christopher Robin looks like it will be about anyways.

And who am I kidding, I grew up with plenty of newer versions of Disney classics myself.  I won't try to convince anyone that 102 Dalmatians is a masterpiece, but I won't lie about how much I used to watch it.  And if there is a new batch of kids who only know Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, well they are different people than me.  They don't need to be weighed down by my "refined" opinions.

Fandoms get guarded and territorial, but there is no way to police how another person views art.  There is no way to tell what something will mean to somebody else.  I know how important of a movie Tron Legacy is to people in my life.  And that importance is just based on what it means to them.

So there is a new Winnie the Pooh movie.  As someone who still has his childhood teddy bear in his bedroom, I really hope you like it.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Predictions for Marvel Phase 5 and Beyond!

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (5/6/22)
This would close out the proper Black Panther trilogy.  I’m sure they will find ways to keep it going if this ended at three.  This is a huge part of Marvel and they don’t have much to replace it with.  But for this set of predictions let’s just say they give it a few years.  Won’t know about the future of this franchise until we see it.

Spider-Man: Graduation (7/29/22)
Final installment of the Spidey high school trilogy.  Maybe this one has Sinister Six or one of the villains from the older movies.  Holland is young enough that this could continue into college.  The tough thing about replacing Peter with Miles (who exists in this world) so soon is that you are doing high school stories again.  We need some time with Peter as an adult before we get Miles in high school.  But like with Black Panther, I’m ending my franchise predictions at three for simplicity’s sake.

She-Hulk (2023)
Feige talked about how Thor: Ragnarok was the first of a four film arc for Bruce Banner.  Hard to know where he will go with the Infinity War developments or if it will last.  It is in the best interest of the Black Widow series if he isn’t a love interest in that.

Of course a solo Hulk movie would make a lot of money, but what could they do?  Universal still has distribution rights, which Disney could cut a deal with.  But they’ve already done Planet Hulk and returning to the mindless monster attacked by the military set-up doesn’t make sense for his Avengers development. After Infinity War, I don’t think there’s a lot for this version of the Hulk.  Plus Ruffalo is getting up there.

So use him to set up another series.  In the comics She-Hulk is an individual franchise, so I would doubt that Universal has the rights to her movies.  And Marvel is successful enough to make a movie off of a seemingly ridiculous character (they’ve been succeeding with that for some time actually).  She-Hulk is actually probably the most popular solo character they have the rights to that they haven’t used yet.  Plus Ruffalo Hulk is already the outsized-fun character so She-Hulk isn’t a huge stretch for audiences.

She-Hulk is Bruce Banner’s cousin, lawyer Jennifer Walters.  Just imagine Marvel doing their take of a John Grisham pot-boiler with a giant green defense attorney.

Ravagers of the Galaxy (2023)
Gunn set-up the original Guardians at the end of vol. 2 as Yondu’s old Ravager buddies.  Sylvester Stallone, Ving Rhames and Michelle Yeoh may be getting up there for a new franchise.  But there is something to the concept of Marvel’s Expendables.  Your Dad’s favorite old action heroes in space is a cool set up for an aging MCU audience.  Like New Avengers, Black Widow and She-Hulk, this is a good way to continue the existing franchises once actor contracts are used up.

Black Widow 2 (2023)
Black Widow gets her sequel

Captain Marvel 3 (2024)
Carol finishes her franchise.  Brie Larson is young enough that this series could continue, she still leads the Avengers

Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme (2024)
Strange’s trilogy ends. Cumberbatch will be old enough that this series doesn’t need to continue, although the character easily could as a cameo or supporting character in other films

New Avengers 2 (2024)
More of an event than the first one, but still not a crossover.  Maybe She-Hulk joins, but just another standard Avengers movie.

Black Widow 3 (2025)
Phase 6 ends with the final adventure of one of the founding heroes of the MCU.  Natasha is a relic of a simpler time, her role as Avenger and S.H.I.E.L.D. icon has been replaced by newer heroes.  This is her fighting against a changing world on the way to a satisfying end for the character.

Thunderbolts (2025)
Follow up on the Thunderbolts that were established in the fourth Avengers.  Picking up more villains from Phase 4 and 5 movies (as the first three phases haven’t left us with many).  This is far enough away from Suicide Squad to stand on its own.  But Zemo convinces the world that villains are heroes, some villains might like staying that way even though the world will never accept them.  Good metaphor for rehabilitation.

She-Hulk 2 (2025)
Why the hell shouldn’t I get a She-Hulk trilogy?

