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Culture Briefs

- - Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bring the crazy

"You could be crazy like Matt Groening's early-'90s writing staff on 'The Simpsons,' which aired its first-ever Halloween anthology 20 years ago this month — suddenly treating their beloved characters as repertory company actors and having them play monsters and zombies, get mutilated and killed, grow to giant size, re-enact Edgar Allan Poe, acquire a third dimension, feast on human flesh. … Be crazy like 'The Sopranos,' which thought nothing of spending an entire episode with a handful of regular characters and leaving the rest off screen that week, or delving into its main character's dreams for five or 10 or even 20 minutes at a stretch, or ending the finale with a cut to black so abrupt that millions of viewers thought their cable had gone out.

"Or crazy like 'Twin Peaks,' which … had its hero, Agent Dale Cooper, getting shot by an unknown assailant at the end of season one, then picked up again a few months later with Cooper bleeding on the floor, and then, instead of moving the plot forward, tortured audiences by having Cooper get lost in more Lynchian dream images and engage in an endless, dithering conversation with a senile old man. (So many viewers were absolutely livid at David Lynch for toying with them so flagrantly — but they remember every second of that sequence, and 20 years later, they don't hate Lynch, they chuckle at his audacity and adore what he represents.)"

Matt Zoller Seitz, writing on "Fly, Ryan Murphy! Be Free!" on Oct. 27 at the House Next Door

Batman again

"In a new interview over at Hero Complex, Christopher Nolan reveals that the title of the next Batman film will be 'The Dark Knight Rises,' alluding to the film being about Batman returning to his heroic roots after fleeing Gotham as a wanted man at the end of 'The Dark Knight.'

"Furthermore, Nolan ruled out the Riddler as being the main villain in the third installment, simply stating that 'it won't be the Riddler.' Another revelation to come from HC's interview with the elusive director is that Warner Bros. has agreed to not go the 3D route with 'The Dark Knight Rises', and instead will allow Nolan to do what he did with 'The Dark Knight' and balance both high-definition and IMAX cameras to help deliver a power punch up on the big screen.

"'We'll use many of the same characters as we have all along, and we'll be introducing some new ones,' Nolan said, without revealing any names. However, while he may not be saying much, we can start with a process of elimination. So far we know it's not Riddler or Mr. Freeze, so considering The Dark Knight's title was just as much about Harvey Dent as it was about Batman, where do you think Nolan will go with 'The Dark Knight Rises'?"

Erik Davis, writing on "'Batman 3' Titled 'The Dark Knight Rises,'" on Oct 27 at the Moviefone blog Cinematical

Seller's market

"With the help of a copywriter named John E. Kennedy, [Albert] Lasker further developed his philosophy. Advertising was, as Kennedy put it, 'salesmanship in print.' You had to appeal to a consumers self-interest. You had to give potential customers a 'reason why,' a directive that would make them understand how a product could dramatically improve their life in some way. 'A century later, this doesnt sound like a particularly powerful insight,' [authors Jeffrey Cruikshank and Arthur Schultz] observe. But in 1898, Laskers approach to commerce was as revolutionary an idea as Amazon and eBay would be 100 years later.

"Over the course of his career, Lasker oversaw dozens of hugely successful campaigns and established Lord & Thomas as one of the leading agencies in the United States. Lord & Thomas made oranges and raisins proprietary by creating the brands Sunkist and Sun-Maid. … It figured out a better way to market Kotex, offering it in a 'wrapped box' that women could pick up and purchase without having to request it from a sales clerk. … It helped Lucky Strike increase sales 600 percent in just three years by positioning it as an alternative to sweets for women watching their figures. It brought 'Amos & Andy' to NBCs radio network, hired an unknown Bob Hope to serve as its pitchman for Pepsodent, and helped pioneer the soap opera genre with its radio show 'The Story of Mary Marlin.'"

— Greg Beato, writing on "The Original Mad Man," in the November 2010 issue of Reason