Now that you've seen Man of Steel, writer Larry Tye, author of Superman: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero, now out in paperback, contributes this essay exclusively to Hollywood.com on the ways in which Zack Snyder's film differs from established Superman lore.
Now we know. The Man of Steel who for 75 years has emblemized the American way really is a Brit – a native of the Channel Islands and a product of a Buckinghamshire boarding school. Gone, too, are the red underpants our hero has worn outside his leotards for so long they became as central to his identity as the "S" on his chest. Then there is this: Superman is a born-again Christian, one so hell-bent on saving his adopted humanity that he might as well be Jesus himself.
Oy vey. Thankfully Jerry Siegel isn't around to watch Hollywood's latest take on the Jewish-American hero he dreamed up in the spring 1938.
This isn't the first time a live-action Superman has embraced Christ as his role model. In Christopher Reeve's first movie in 1978, a Godlike Marlon Brando dispensed to his son advice straight out of the Book of John – to "show the way" to the Earthlings who "lack the light." On stage in Godspell, Jesus wore a Superman shirt. And in the opening episode of the Smallville television show, a young Clark was hung on a crucifix by a gang of football players. Never before, however, has Superman-as-Christ been as unambiguous as in the new Man of Steel film, where he poses in postures of crucifixion in the air and water, then consults with a priest before a stained-glass portrait of the savior. In case anyone misses the hints, Warner Bros. has commissioned "sermon notes" to help ministers connect the dots for congregants.
Was that what Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster had in mind for the muscle-bound hero they dreamed up in the 1930s? Not by half. Evidence of Superman’s actual ethnicity starts with the name his creators gave him on his home planet Krypton: Kal-El. El, in Hebrew, means God, while Kal connotes a voice or vessel. Together they suggest the alien superbaby was not just a Jew, but a very special one. Like Moses. Much as the baby prophet was floated in a reed basket by a mother desperate to spare him from an Egyptian Pharaoh's death decree, so moments before Kal-El's planet blew up, his doomed parents tucked him into a spaceship that rocketed him to the safety of Earth. Both babies were rescued by non-Jews and raised in foreign cultures – Kal-El by Kansas farmers named Kent – and all the adoptive parents quickly learned how exceptional their foundlings were. The narratives of Krypton's birth and death borrow the language of Genesis. Kal-El's escape to Earth is the story of Exodus.
Clues mount from there. The three legs of the Superman myth – truth, justice, and the American way – are straight out of the Mishnah, the codification of Jewish oral traditions. "The world," it reads, "endures on three things: justice, truth, and peace." The destruction of Kal-El's planet rings of the Nazi Holocaust that was brewing when Jerry and Joe were publishing their first comics, and it summons up the effort to save Jewish children through Kindertransports. A last rule of thumb: when a name ends in "man," the bearer is a Jew, a superhero, or in this case, both.
What about Superman's trademark costume – red briefs over blue full-body tights? The bold primary colors and unforgettable uniform made him look every bit the circus acrobat, only stronger, more agile, ready for action. A sure sign of his innocence and confidence was that he didn't mind appearing in public with his underpants showing, much as he chose an alter ego who kept pursuing the prettiest girl even though he seldom got her. All that is flipped on its head in this latest movie, as Superman-Clark lands the alluring Lois with hardly an ounce of effort and with no sign of any underwear he has on.
But Man of Steel's most dramatic departures from script are its choices of story and storyteller. The former is a fusion of origin epic and slam-bang action that it hopes will draw in a new generation to the Superman saga, reel back aging devotees, and set up the sequels that fans embraced, albeit with diminishing enthusiasm, in the Christopher Reeve four-pack. The storyteller, meanwhile, disguises his English brogue but his British roots make clear that the Man from Metropolis now has a global reach.
All of which begs these questions: Will the changes fly, and should they?
The truth is that change is central to the Superman mythos, as over the decades he has evolved more than the fruit fly. In the 1930s he was just the crime fighter we needed to take on Al Capone and the robber barons. In the forties he defended the home front while brave GIs battled overseas. Early in the Cold War he stood up taller than ever for his adopted country, while in its waning days he tried singlehandedly to eliminate nuclear stockpiles. For each era he zeroed in on the threats that scared us most, using powers that grew or diminished depending on the need. So did his spectacles, hair style, even his job title. Each generation got the Superman it needed and deserved. Each change offered a Rorschach test of the pulse of that time and its dreams. Superman, always a beacon of light, was a work in progress.