Ravagers of the Galaxy vol. 2 (2026)
Another Ravager adventure

Secret Wars (2026)
Haven’t had the Avengers movies be the big crossover events, because there isn’t a big thing I see needing a lead-up like Infinity War.  Secret Wars is a recognizable enough event title and at this stage you can do a simple team up like this and the audience will understand.  This would be a standard heroes have to fight each other on a different world set up.  Focus on the heroes who have movies that have ended (Ant-Man, Strange, Spidey, Panther, original Guardians, etc).  End on a “To Be Continued.”

New Avengers 3 (2026)
Last stand of this iteration of the Avengers.  Retiring the Avengers for the next phase as others take the forefront.  None of the Avengers in this movie can be in Secret Wars.

Secret Wars 2 (2027)
The heroes fight their way off of Battleworld.  Most retire afterwards, find that.  Represents an end to the Phase 3 focus of Marvel.

Fantastic Four (2027)
This is the point when Marvel will need the franchises Fox has the rights for. Although to be honest we will probably get more Black Panther, Spider-Man, Captain Marvel and Guardians before that is even needed.

But yeah, Fantastic Four should be first.  They have never had a good movie and are Marvel’s premier franchise.  Great way to establish a new Marvel.

Thunderbolts 2 (2027)
Thunderbolts again try to fill the gap left by other Marvel heroes.  If the Avengers are done, can Earth accept the Thunderbolts?

Ravagers of the Galaxy vol. 3 (2028)
Stallone will be super old by this point, but that could also be a lot of fun.

Silver Surfer (2028)
After the end of the Ravagers, Surfer takes over the new space hero.  Origin with Galacatus.

She-Hulk 3 (2028)
Final installment of the She-Hulk trilogy!

Wolverine (2029)
Start with Logan as a solo character, don’t make being a mutant a huge focus.

X-Men (2029)
Marvel’s X-Men would be without Wolverine, and would usher in an entirely new element to focus for Marvle going forward.

So Phase 8?  More events, Deadpool, the end of Thunderbolts, continuation of Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, Wolverine and X-Men.  We can even go into X-Men spin-off movies like Excalibur or X-Factor before even considering another Avengers or Spider-Man.  But that's just my hunch at this moment.  To be honest anything could happen.  And isn't that why we love Marvel?

Predictions for Marvel Phase 4

Feige has referenced that Marvel might be moving away from the phase concept.  After Infinity War it is definitely a bold new world.  Looking at Marvel's past, with Phases 1-3, it gives me some idea of what the future may hold.

Now of course this all might change.  I probably have my predictions all wrong for Avengers 4 and Marvel may suddenly put all of their eggs in Power Pack.  This is not a sure future, I'm not Doctor Strange.  But here is my best guess for where we're going.

I know a lot of people keep waiting for an X-Men or Fantastic Four easter egg, but honestly Marvel has enough solid franchises that we have quite a way to go before we need to even think of integrating properties from Fox...

Spider-Man: Summer Vacation (7/15/19)
We have several MCU movies with release dates, but the sequel to Homecoming is the only movie we have with a confirmed release date.  Although, Sony may have just picked that date without talking to Marvel. It’s amazing how bad they are still so bad with the Spidey franchise They are still trying to convince people there’s a Venom movie coming out this year.  Anyway…

The sequel to Homecoming should focus on his relationship with Aunt May after she discovers he is Spider-Man.  May not wanting Peter to be in danger, but also having to be proud and respect his decisions is an adult character we don’t often see in teen movies.  There is a lot between the two that could be explored that would give more layers to the MCU’s Uncle Ben and Spidey’s loss of Tony Stark (that I’m predicting anyway).  Having Marisa Tomei’s Aunt May being as inexperienced as Tom Holland’s Peter is a great take for those two.  I really think that this being a team up between Spider-Man and his most important supporting character is a perfect set-up for this.

Set it during summer vacation to keep with the high school theme, but keep it different from Homecoming with more opportunities for Peter to be Spider-Man and interact with Aunt May. Ned, Michele and Flash can still appear. I wouldn’t have a full on Avenger supporting cast member like the last one, but Peter getting Doctor Strange or War Machine to try to convince Aunt May to let him keep being Spider-Man would be an amazing scene.

The villain would have to be the Scorpion (Michael Mondo from the first movie) who works to find out Spidey’s identity, giving Aunt May more of a role in the Spidey side of his life. But with her not being a fragile old woman, she wouldn’t just be a damsel in distress.  Could pad it out with other villains (Kraven and Mysterio haven’t been used on screen yet), but the focus is on Peter and Aunt May so no need to overdo it.

This will be the first movie after Avengers 4, so it will set the standard for how the movies react to that movie.  Personally I would have it similar to the way the Netflix shows refer to the “Incident”. Allude to what happened with people disappearing, keep the emotional fallout.  But don’t focus directly on it, so the movies can still do their own thing and remain a reflection of our world.

