RIP Margot Kidder: A Superman Reminiscence

RIP Margot Kidder

Margot Kidder died earlier this week, and now all of the stars of Superman: The Movie are gone except for Gene Hackman. And that definitely left me feeling a bit sad.

It’s funny, a month or so back an online debate about which was the better Superman movie—Superman Returns or Man of Steel—inspired me to start writing a blog about those two movies.

While writing that I ended up diverging and writing about Superman: The Movie, a movie that I love unabashedly and yet, still have major problems with.

I’m still working on that one, but it seems more fitting to post some more positive reminiscences of the Christopher Reeve-Margot Kidder Superman films.

It’s hard to quantify the effect these films had on me as a kid

Superman: The Movie and Superman II came out when I was still a toddler, not really able to read yet, so I wasn’t reading comics yet. And who knows when I first saw them, or if I ever even saw them in full, in that time period.

What I do know is that I had Superman wallpaper in my room (which I only vaguely recall, but I think was a montage of Superman in various poses), a Christopher Reeve Superman poster (pulling the shirt open while running) and—I think!—a Superman comforter or perhaps sleeping bag on my bed.

I had Star Wars toys—and later G.I. Joes and Transformers—but Superman owned the decor. It’s no stretch to suggest that’s where my love of superheroes began.

This scene is perfect

I posted this on Twitter the other day but allow me to expand on it further (which gives me an excuse to watch it 120 more times).

I called it the single greatest moment in any superhero movie, and while I may have been using typical Twitter-fuelled hyperbole in the moment, I actually think it’s true. The “I’ve got you” exchange is the moment, but honestly, the whole sequence, from the moment where Clark realizes he’s needed, all the way up to when he catches Lois and then the helicopter (and even when he sets everything down and says “this man needs medical attention” in the most Superman way ever), it literally is the super-hero comic come to life. And the John Williams score? The chef’s kiss!

There had never been anything quite like it on the screen, and that “hero sees danger, changes into costume and rushes off to save the day” (not to mention the following superhero doing superhero things montage) has been duplicated in dozens of super-hero movies since.

(Excuse me while I go and watch it again.)

Superman II‘s Niagara Falls scene always hit home

Again, I don’t remember the first time I saw it, but I know that, as a kid, that scene struck me with its familiarity. I had been there! Half my family lived in Niagara Falls, Ontario! The thought that Superman might come to Canada was amazing. (Oh, and also, the thought of falling off of Niagara Falls was legitimately terrifying to my young mind.)

Talking about it now also gives me the excuse to share this wonderful photo from the Niagara Falls Public Library:

RIP Margot Kidder: Kidder and Christopher Reeve on location in Niagara Falls

Finding out years later that not only was Margot Kidder Canadian, but one of Superman’s co-creators, Joe Shuster, was also Canadian, were wonderful little bonuses. That Superman Heritage Minute was also a memorable piece of Superman Canadiana!

The Chemistry Between Reeve and Kidder Fascinates Me

To this day I still love the way the actors played their roles against one another. Reeve’s performance was the more “obvious” of the two; he plays Clark and Superman differently, of course, from the slouching and stuttering to even the pitch of his voice.

But watch the way Kidder plays Lois against Clark and against Superman. It’s not just that she’s romantically interested in one and not the other; she exudes way more confidence around Clark, as she’s the veteran reporter to his rookie, and she’s clearly the “alpha dog” anytime the two of them are around other people. She borders on rude to Clark, but I don’t think that’s fully it; it’s more of a, “this is a puppy who’s learning to run and it’s cute and all, but I don’t have time to hold his hand” air. It’s also very clear in these scenes that she’s older than Clark (Kidder was four years’ Reeve’s senior).

RIP Margot Kidder: Kidder and Christopher Reeve on set

Meanwhile, she’s nervous and fidgety around Superman; even when her reporter instincts kick in and she gets a chance to interview him, she’s consistently disarmed by his gentleness and earnestness. (Here, she seems like the younger of the two.) And then when he finally turns on the charm full blast, she just melts.

Neither Reeve nor Kidder are great actors, but they really do give perfect performances in Superman: The Movie.

