Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Dark Knight was just alright

I thought Chris Nolan's "Batman Begins" finally captured the spirit of batman on the big screen. It shook off the unbelievable comic-book surrealism of the film series started by Tim Burton. I hated the stiff, rubbery bat-suit. I hated how the villians had color-coordinated costumes and weapons for no explicable reason. Most of all, I hated how Michal Keaton's lips puckered out from under his cowl. Tim Burton is dark, but in an emo 'nobody liked me in high school' kind of way. Batman is dark in a brooding 'you killed my parents' kind of way. At least his film shook off the campy legacy left by the 60's Adam West TV series. The few films that followed Michael Keaton's in the 90's just went downhill with Robin & Batgirl... but at least George Clooney's mouth didn't look silly in a cowl.

When I saw Batman Begins, it was what I had hoped the movies would be like when I was younger & looking forward to Tim Burton's film release. It delved deep into the obsession, angst, fortitude, and self-sacrifice that could drive a man to quest for justice and vengeance after seeing his family murdered. I still didn't like the rubbery batsuit, but keeping to the character well made up for that.

This most recent movie "The Dark Knight" is one of the most over-hyped movies I can remember in recent years. I'm sure it's because Heath Ledger unintentionally inflated the public curiousity about his last performance by overdosing before the film's release. Whenever I see Batman Pizza Hut specials & Batman-branded whoppers at the theater, I have to worry that a film is more bark than bite. I left the theater feeling confirmed on that. It was annoying sitting through 20 minutes of previews. The Day the Earth Stood Still, the new Terminator, & Watchmen look awesome... but all the other previews were tedious. The film started... and my biggest problem was the choppiness & poor editing of the movie. It seems like when Heath Ledger died, the editing & post-production team got lazy or unfocused. Maybe they figured the film would be a blockbuster so they didn't have to finish the job. It could have been trimmed down from the 2+ hours & some background/mood music in spots would make it less bland. Story-wise, there was no revisiting of batmans' impetus for crime fighting & training.... which made the first film great. I think that should be a central part of any batman story. I've liked Christian Bale as an actor until this movie. He looked pretty girly in a scene with his t-shirt on & batman would need to be buffed. What happened to the method acting dedication he had in The Machinist? He ruined all the batman dialogue with his gruff froggy voice. Not menacing at all, just weird. He also has a goofy overbite & lisp you want to laugh at in the cowl. I guess he just isn't the right choice for batman. Finally, I just can't handle the funky rubber molded cowl. It looks more IKEA than scary.

Here are a few images of batman from different films - from bad to better:

BAD

STILL BAD, BUT BETTER
BETTER? NOT REALLY (at least it's not glossy)

GOOD - I hope to see this incarnation on the big screen one day. Will someone please get it right?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My cool-ass economy chart (with comments & wild speculation)

Yeah baby... the economy is big news right now. We've gone through some intense housing, oil, currency, stock, and credit/interest fluctuations in the past decade. What does it all mean & what will happen next? There's a lot of buzz & speculation about that right now...

I've said this before. I love charts & I created the graph below from data I scraped off the web.
I used nominal prices for oil and gold, plus the Dow Jones index - then adjusted everything for inflation based on the national CPI. I added the national bank prime rate and unemployment then scaled everything to a scale of 1 (from maximum/peak value) to compare the relationships.

History is a great way to learn because there are equilibriums and trends to be found. You can see that unemployment does not trend up or down over time... but still fluctuates a lot. Interest rates change depending on how the Fed feels about inflation & unemployment. You will notice that oil and gold fluctuate together, because they share a relationship with inflation. Gold hikes may coincide with inflation (or expectations of inflation). Oil hikes may cause inflation (or increase expectations of inflation). I say 'expectations' because Milton Friedman didn't believe in cost-push inflation & I'm undecided. You'll also see that the Dow Jones forms an inverse relationship (think sine & cosine waves) with oil & gold. Perhaps this is because weak currency corresponds with contracted business earnings.

What does it mean? Well, if you extrapolate a 40-year cycle in the market.... we might have another 5-10 years of contracting economy before things turn around. I have no idea why there would be a cycle - but the chart does imply one & economic cycles have been debated for a long time. What does it mean for how you should invest? No one can predict exactly... but I'd say a good strategy would be to go heavy on gold and commodities and then gradually shift to stocks over the next 5-10 years (somewhat like if it was 1970).

Maybe I will add real estate value, inflation rate, and/or other data to this chart at some point & wildly speculate further.