DVD Tales: Barton Fink to Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

Following from The Ballad of Cable Hogue...

Barton Fink (Cohen Bros., 1991)
I do believe this was the first film by the Cohen Brothers I ever saw, but certainly not the last, or the only one I own. Fink stands as a representation of 40s Hollywood as a corrupting Hell, with John Goodman as the devil (some would say, again). "Where's mah honey?!" remains one of my favorite line readings of all time. Yes, I'm strange. And so is this film.

Batman (Tim Burton, 1989)
Tim Burton's Batman was the first movie I ever owned on VHS, a Christmas gift around the 18th year of my life that was played so often, the tape nearly broke. I really don't have as much affection for it as I used to, and have no inclination to purchase its sequel Batman Returns, or the atrocious films that followed. The music is top notch - I'm even a fan of the Prince soundtrack - and the design a wonderfully timeless idea. I also can't fault the actors who are excellent in their roles (yes, even Michael Keaton) except Robert Wuhl as the superfluous Knox. But I guess the simple plot, fortuitous merging of Joker and Joe Chill, and Batman's willingness to kill affect my enjoyment nowadays. Much better superhero films have come down the pike since then, meaning it hasn't aged well after all. Still, way better than its three sequels.

Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero (Boyd Kirkland, 1998)
When I started collecting as much of the WB cartoon canon as possible, I was glad to find the Batman "films" priced at 10$ or less. SubZero (5$) was an ok effort that furthered the story of Mr. Freeze adequately, a character who only came into his own on the Animated Series (seriously C-list in the comics) through Paul Dini's award-winning episode "Heart of Ice". Dini doesn't write SubZero, unfortunately, so it doesn't rise above the norm and feels more like an extra-length quality episode.

Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan, 2005)
I was hooked from the Superbowl teaser that showed the new Batmobile. And the film certainly didn't disappoint. In the summer of 2005, Batman Begins dethroned Spider-Man 2 and X2 as best superhero movie ever made, and outclassed the other Batman films easily. I will tell you why: They actually made Bruce Wayne the central character. All previous efforts focused on villains and treated Batman as an uninteresting cypher. No more. Throw in an A-list cast, some down-and-dirty action, and keep Batman in the shadow, and it just gets better. I, for one, can't wait for The Dark Knight.

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm, 1993)
I wasn't really watching the Animated Series when Batman Forever came out, but my girlfriend at the time had a major jones for Jim Carrey, so we went to see that (more a loud disco than a movie), and on the resulting Batmania, to see Mask of the Phantasm. Serviceable, though I don't remember it being some great revelation about animation as a whole or the Batman series specifically. I remember it being a bit short for a feature. Got it recently to complete my collection, but it's still on the unwatched shelf.

But what did YOU think? Next: Batman: The Animated Series to Blood Simple.


Anonymous said...

You really need to watch this. I mean you REALLY NEED to watch this. A classic Batman/Joker duel.

Siskoid said...

Or RE-watch it, since you're right, I have little memory of Mask of the Phantasm.

An easily flipped disc, since it has no extras.

Austin Gorton said...

LOVE Mask of the Phantasm. I considered it the best Batman movie until Batman Begins came out. Hits all the right notes, including the important (for me) one about how Bruce has to sacrifice a life of happiness with a woman he loves in order to fulfill the vow he made to his parents. Plus, the Joker is scary AND funny (as he should be)and works really well as a secondary villain. Worth another look.


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