Reeve’s appearance in Smallville gave me goosebumps

It’s a shame that Kidder and Reeve didn’t have the opportunity to appear together on Smallville (that was apparently the intention, but Reeve passed away before the scenes could be filmed). I still remember when Reeve appeared on that show—when he turns around in his wheelchair, and the John Williams Superman theme quietly comes up in the background… that’s one of those moments you just don’t forget. Chills.

I have to give major props to Warner Bros. and the producers of the various Superman projects over the years, for continually bringing back past Superman actors in small roles (or even big roles, like Annette O’Toole). I think Superman: The Movie was the first project to do this, with Kirk Alyn and Noel Neill (Superman and Lois from 1948’s Superman) appearing as a young Lois Lane’s parents. It continues to this day, as Mark McClure (Jimmy Olsen in Superman: The Movie) appears as a police officer in Justice League. It’s a wonderful way to pay homage to the long list of actors who’ve portrayed these characters on screen.

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Hopefully I’ll be able to wrap up those other Superman movie-related pieces soon. It is kind of amazing how flawed every Superman movie has been, including Superman: The Movie, but the casting of Kidder and Reeve is one thing they sure did right. Godspeed, the both of you.

Five Thoughts on 82 Toronto Raptors Games!

DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors

So! The 2017-18 NBA regular season has come and gone, and I’ve accomplished the goal I set out to do: Write after every Toronto Raptors game. 82 games, 82 “Five Thoughts” recaps!

Here’s my recap from last night’s finale, a 116-109 loss to Miami, and here are five thoughts after a full season of Toronto Raptors blogging.

It’s a lot of thoughts and words

Five thoughts on 82 games is more than 400 thoughts! At roughly 1,000 words per post, that’s (checks math) about 82,000 words. That’s a good sized novel!

37 of those recaps appeared right here on joshkern.com. I joined up with RaptorsHQ in January, and the other 45 appeared on RaptorsHQ.com. I doubled my (very small!) Twitter following! I’m a “platformer” now, as my pal John says.

I’m gonna call it the equivalent of a 50-win season

All in all I’d say that’s a pretty successful season from a blogging point of view. I mean it’s maybe not a 59-win season, but it’s a start! There were definitely some I was happier with than others, some thoughts were a little half-baked, some I points that were repetitive, and so on. Can’t win ‘em all right?

Speaking of 59 wins, I definitely lucked out, blogging about this Raptors season, the best in franchise history. Writing about a winning team is surely easier/more fun than writing about a losing team.

If at first you don’t succeed…

This season was not my first attempt at writing about the Raptors. At least twice before I gave it a shot, but couldn’t stick with it. I suspect it’s because at that time, I was still writing pretty much 100% of the time at my day job; I love writing, but it’s tough to write all day, then come home and write some more.

Nowadays I don’t write as much at the day job, or jobs as it stands at the moment. Which makes it easier to write for RaptorsHQ and this here blog.

It’s a fun component to the experience

Writing about the games, and watching them with an eye towards what I’ll write about, has been fun, and although there are the occasional challenges, they’re not exactly daunting. I haven’t watched every single game live; there were about a half-dozen I had to catch up on either late at night or early the next morning, including game 82, as I spent that evening at the RaptorsHQ Meetup! (A small sacrifice!)

There have been some less-than-interesting games, especially when the Raptors have dispatched bad teams in business-like fashion. When they show up, do their job, and the outcome is exactly what’s expected, that doesn’t make for a superbly interesting blog post! (And these last four games, with the one seed sown up, have been boring to watch and write about!)

But again, these are good problems to have. The thought of being an Orlando Magic or Phoenix Suns blogger is… [shudder].

Five postseason thoughts

Now, on to the postseason; you can find five more thoughts after each playoff game over at RaptorsHQ.

As my wife will attest, my stress levels elevate with every Raptors game; we’ll see what kind of an impact that has on my writing! I’ll also be attending more games (well, assuming the team does well) which should hopefully bring a different angle to a couple of the recaps.

If all goes well, I’ll have somewhere between 16 and 28 more of these to come over the next two months…!

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Thanks to everyone that read, followed, commented, and/or liked any of my five thoughts recap, and thanks to RaptorsHQ for welcoming me to the team!

Toronto skyline, from the East side

Toronto Skyline, from Riverdale Park

Growing up in Mississauga, I always enjoyed coming into the city and seeing the Toronto skyline get closer and closer. It’s a treat when you first see it in the distance around the Humber River and then it disappears, only to looms larger as come around the bend at the Exhibition.