Black Panther: World of Wakanda (5/1/20)
Disney would love one of these every year.  We might have to wait longer, Marvel really needs Ryan Coogler in order to continue. And however much time he needs, they should give him.  But a May 2020 date seems feasible and it would be a killer entry in that summer opening timeslot.

T’Challa is back on the thrown, but that is still contested.  He opened up Wakanda to the world, which many are still not in favor of. Not to mention that he let in the Avengers for a massive battle that killed many Wakandans.  T’Challa is associated with everything that happened in Infinity War, after returning from his disappearance he might not get the thrown back easily.

The main focus on the movie however will be on the outreach mission set up by the end of the last movie. Seeing how T’Challa deals with international politics and a world that would be hostile to the newfound existence of the real Wakanda.

Guaradians of the Galaxy vol. 3 (7/31/20)
The Guardians return from Earth to find Kraglin in trouble with the Ayesha who is still seeking revenge. The movie will focus on how the imperfect Guardians can stand against the perfect Adam Warlock.  Carrying over from Infinity War, Gamora and Star-Lord are an item and I imagine Groot will be in adult form again.  Gunn has said this is coming in 2020 and will close out the original Guardians’ story, but that side of Marvel will continue with him. Can’t wait to see what he has for us.
Post-credit sequence will have the original Ravagers (Stallone, Yeoh, Rhames) prepping for some big job.  After the post-credit sequence there is a title card that says, “The Ravagers will return.”

Doctor Strange: Extinction (11/6/20)
Four years is the longest Marvel waits on sequels.  And with Derrickson very much still in their corner and Strange having an incredible outing in Infinity War, they will want to get a second Doctor Strange movie out. Sticking with the November date seems likely.

This movie would see Baron Mordo continuing his quest to purge the world of sorcerers.  With Strange’s death and Wong guarding the Sanctum, they would have not have been aware of this.  Mordo would come to New York, having taking powers from the other sorcerers to attack the final Sanctum.  Strange and Mordo had a strong relationship in the original to build on and Wong continues to be a favorite in his appearance.  Strange could also try to restart a relationship with Christine, which keeps being interrupted by his new job.

New Avengers (5/7/21)
It’s a new world.  The old Avengers are either dead or moved on. Rhodey as the new head of S.H.I.E.L.D. assembles a new team of the remaining heroes.  Led by Captain Marvel and Falcon, they pick up the stranglers of the Marvel Universe.  Wasp be on the team, but not Ant-Man.  Valkyrie would have to be on the team, having missed out the first Infinity War and not having a world to return to.  Personally I would love Okoye and Wong on the team, but it has to fit with their franchises and those creators.  Maybe have Sharon Carter as an alternate or introduce some new members like Wonder Man, but there is a solid team of established characters.

This movie isn’t the A-List crossover that the originals were.  It is a group of supporting characters from various franchises, kind of as the central point of the MCU that can flesh out the post-Infinity War environment.  But don’t expect these movies to be huge events like the others, more of a smaller scale focusing on this team dynamic.

Post-credit sequence has Falcon catching up with Black Widow in a bar, asking her why she didn’t answer the call.  Natasha says she’s done with that part of her life.  Falcon asks what she’s up to now.  Then a man holds a gun up to her and she takes down him and an army of spies disguised as bar patrons.  She tells Sam she’s got to go, he yells after her that he’s not paying for her drink.  After the post-credit sequence there is a title card that says, “Black Widow will return.”

Black Widow (7/30/21)
Finally the solo Black Widow, eleven years after her first appearance.  Scarlett Johansson was young enough when she started in the role that she can continue for a while.  She’s openly wanted this movie, fans have been super hungry for it and Marvel’s seemed more open to it with rumors of directors recently surfacing.  After Infinity War this is the new franchise that makes sense to start.  She’s established as a character, a household name, but also has stories left to tell.

What story do you tell? The red in her ledger.  The dark past has been alluded to and has her falling in line with authority.  Rhodey would basically set her free to tie up her loose ends and do what she needs to do. This is the movie of an Avenger without a world to worry about avenging and a spy without an organization to listen to. Black Widow gets a free pass to do what she needs to.
This would fill the gap left by the Cap franchise and give Disney their own Bond series.

Ant-Man (3) and the Wasp 2 (11/5/21)
I really hope they call it that, because it is hard to give it a regular sequel number.  Hard to know what to focus on without seeing this July’s movie.  But I would focus on the last mission of Ant-Man and the Wasp together as a duo. Scott is more busy with Cassie, with his life back on track he can be the dad he always wanted to be.  Likewise Hope is one of the most beloved heroes on Earth as a member of the New Avengers.  Think of this movie as a pair of old friends getting back together for what they know might be their last time.