Superman also always has been a citizen of the world. As early as the 1960s, forty-two countries from Brazil to Lebanon were translating every issue of his American comic book into their native tongues, which gave the Swedes a hero called Stalmannen, the Mexicans a caped cousin named Supernina, the Dutch an intrepid lady reporter whose byline read Louise Laan, and the Arabic world an undercover male reporter named Nabil Fawzi who worked for the newspaper Al-Kawkab Al Yawmi. By now this flying Uncle Sam has written himself into the national folklore from Beirut to Buenos Aires.
Even mixed reviews like those critics gave Man of Steel are part of the Superman tradition. Christopher Reeve’s first film, which set the standard for both Superman and superhero movies, was in the words of Roger Ebert "a wondrous combination of all the old-fashioned things we never really get tired of: adventure and romance, heroes and villains, earthshaking special effects, and – you know what else? Wit." But Vincent Canby of The New York Times seemed to be writing about an entirely different movie, saying that "to enjoy this movie as much as one has a right to expect, one has either to be a Superman nut, the sort of trivia expert who has absorbed all there is to know about the planet Krypton, or to check one's wits at the door."
The real lesson of Superman's long history in radio and movie serials, TV and feature films, is that the only critics who count are ticket buyers, especially pint-sized ones, who helped Man of Steel nearly cover its huge production tab in just its first weekend and set a record for a June opening. For them, the formula is straightforward and starts with the intrinsic simplicity of his story. Little Orphan Annie and Oliver Twist reminded us how compelling a foundling's tale can be, and Superman, the sole survivor of a doomed planet, is a super-foundling. His secret identity might be annoying if we weren't let in on the joke and we didn't have a hero hidden within each of us. He was not just any hero, but one with the very powers we would have: the strength to lift boulders and planets, the speed to outrun a locomotive or a demonic General Zod, and, coolest on anyone's fantasy list, the gift of flight.
Superpowers, however, are just half the equation. More essential is knowing what to do with them, and nobody has a more instinctual sense than Superman of right and wrong. He is an archetype of mankind at its pinnacle. Like John Wayne, he sweeps in to solve our problems. No thank-you needed. He is neither cynical like Batman nor fraught like Spider-Man. For the religious, he can reinforce whatever faith they profess; for nonbelievers he is a secular messiah. The more jaded the era, the more we have been suckered back to his clunky familiarity. So what if the upshot of his adventures is as predictable as with Sherlock Holmes: the good guy never loses. That is reassuring.
Larry Tye was an award-winning journalist at The Boston Globe and a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. A lifelong Superman fan, Tye now runs a Boston-based training program for medical journalists. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Satchel, as well as The Father of Spin, Home Lands, and Rising from the Rails, and co-author, with Kitty Dukakis, of Shock. He lives in Lexington, Massachusetts, and is currently writing a biography of Robert F. Kennedy.
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The Hangover star reveals his portrayal of conservative Marty Huggins in the political comedy came easily to him as he came up with the idea for the character years ago, and he's been practising it ever since.
He tells WENN, "I have been doing this character since high school and he was called the Effeminate Racist. It was a character I would perform for my dad and then through the years I did it in clubs here and there. Then it got to be in the movie with Will Ferrell so it's pretty exciting."
Galifianakis recently admitted he was convinced he was destined to play a politician on the big screen as his uncle previously served as a congressman in North Carolina, but the funnyman had some other personal experience to draw on too.
He adds, "I was a volunteer for the Michael Dukakis (1988 presidential) campaign with my brother. We cold called people in North Carolina. I would say, 'My name is Zach Galifianakis and I'm calling about Michael Dukakis.' It sounded like a sentence about two dinosaurs!"
In twenty-five years, Barney Frank, democratic U.S. Representative of Mass., has pioneered two monumental achievements for gay men and women. In 1987, Frank achieved profound notoriety when he became the first sitting U.S. congressman to come out as openly gay.
This past Saturday, July 7, Frank became yet again the first sitting congressman to take a new step in the plight for human equality (and, of course, in his own journey for personal happiness): Frank got married to Jim Ready, making him the first active member of congress to engage in a same sex marriage.
The New York Times reports that Frank, 72, and Ready, 42, met and became friends during a political fundraiser in 2005. At the time, Ready was involved with Robert Palmer, former adviser to Michael Dukakis during his term as Massachusetts governor. Palmer passed away in 2007, after which time Frank and Ready developed a romantic relationship. Ready is a carpenter and a surfing enthusiast.