When I first moved to the city in after college, I didn’t realize that I missed that view. You don’t see the skyline when you’re actually living in it! A few years later I had to move back to Oakville for work for a couple years, and when I started experiencing that drive in to the city again, I really started to appreciate the view.

I’ve been living in the city again since 2006 so anytime I get a chance to see the skyline, I like to take it in. I worked in Liberty Village for year and enjoyed walking down Strachan and seeing this view everyday.

Toronto Skyline, from Liberty Village
Toronto Skyline, from Liberty Village

But, 40 years on, with the exception of the occasional and rare drive down the DVP, I’ve never really had the chance to appreciate the Toronto skyline from the other side. But, for the first time, one of my jobs takes me to the East end, so I am getting to see the city from the other side a little more.

Toronto Skyline, from Lakeshore and Carlaw
Toronto Skyline, from Lakeshore and Carlaw

This past weekend my wife and I walked through Riverdale Park (yep, 40 years old, almost half my life living in the city, yet had never walked through Riverdale!) and it was a beautiful, sunny day, perfect to see our wonderful skyline from a slightly different angle.

Toronto Skyline, from Riverdale Park
Toronto Skyline, from Riverdale Park

This panorama shows how much midtown is starting to catch up on terms of high-rises.

Toronto Skyline panorama, from Riverdale Park
Toronto Skyline panorama, from Riverdale Park

At the end of the day, seeing it from the East, it’s pretty much the same Toronto skyline… just reversed… but hey! I’m glad I can still appreciate it after 40 years.

Year in review: Five favourite books of 2017

Year in review: Five favourite books of 2017

It’s true: I do occasionally read actual books, not just comic books! Over the past year or so, I seem to have divided my comic book reading and my book reading in a “home/away” fashion: When I’m at home, I read comics. When I’m commuting, on the go, or on vacation, I read books. That reading mostly takes place on my Kindle so I guess that makes sense—the Kindle is so easy to travel with.

None of that is particularly relevant to this post though! These are books I read in 2017 that I really liked. Check ’em out, maybe you’ll like ’em too.

Read moreYear in review: Five favourite books of 2017

Five things that are worth your time: January 10

Five things that are worth your time: January 10

Thanks for joining me for another five things! A few long reads this week, featuring Apple, Star Wars, and the the future of work, so if you want to save them for the weekend, I can’t blame you.

Has Apple Lost Its Design Mojo?

By Rick Tetzeli, Fortune

Couple thoughts on this “state of the union” article about Apple design. One, yes, Apple has always been at the forefront of technology design. But, Apple rarely gets it right right out of the gate. The article mentions the original iPod, with its barely functional click wheel, and the original iPhone, without 3G or apps. Apple iterates over time; it always has. Which brings me to my second point: Apple used to be a lot smaller. They could take all the time they wanted, and their customers would be patient. But now, Apple is everywhere, and every other company wants to be like Apple, and people just don’t have the patience for that anymore. So I would argue: Apple is still doing great design work on its products, just as it always has, but the world around it has changed. And I don’t think Apple should change, because then the design actually will suffer. (Besides, the real question here shouldn’t be about poor Apple design; it should be about their shitty software development efforts in recent years.)

A quote: “This creative process is Apple’s secret sauce. Its goal—innovating and improving simultaneously, delivering both annual updates and the occasional brand-new product—is commonplace. But few companies have done it as well as Apple, at mass scale over a long period of dramatic technological change. Chochinov cites Nike and the New York Times as two that have, but many of the sources I interviewed for this story couldn’t think of any comparable peers.”

This is Not Going to go the Way You think: The Last Jedi is subversive AF, and I am here for it

By Melissa Hillman, Bittergertrude.com

Melissa Hillman breaks down some of the ways that Star Wars: The Last Jedi is subversive and feminist, and I love this kind of take on the film—and, I suspect, deep down many of these themes are why some of the more traditional Star Wars fans are so angry about The Last Jedi. This isn’t a film that’s made with them—the white male (or heroic white male, as they see themselves)—front and centre. This is a film for everyone. I’m not entirely sure the filmmakers intentionally focused on some of the things Hillman brings up, but, good filmmaking allows different people to interpret things in different ways, and I would guess that The Last Jedi does that more than any other Star Wars film to date.