Captain Marvel 2 (2/18/22)
Three years after the first movie and one year after her Avengers debut we find Captain Marvel adjusting to life as a hero in the modern world.  We won’t know much until her movie next year, but I would anticipate this being her Winter Soldier.  Could take place on Earth, maybe in space.  But Disney’s definitely getting a trilogy out of her.

So where do we go from phase 4?  Well we've seen Infinity, click here for beyond.

Infinity War- What Comes Next?

So Infinity War just happened and it ended... well, it has a pretty tough ending.

Being that the movie has a record breaking opening weekend, I'm not overly concerned about spoiling.  But if you haven't had a chance to see it yet and you are still wanting to avoid knowledge of the movie, well here is your warning.

Are we good now?  Great.

So Thanos succeeds.  He wipes out half of existence which includes Winter Soldier, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Star-Lord, Mantis, Drax, Groot, Black Panther, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Maria Hill and Nick Fury.  Thanos already killed half of the remaining Asgardians (including Loki), Gamora and the Vision.  The remaining heroes are Captain America, Black Widow, Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, War Machine, Okoye, M'Baku and Rocket Raccoon.  Captain Marvel's survival is implied.  We are unsure about the status of Hawkeye, Shuri, Ant-Man, the Wasp, Wong, Sharon Carter, Valkyrie, Kraglin and all of the TV characters.

So what comes next?  Well I've got complete confidence that Marvel has something incredible worked up.  I've long felt that the Russo Brothers and Markus/McFeely are the movie equivalent to Claremont and Byrne on X-Men.  Just perfect creators that can elevate existing characters.

But, a year is a long time to wait.  Being a fan I've got to get my own theories out there.  Here's my general pitch.  None of these are spoilers, I have no inside information other than the source material.  Based on Infinity War this is how I expect the still unnamed Avengers 5 to go down (take this with a huge dose of "How I'd Make the Movie").

So the movie opens with the remaining heroes stabilizing Earth.  Cap checks in with Wakanda where Shuri has assumed control with the assistance of M'Baku and Okoye.  Okoye asks Cap to bring their king back, Cap doesn't think it is possible.  Cap allows Shuri to keep the Vision's body.

War Machine checks in with S.H.I.E.L.D. who gives his disapproval for the decision to release Helmut Zemo and deputize him as the leader of the Thunderbolts, a team of interim heroes.  Hawkeye comes to Black Widow, revealing that his entire family has disappeared and he will do whatever it takes to get them back.  Banner checks in with Wong who must remain with the Sanctum Sanctorum while Strange is absent.  Wong says something cryptic to Banner about his Hulk problem before saying something more cryptic, alluding to a message from Doctor Strange.

Cut to Thor and Rocket who took Stormbreaker to Titan to get the Dragon Balls, or stones, and bring everybody back.  They find Thanos and start fighting him until Tony Stark reveals himself.  The two have been living together since the last movie, Thanos allowed Stark to try to use the gauntlet to reverse his culling knowing it would not work that way.  Thor tries convincing a resigned, defeated Stark to come with him.  Stark asks if Pepper is still alive, Thor refuses to answer.  Rocket just stuns Stark.  Thanos allows Thor to take the Gauntlet, Thor references cutting his head off.  Thanos shrugs off the suggestion saying that there may be a time where they need his knowledge.  Nebula comes with them to Earth, she asks Thor for possession of the Soul Stone.  Thanos remains alone, enjoying his victory while he still can, but alludes to knowing that the brave heroes will never entirely succeed.

Back on Earth Captain Marvel introduces herself to present day Captain America, saying she's dealt with this before (somehow, haven't seen her movie yet).   Ant-Man and the Wasp also arrive and explain they discovered a way to cross over to the afterlife through the microverse (somehow, their movie hasn't come out yet).  The heroes return from space and they all are contacted by Doctor Strange from the afterlife, saying he has a plan to return people to Earth.

In the afterlife we see the heroes who died defending civilians who disappeared against villains and monsters that also disappeared.  They explore the afterlife with Scarlet Witch finding Quicksilver and Vision.  The Guardians are on a journey to find Gamora.

Through a combination of Captain Marvel, Stormbreaker, the microverse, Stark engineering the Infinity Gauntlet (somehow) and Strange from the other side a team of heroes including Cap, Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Hulk, Captain Marvel, Ant-Man, Wasp and Nebula cross over.

