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space balls is highly underrated. it certainly is inconsistent and nothing compared to brooks' earlier work (none of his later work is) but it does a great job of sending up the meta phenomenon of franchise stories as commodities, not stories.

& it has the most brilliant self-aware moment in cinema history: when dark helmut and col. sanders get out the vhs tape of the very movie they are currently in to find the good guys. after fast-forwarding thru the tape past the embarrassing (for them, the bad guys) parts, they get to the exact moment of the movie they are currently experiencing: looking at a monitor of what is essentially a live feed of them looking at the monitor. beckett, had he done movies, could not have been more astute.

plus, daphne zuniga, bill pullman, john candy (as john candy as ever), wonderful lines like "you fools, you captured their stunt doubles!"...

and the great john hurt reprising his role from alien, ending in the wonderful call back to everyone's childhood: the baby alien singing "hello my baby" a la michigan j. frog of loony tunes fame.

what's not to like?


I've been rereading some Sherlock Holmes lately as part of tutoring some high school students. I love the stories, but sometimes Watson comes off as a fawning buffoon. Not that he's a bad guy. It's just that he's so into the heroic construction of Holmes and their adventures that it's a bit overwhelming. In the Red Headed League, Inspector Jones can't even draw a breath properly.

I like your analysis. We have much less tolerance for oddballs nowadays. Anyone not a social butterfly is considered "on the autism spectrum". It's not just Holmes. This was a big point in the most recent My Fair Lady production this year. Higgins didn't just avoid social interaction, he was incapable of social interaction. It was a good production and it worked, but this was slightly off key. Granted, it had to be for a modern audience.

For all our apparent increased tolerance, we've grown less tolerant. At one point, you could have a young man interested in dance or a woman interested in auto mechanics, and they'd just be considered unusual. Nowadays, they are considered gender benders and their secular interests would be intertwined with their sexuality. People aren't just that simple.

Rereading the Holmes stories, I am once again impressed with how much of the story and backstory are off camera. Holmes had to spend a lot of time cultivating his irregulars, as he called them. He often went about in disguise for extended periods. Doyle lards his stories with references to other, even more fascinating stories, and not just The Tale of the Giant Rat of Sumatra. When did he first tangle with John Clay? They're like Joan Aiken's song titles, Calico Alley or Three Herrings for a Ha'penny, so evocative that one would prefer not to be disappointed by the actual song.

Doyle is often underrated. Have you read any of his Brigadier Gerard stories? Gerard is a magnificent hero of the Napoleonic Wars, a Frenchman so sure of his own confused view of the world that he often becomes a hero in spite of himself. He lives in his own peculiar world that just happens to overlap with the ongoing war. As the narrator, he is his own Watson and builds his own myth and character. Here, the reader can see much more widely, and a lot of the humor flows from the contrast. If you view the Holmes and Watson stories through this lens, you can imagine a lot of humor creeping in.

calling all toasters

Wonderful analysis, but....

Isn't Holmes basically the first superhero, the man with unparalleled powers but without a tragic flaw? (Sociopathy doesn't count as a tragic flaw to me, and neither does cocaine) As such I find his persistent popularity to be a sad sign of the times and relentlessly boring. Downey's apparent boredom with himself and everything around him was what made those movies actually kind of fun.

Lance Mannion

toasters, Holmes would be the first to disagree he's a superhero. He routinely insists that anybody with a modicum of intelligence (Watson being the prime example, but certain members of Scotland Yard as well) could learn his methods and learn to apply them. It's also the case that Watson does tend to romanticize his friend. (This is partly Conan Doyle at work trying to humanize a character he was worried his readers wouldn't really like.) I don't see him as a superhero myself. But I do see him as the prototype for a specific superhero, one who travels under the sobriquet "The World's Greatest Detective." IIRC, Holmes is one of Bruce Wayne's heroes and role models.

Kaleberg, I haven't read any of the Gerard series. I'll have to check them out. Sounds like Doyle did Flashman before Flashman.

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