A quote: “The Resistance is impressive in its casual diversity. Women and people of color are valued for their expertise as a matter of course; nowhere does the film congratulate itself on its diversity by making a huge point of highlighting it, demonstrating white male benevolence by the generous inclusion of women and people of color, positing a white male audience nodding along, agreeing that we are so wonderful for allowing our White Male World to donate a very small corner for the Less Fortunate. The Resistance is naturally diverse, and no one even seems to notice. ‘”

The Imminent Death—and Amazing Life—of the Funny Highlight Guy

By Brian Curtis, The Ringer

Reading Brian Curtis on sports media is always a good bet. I enjoyed this look back at the era of “Funny Highlight Guy” sports anchors, in part because this whole phenomenon of sports highlight shows that masqueraded as comedy bits mostly passed Canada by. We got Gino Reda and Michael Landsberg while the U.S. had Dan, Kieth and Kilborn; by the time we got Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole the era was pretty much over. But in a way, that’s probably a good thing—check out the quote below to see why. (Also: Go and watch Sports Night; you won’t be disappointed.)

A quote: “One night in the ESPN newsroom, Beil recalled, “Gus had seen that the movie Jumanji was coming out. So he’s walking around the newsroom and trying to sell ‘Jumanji!’ as a catchphrase.
“He’s literally walking down three rows of computers. I was there. Karl Ravech was there. Brett Haber was there. Gus is just running into ‘No,’ ‘No,’ ‘No,’ ‘That’s stupid,’ ‘Get outta here,’ ‘Get away from me.’
“He gets to Kilborn. He says, ‘Jumanji!’ And Kilborn goes, ‘Yes.’ We’re all looking at him like, Are you serious? Sure enough, we do the show that night, and he did it in his tone of voice: ‘Ju … manji.’ The next day, nobody would stop saying ‘Jumanji.’””

Donald Trump Goes Full Fredo

By David Frum, The Atlantic

Trump is an easy target to aim for and hit, especially when he sets himself up for it so well (and so regularly). After his unhinged tweets about his own genius, I and many others noted how much he sounded like Fredo in The Godfather Part II (“I’m smart! Not like everyone says, like dumb!”). David Frum managed to put it into a great column. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rg8jODlrka0 To Frum’s point… where is America’s Michael? After Fredo allowed the Don to be shot on his watch, Michael stepped up. Who is going to step up and put everything right in America?

A quote: “From the start, Donald Trump was a man of many secrets, but no mysteries. Inscribed indelibly on the public record were the reasons for responsible people to do everything in their power to bar him from the presidency. Instead, since he announced his candidacy in mid-2015, Donald Trump has been enabled and protected. The enabling and protecting not only continues. It accelerates.”

The Real Future of Work

By Danny Vinik, Politico

This look at trends in labour is U.S.-focused but you can certainly see the same trends in Canada. More and more businesses are hiring contractors instead of employees; there is more and more competition among contractors, which is driving rates down, which means contractors are making less than they did as employees, and corporations are getting richer. And there are no protections in place to prevent it. It’s more than a little scary, especially for someone like me who is mulling a potential future os a contractor. Things are great right now, but if everyone is a contractor in 5 years, what are my professional options?

A quote: “Businesses prefer these arrangements, too, because they can shed expensive benefit packages and are not responsible for following federal labor laws. But that also gives them an incentive to “misclassify” their workers, overseeing them as if they were employees but officially classifying them as independent contractors to cut costs.”
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That’s all for this week! Come back next Wednesday for another five things.

Five Things that are worth your time: January 3

Five things that are worth your time - January 3

Five things is back! I managed to miss last week as I was too busy playing Battlefront II, eating junk food and enjoying my holidays. But now I’m back at it! It’s a Deadspin-heavy week, featuring posts about some historic sports photographs, Doris Burke, Star Wars, Titanic… and maybe the end of the world. Enjoy, I guess?

Read moreFive Things that are worth your time: January 3

Five things that are worth your time: December 20

Five things that are worth your time December 20

Here’s some reading material for the holiday weekend! A couple of pieces here are a bit somber, but, important reads nonetheless. The others are more fun and lighthearted, including some cool comic book ads and a look back at the mess that was Game of Thrones Season 7.