The heroes are unable to return everyone and end up having to make some difficult decisions.  Wanda chooses to stay with her family as Hawkeye stays with his.  Thor cannot bear to return to witness more death and destruction.  Winter Soldier refuses to return, having finally found some peace.  Seeing Peggy Carter, Cap stays too.

Iron Man, Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel lead Spider-Man, Falcon, Maria Hill, Black Panther and as many civilians as possible.  The Guardians find Gamora, but they need to convince Star-Lord to leave his mother.  In the end Iron Man (and maybe Nick Fury) sacrifice themselves to save the mortals that want to be saved.  The Gauntlet stays in the afterlife.

Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange, Black Widow, Ant-Man, The Wasp, Black Panther, Spider-Man, Falcon, Hulk and the Guardians return to existence.  We see glimpses of the heroes who did not crossover and where they ended up.  Cap is with Bucky and Sharon, Stark is with Pepper, Thor is with Asgard, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are with their family and Hawkeye is with his.  They have a happiness that they were never allowed to have in life.

The movie ends with a montage of Strange returning to the Sanctum Sanctorum, discovering that something happened to the sorcerers of the other Sanctums.  Spidey returns to Aunt May.  The Guardians go back into space to meet up with Kraglin who is in trouble.  Black Panther returns to Wakanda, the Wakandans have varied reactions to his presence.  Banner accepts not being the Hulk anymore (don't really know where this subplot goes).  Ant-Man and the Wasp return to their adventures from the still unreleased sequel.  War Machine is appointed as the new head of S.H.I.E.L.D. and he meets up with Falcon and Captain Marvel.  War Machine then meets with Black Widow who does not know where she fits in this new world and regrets not staying behind with the other Avengers.  As the new head of S.H.I.E.L.D., he sets Natasha free to do whatever she feels that she needs to do.

Post-Credit sequence has Zemo meeting with his team of Thunderbolts and calls them to disappear now that the heroes are back, their time will come later.

Now I don't think the movie will go that way exactly.  It could be all about giving Thanos his comeuppance.  There are many subplots I brushed over (Banner and Hulk) and continuity issues with my own predictions (I know I shouldn't treat S.H.I.E.L.D. as an active public organization, but I feel it will get back to that point).  But I think we will get something to this effect.  It won't be about killing off the characters whose contracts are up, it should be about acceptance and a satisfying end.  It would be interesting if Avengers 4 explores the peace that ongoing heroes are constantly denied.  And with the ending of Infinity War not feeling satisfying in terms of the usual Marvel victory, I think we will get something meaningful in the next one.

So after this movie, where does Marvel go?  Well, I've naturally got ideas on that too.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Best X-Men Writers

Even though they did not gain popularity until 15 years after their creation, the X-Men franchise exploded in a big way and never really slow down.  Since the late eighties their have always been multiple books lead by many varied creators.  At the end of the day, these are the ten that I feel that either left the most lasting influence on others or just wrote the best X-Comics.

For this list I focused on writers for the main X-Men team books, but I'm still including writers of some of the more mainstream spin-offs (sorry X-Statix).  Solo books have never had the same weight of the main series (although Sina Grace's recent work on the Iceman solo has become one of my favorite series).  I'm sure a lot of 90s readers will notice the lack of Fabian Nicieza and Scott Lobdell who wrote much of that decade's stories.  For me I can't point to a perfect story or lasting change from either of them, as loved as some of their work may be.

Mike Carey is the writer who just missed the cut.  Personally I love certain stories from Ed Brubaker, Peter Milligan, Marc Guggenheim and Marjorie Liu.  Craig Kyle & Chris Yost definitely earn mention for their mass of work, as do their New X-Men predecessors Nunzio DeFillipis & Christina Weir.  There are good alternate reality stories from the likes of Brian K. Vaughn and Jeff Parker, but there are so many X-Books that I really just focused on accomplishments within the 616.

Of course any X-Writer will be able to identify writers that will not be mentioned or take issue with certain rankings, but that is why this list is worth doing.  So many creators have touched these characters and each fan has their own relationship with the books.  So for me: the ten best X-Men writers:

10. Joss Whedon
Notable Work: Astonishing X-Men vol. 2 #1-24, Giant Size Astonishing (2004-2008)
Astonishing X-Men took its time to come out, didn’t reinvent the wheel and probably only needed to be 12 issues.  That said, Whedon still earns a place on this list for delivering well-written characters in an accessible prestige book.  Whedon gifted the X-Mythos with plenty of memorable lines, new characters and concepts that would continue in other books and possibly the best Kitty Pryde ever.  When all is said and done Whedon did not leave as large of a stamp on the X-Men and some would have you think.  But what he did was well loved and continues to be an easy starting point for new readers.