The wedding took place on Saturday evening at the Boston Marriott Hotel in Newton, Mass. Representative Nancy Pelosi and former presidential candidates John Kerry and Dennis Kucinich were among those present for the ceremony, which was officiated by Gov. Deval L. Patrick.
Hollywood.com reached out to GLAAD President Herndon Graddick, who stated, "For decades, Representative Frank has blazed trails in tireless pursuit of equality for every American," said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. "It's only fitting that he's now become the first sitting Congressman to wed his same-sex partner, once again reshaping the texts of history and personifying the opinion shared by a majority of Americans who believe everyone should be able to marry the person they love. We extend our warmest congratulations to Rep. Frank, his husband and their families."
Below are the wedding vows of Frank and Ready, as read by wedding officiant Gov. Patrick, as provided to Hollywood.com via a representative for Rep. Frank:
"Do you promise to love each other and be each other’s best friend,
In sickness and in health,
In Congress or in retirement,
Whether the surf is up or the surf’s flat,
For richer or for poorer,
Under the Democrats or the Republicans,
Whether the slopes are powdery or icy,
Whether the book reviews are good or bad,
For better or for worse,
On MSNBC or on Fox,
For as long as you live.”
Reporting by Lindsey DiMattina
[Photo Credit: HBO]
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In the old days, Saturday Night Live icon Jon Lovitz made a living by criticizing the antics of presidential candidate Michael Dukakis through impressions. Now, Lovitz's political target has changed, as have his methods. On the fourth episode of Lovitz's own podcast, The ABCs of SNL (co-hosted by filmmaker Kevin Smith), the comedian engaged in a heated, obscenity-laden critique of President Barack Obama. At one point, Lovitz referred to the president as "a f**king a**hole."
Lovitz went into detail on his negative perspective of the president, highlighting the latter's position on taxes. "This whole thing with Obama saying the rich don't pay their taxes is f**king b*llsh*t," he said. "If I make a dollar, and I'm taxed at fifty cents, isn't that enough? So for every dollar you make, you have to give two dollars back. 'No, that's not right. You're not paying enough.' It's half. Half! And then they go, 'The rich people have all these deductions.' Well, everyone in this room has the same deductions. You just didn't learn about it."
Although Lovitz qualified his rant by remarking, "I voted for the guy. I'm a democrat" — does it seem like the master thespian is wholeheartedly behind his controversial statements? Or, is this just an act?
(Picture Credit: WENN)
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Former mythology professor Grant (Gordon Pinsent) has been in love with--and married to--gorgeous spirited Fiona (a radiant Julie Christie) for more than 40 years. After some turbulence earlier in their marriage (Grant wasn't always as faithful as he is now) they've spent the last two decades in their own private haven a rustic Canadian cottage that lends itself to cross-country ski treks and intimate dinners. But their idyll is shattered when Fiona starts forgetting simple things--like what "wine" is called; they soon discover she's suffering from early onset Alzheimer's. Against Grant's desperate protests Fiona checks into a retirement facility called Meadowlands. There as Grant watches from the sidelines heartbroken she develops feelings for a fellow patient Aubrey (Michael Murphy). Ultimately Grant must figure out the best way to prove his love. Away From Her is the kind of movie that succeeds or fails almost wholly on the strength of its cast--happily in this case it's the former. Christie is all elegant grace as Fiona from her beautiful mane of white hair to her impeccable sense of style. But she's impulsive and approachable too with an earthiness that grounds her. Her sense of fun and joy is clear from the sparkle in her eyes--when that sparkle starts to dim the audience like Grant mourns its loss. As Grant Pinsent is both stoic and achingly vulnerable; he can't bear watching Fiona slip away but he also can't bring himself to cause her any more pain. In the supporting cast Kristen Thomson is refreshingly forthright as Kristy the Meadowlands nurse who always tells Grant the truth and Olympia Dukakis is believably brassy as Aubrey's wife Marian who's not quite ready to give up on life. Sarah Polley has spent plenty of hours in front of the camera but Away From Her marks the Canadian actress' feature directorial debut. She's obviously learned a lot from the talented filmmakers she's worked with particularly Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter) whose aesthetic is similarly spare and minimalistic. Although her long lingering close-ups (Christie's skin is remarkably clear; Pinsent is quite craggy) occasionally feel indulgent Polley has a knack for using light and landscape to evoke the essence of her subject matter: love marriage and loss. It helps that she had good source material to work from; the movie is based on acclaimed author Alice Munro's short story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain." For a first-time feature Away From Her is impressively assured tackling tough topics with sensitivity empathy and the confidence of experience.