Harvey Weinstein Is My Monster Too

Salma Hayek, The New York Times

Actress and producer Salma Hayek details her experiences working with Harvey Weinstein to bring her passion project, Frida, to life. Beyond the disgusting sexual advances, which Hayek was able to rebuff, she explains how Weinstein used his position and authority to devalue her as an artist and as a human being.

A quote: “Halfway through shooting, Harvey turned up on set and complained about Frida’s ‘unibrow.’ He insisted that I eliminate the limp and berated my performance. Then he asked everyone in the room to step out except for me. He told me that the only thing I had going for me was my sex appeal and that there was none of that in this movie. So he told me he was going to shut down the film because no one would want to see me in that role.”

What Happened to Game of Thrones in 2017?

Jason Concepcion, The Ringer

You might remember Jason Concepcion as one-half of the successful Binge Mode podcast, that—incredibly—reviewed and analyzed every episode of Game of Thrones to date. Jason looks back at Season 7 here, which, I can say with a little bit of time having passed, was incredibly disappointing. It had way more lows than highs, and far too many “dumb” moments where characters acted foolishly just to move the plot along. Jason outlines it much better than I can! (Binge Mode is back, by the way, with regular, non-Game of Thrones instalments! Check it out).

A quote: “One of George R.R. Martin’s underrated talents is his ability as a namer of things. Here are some of his battle names: “The Field of Fire,” “The Battle of the Redgrass Field,” “The Taking of Griffin’s Roost,” “The Battle of the Blackwater.” Contrast that with “Loot Train Attack,” the name of the engagement from Episode 4, “The Spoils of War,” which seems like a production title that stuck.”

The Greatest DC and Marvel Comic Book House Ads

Brian Cronin, Comic Book Resources

I grew up in the golden age of comic book house ads; back in the 80s, Marvel and DC would actually commission their artists to create new art solely for use in ads, a practice that’s long since been abandoned. As expected, when you have the likes of Alan Davis, Bill Sienkiewicz, Frank Miller and more creating new art, they produced some incredibly memorable ads. Davis’ Fall of the Mutants ad remains a high point.

A quote: “One of the very best house ads was a pair of ads by the legendary Bill Sienkiewicz that helped promote Power Man and Iron Fist. They were rare examples of house ads where one ad would help set up the other ad…”

Arthur C Clarke at 100: still the king of science fiction

Adam Roberts, The Guardian

This is a too-brief recollection of the life and works of Arthur C. Clarke, who would have turned 100 last week (he died in 2008). I share it only as a reminder to sci-fi fans, that his early work is an absolute must-read. His penchant for producing less-than stellar sequels in the last 25 years of his life should not at all take away from the brilliance of Childhood’s End, or Rendezvous with Rama. And of course, with 2001: A Space Odyssey he teamed up with Stanley Kubrick to produce one of the great works of science fiction film as well. (And, you can see 2001 in 70mm next week at the TIFF Bell Lightbox! I saw it there a couple years ago and it’s the absolute best way to see the film.)

A quote: “What all three works share is the ability to construe moments of astonishing transcendence out of the careful delineation of scientific or technological plausibility. The amazing final line of ‘Nine Billion Names’ (I won’t spoil it, if you don’t know it), the expertly paced uncovering of the mystery of the alien ‘overlords’ who place Earth under benign dictatorship in Childhood’s End and the wondrous uplift of 2001 – this is the genuine strong black coffee of science fiction.”

We spent months bracing and preparing for the death of our daughter. But guess what? We weren’t ready.

Royce Young, Medium

This article is from April, and I shared it on Facebook at the time, but it recently resurfaced in my Twitter feed (h/t to Bruce Arthur) and it’s so good I’m sharing it again. “Good,” actually, isn’t the right word; it’s devastating. Royce Young and his wife found out halfway through her pregnancy that their child wasn’t going to live; here, Royce takes you through the emotional journey and the choice they made to carry their daughter to term and donate her organs. It’s heartbreaking and beautiful and thoughtful.

A quote: “On Sunday, April 16, the day Keri officially hit full-term at 37 weeks, suddenly, we were in the two-week window. In two weeks, we’d be prepping to welcome our baby girl into the world, and preparing to say goodbye to her. I planned on sitting down that day to write Eva a letter, like I did before Harrison was born, to give him on his 18th birthday. She’d never read it, but I was going to read it to her.”
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That’s all for this week! Come back next Wednesday for another five things.