9. Stan Lee
Notable Work: X-Men vol. 1 #1-19 (1963-1966)
It took the X-Men a long time to gain popularity.  Those early issues really pale to Lee and Kirby’s work on Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and others.  The original X-Men are kind of a generic superhero team with a simpler origin. But Lee laid the groundwork and writers have gone back to the original five student set-up many times.  Lee introduced enduring concepts like the Danger Room, Cerebro, Magneto, the Brotherhood, Juggernaut and Sentinels. Not a fully fleshed out franchise, but an important foundation that new writers really ran with.

8. Brian Michael Bendis
Notable Work: Ultimate X-Men #35-45 (2003-2004), All-New X-Men vol. 1 #1-41,
Uncanny X-Men vol. 4 #1-35 (2012-2015)
Bendis wrote some of the best stories for Ultimate X-Men, but he made this list for his two year run of dual double shipped books.  Following his successful tenure as Avengers architect, where he made them Marvel’s number one team, BMB really changed the status for the Merry Mutants.  In All-New X-Men he brought the original, unconvoluted team to the present time.  Giving an interesting perspective for the franchise’s current state and rescuing many broken characters by bringing them back to basics.  In Uncanny he made excellent use of Cyclops and introduced many memorable new members.  Bendis’ run was a bit divisive and not everything left a large impact, but he had a clear, valid direction that did new things with the franchise and kept it exciting.

7. Kieron Gillen
Notable Work: S.W.O.R.D. #1-5 (2010), Generation Hope #1-12 (2011-2012), Uncanny X-Men vol. 1 #531-544 & vol 2 #1-20 (2011-2012), Avengers vs. X-Men: Consequences #1-5 (2012)
Gillen started gaining notice with X-Men spin-offs S.W.O.R.D. and Generation Hope, which were both well received.  His early issues of Uncanny marked an improvement in the series with bold choices like turning Colossus into the Juggernaut and satisfyingly ending the original volume before relaunching the title in a clear direction.  While readers were clearly supposed to sympathize with Wolverine’s side of the Schism, Gillen did amazing things with Cyclops band of former villains.  The Extinction Team was an understandable development for Utopia and Gillen played with the morality of the survivalist mentality.  With AvX Consequences Gillen regained some sympathy towards the disgraced Cyclops.  It is a shame his run ended so soon, his often overlooked side of things was very worthwhile.

6. Rick Remender
Notable Work: Uncanny X-Force vol. 1 #1-37 (2010-2012), Uncanny Avengers vol. 1 #1-25 & 2 #1-5 (2012-2015)
Uncanny X-Force was a shot in the arm for an X-Men spin-off that never earned much prestige. Wolverine’s black ops squad had excellent characterization and fascinating moral dilemmas.  It was not a book of cheap violence, but a book about dealing with violence.  Remender found depths for the mutant concept that few writers have without devolving into misery and pretention.  His follow-up, Uncanny Avengers, did not maintain as satisfying of a run.  But the heights of Uncanny X-Force have more than earned Remender a top ten status.

5. Peter David
Notable Work: X-Factor vol. 1 #70-89 (1991-1993), Madrox #1-5 (2004-2005), X-Factor vol. 3 #1-50, #200-249 (2005-2013), All-New X-Factor #1-20 (2014-2015)
A veteran Marvel writer known for creativity and success on characters nobody wants has been a great fit for the X-Universe.  His three X-Factor teams (government agents, private investigators and corporate heroes) all had such a unique flavor and grew personalities for countless characters on the fringe of the franchise.  The X-Men have a bad habit of introducing characters and abandoning them. David excelled at finding them purpose. His teams have some of the best chemistry of any X-Team.  While never top sellers and he had not touched a main X-Men title, his work on the fringe is some of the best and was vital to the maintenance of countless mutants.

4. Louise Simonson
Notable Work: X-Factor vol.1 #6-64 (1986-1991), New Mutants vol. 1 #55-97 (1987-1991),
X-Terminators #1-4 (1988-1989), Havok & Wolverine: Meltdown #1-4 (1989) X-Factor Forever
During Claremont’s run nobody could successfully touch the X-Men.  The few writers he did left little impact, until Weezie.  She was an editor that Claremont and Ann Nocenti championed to take over X-Factor.  She then took over the New Mutants.  Simonson set the example for all future X-Writers, she used her own personality and added new developments while adhering to the Claremont establishment.  Simonson was vital to the stewardship of the original five, development of the new characters and expansion of the entire line.

3. Jason Aaron
Notable Work: Wolverine: Weapon X #1-16 (2009-2010), Wolverine vol. 4 #1-20, 300-304 (2010-2012) X-Men Schism #1-5 (2011), Wolverine and the X-Men #1-42 (2011-2014), Amazing X-Men
Made his mark at Marvel as one of the best Wolverine writers, whom he focused on in several series. Made his way to the X-Men proper with one of the best X-Events and created an exciting new title.  Wolverine and the X-Men brought fun into that is rarely found in a main title.  It was a book where anything could happen and often did.  Aaron’s book was not overly reverent to previous runs (although Morrison’s influence is clear), it showed you could do new things with the X-Men and kept it from continuing to jog in place.

2. Grant Morrison
Notable Work: New X-Men #1-41 (2001-2004)
Morrison was the first X-Writer to just do something new.  All previous writers either kept things in place or harkened back to Claremont. After a decade of massive team books, Morrison had a set line-up with all-new characters.  He had a new direction, new villains and did some truly challenging things.  He may have shook things up too much for many fan’s liking, but the importance of his work for the growth of the franchise cannot be overstated. 

1. Chris Claremont
Notable Work: Uncanny X-Men #94-473 (1975-1991), New Mutants #1-54 (1982-1987), Excalibur #1-34 (1987-1991), Wolverine, X-Men vol. 2 1-3 (1991), X-Treme X-Men #1-46 (2001-2004), etc.
Was there any question? 17 years straight where he brought the All-New All-Different X-Men to prominence with classic stories of Phoenix, Proteus, Days of Future Past, God Loves Man Kills and LifeDeath.  Claremont defined Cyclops, Jean Grey, Xavier, Storm, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Colossus and Magneto.  He created Shadowcat, Rogue, Mystique, and so many other important characters and concepts.  Claremont expanded the line and wrote much of The New Mutants, Excalibur and Wolverine’s early solo exploits.  It was Claremont that made this story feel huge while also making you care about the small, personal moments of these people.  He is the writer that others cannot escape.  Although he various returns to the franchise have not been as fruitful, he has never left the X-Men and they have clearly never left him. Claremont and the X-Men are forever tied to one another.  For better or worse, he made this franchise and nobody will ever leave as much of a mark as he has.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Best Picture Predictions (1/7/18)

This year is really interesting for best picture because there is no set frontrunner.  There are seven films that are locks for nominations and among them six could win.  Making for an exciting race where we really don't know what will happen.

The best bets are Lady Bird, Call Me by Your Name, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Get Out, The Shape of Water and Dunkirk.  The winner is somewhere in there and there is a strong case for all of them.  The Post is guaranteed a nomination, but won't have enough steam to cross the finish line.

With the Oscars preferential voting system there can be anywhere from 5-10 nominees for Best Picture.  Since the change to this system there have usually been 9 nominees.  But we had 8 nominees in 2014 and 2015, think this will be one of those years.  There seems to be enough steam for The Big Sick to get that last slot.  But The Florida Project or I, Tonya could also get the 8th or 9th nomination.

There are some outside chances for Mudbound, The Disaster Artist and Molly's GameWonder Woman and Logan are still in the conversation, outlasting the a hoard of well received blockbusters including Blade Runner 2049, Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, War for the Planet of the Apes and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  Other Oscar contenders like Battle of the Sexes, Last Flag Flying, Detroit, The Beguiled and many others could be shut out entirely, barring some artistic categories.  Darkest Hour and Phantom Thread will have to settle for acting nominations.

Best Picture
Top Five
Lady Bird
Call Me by Your Name
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing
Get Out
Shape of Water
 Pros: Getting notices across the board.  Strong chances for important categories of director, acting and screenplay.

Cons: Gerwig could be left out for director.  Smaller comedies don't often win.
 Pros: Most traditional Oscar drama contender this year and its been getting all the right places.

Cons: Some minor controversies.  Its director and actors could be considered too new for wins.  Smaller film among larger ones.
 Pros: Topical film with strong script and ensemble.

Cons: The humor and some of the harsher content might not sit well with traditional voters.  McDonagh could be left out for director.
 Pros: Most talked about film from last year.  Stayed in the race. Consistent in precursors.

Cons: Early release date, genre film, actor turned directors.  A lot for voters to get past.
 Pros: del Toro is definitely due for Oscar attention.  This film has been a staple in precursors.

Cons: Still a genre film.  Going to be a tough win, but it will be nominated.
Next Predicted Three
The Post
The Big Sick
Florida Project
I, Tonya
 Pros: Nolan finally playing the Oscar game.  Big financial and critical hit.  Based on a true story.

Cons: Earlier release and it has been post over in precursors for others.
 Pros: Spielberg's true story about politics starring Streep and Hanks.  Was a lock from the announcement.

Cons: Not strong enough for more than a nomination.
 Pros: Early release that has stayed in the conversation, earning a SAG ensemble nominations and a lot of writing recognition.

Cons: Early release and a comedy in a year with a lot of comedy. No directing contender.
 Pros: A film many feel strongly about.  Lock for Best Supporting Actor.  Been receiving precursor notice.

Cons: Smaller film from a newer voice.  Not guaranteed much other than Dafoe.
 Pros: Just received a surprise PGA nomination.  Acting is getting a lot of attention.

Cons: Smaller film with a new distributor that has never gotten a film to the Oscars before.
Longer Shots
Wonder Woman
Molly’s Game
Disaster Artist
 Pros: Received a PGA nomation and other precursors.  Successful film that is important to many.

Cons: Competition with Logan.  Still a blockbuster.   There is criticism for the film.
 Pros: Good reviews.  Lock for Best Supporting Actress and screenplay.

Cons: Not popular enough to overcome streaming bias.
 Pros: Got a PGA nomination.

Cons: Not getting noticed for much else aside from Chastain and screenplay.
 Pros: Well received film with Oscar buzz.  AMPAS loves movies about movies.

Cons: Has not been getting much notice for Best Picture or Director.
 Pros: People really responded to this movie.  WGA nom helps.  Easiest superhero movie for voters to recognize.

Cons: Early release, still a blockbuster, other competition.

Oscar Predictions (Night of the Golden Globes)

I have been meaning to share my Oscar predictions for some time, now that the Golden Globes are going to happen in an hour I want to make sure I share my pre-Globe predictions.  I will be adding commentary throughout the show.

Best Picture
Top Five
Lady Bird
Call Me by Your Name
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MO
Get Out
The Shape of Water

Next Predicted Three
The Post
The Big Sick
The Florida Project
I, Tonya

Longer Shots
Wonder Woman
Molly’s Game
The Disaster Artist

Best Director
Top Five
Guillermo del Toro,
The Shape of Water
Greta Gerwig,
Lady Bird
Christopher Nolan,
Luca Guadagnino,
Call Me by Your Name
Martin McDonagh,
Three Billboards

Jordan Peele,
Get Out
Steven Spielberg,
The Post
Sean Baker,
The Florida Project
Paul Thomas Anderson,
Phantom Thread
Aaron Sorkin,
Molly’s Game

Best Actor
Top Five
Timothee Chalamet,
Call Me by Your Name
Gary Oldman,
Darkest Hour
James Franco,
The Disaster Artist
Daniel Day-Lewis,
Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya,
Get Out

Denzel Washington,
Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Tom Hanks,
The Post
Robert Pattinson,
Good Time
Jake Gyllenhaal,
Hugh Jackman,
The Greatest Showman

Best Actress
Top Five
Frances McDormand,
Three Billboards
Sally Hawkins,
The Shape of Water
Saoirse Ronan,
Lady Bird
Margot Robbie,
I, Tonya
Meryl Streep,
The Post

Jessica Chastain,
Molly’s Game
Judi Dench,
Victoria and Abdul
Emma Stone,
Battle of the Sexes
Gal Gadot,
Wonder Woman
Vicky Krieps,
Phantom Thread

Best Supporting Actor
Top Five
Willem Dafoe,
The Florida Project
Sam Rockwell,
Three Billboards
Armie Hammer,
Call Me by Your Name
Richard Jenkins,
The Shape of Water
Michael Stuhlbarg,
Call Me by Your Name

Woody Harrelson,
Three Billboards
Steve Carell,
Battle of the Sexes
Christopher Plummer,
All the Money in World
Jason Mitchell,
Patrick Stewart,

Best Supporting Actress
Top Five
Laurie Metcalf,
Lady Bird
Allison Janney,
I, Tonya
Mary J. Blige,
Holly Hunter,
The Big Sick
Octavia Spencer,
The Shape of Water

Hong Chau,
Tiffany Haddish,
Girls Trip
Melissa Leo,
Lesley Manville,
Phantom Thread
Lois Smith,
Marjorie Prime

Best Original Screenplay
Top Five
Lady Bird
Get Out
Three Billboards
The Shape of Water
The Big Sick

The Post
Phantom Thread
I, Tonya
The Florida Project

Best Adapted Screenplay
Top Five
Call Me by Your Name
The Disaster Artist
Molly’s Game

The Lost City of Z
The Beguiled
Blade Runner 2049

Best Animated Feature
Top Five
Loving Vincent
The Breadwinner
The Boss Baby
LEGO Batman Movie

Big Bad Fox
and Other Tales
Despicable Me 3
In this Corner of the World
Napping Princess