A Normal Day in the Unusual Life of Michael Keaton
February 3, 2014 8:14 AM   Subscribe

  1. Monday. I am asked to interview Michael Keaton. They tell me he lives in Montana.
  2. I tell my brother, who texts back: 220, 221, whtvr it takes.
  3. A call from my editor: "They said maybe you should go pheasant hunting. He's making a movie called Birdman. Stay tuned. It might be soon."

23. Hunt. Grass rises in clumps, more like fists than weeds. In between, the bleached and broken bones of antelope litter the dirt spots, which makes no never mind to Michael Keaton. He points to mountain ranges, three of them in view, names them, names an unseen river.
"Please don't name them. I don't want anyone to triangulate."
(SL Esquire)
posted by Elementary Penguin (108 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
I always liked his Batman, although he falls short, as do they all, of the greatest Batman ever, Mr. George Clooney.
posted by thelonius at 8:17 AM on February 3 [6 favorites]


You know what's an underrated movie? Multiplicity.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:20 AM on February 3 [18 favorites]


Adam West is the best Batman. And I think that Keaton, like so many actors, gets very tired of being interviewed by people who don't really know his work. As for triangulation--a quick search shows me he lives near Big Timber, where Tom Brokaw and Whoopi Goldberg have ranches. Not a secret.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:26 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


I like Michael Keaton, but calling him "one of the most beloved actors in the history of American cinema" seems like considerable overkill.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:28 AM on February 3 [18 favorites]


Burton: "My original thought for Beetlejuice was Sammy Davis Jr."

Woah. I want to see that. I don't think anyone could top Keaton there, but I really want to see Davis' version.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:29 AM on February 3 [7 favorites]


Keaton's Batman was the best batman. Every other has been but a pale imitation.
I like the mismatched quality of [the dogs]. I like them a little askew like they are. With different strengths of character. I don't want dogs that have had the personality trained out of them. It's a partnership. I want to connect. I'll hunt with some guys, with their dogs, and think, This is like working with a robot. They're kind of too perfect. These two? Utterly imperfect. You gotta like a little imperfection of character."
I would hunt with Micheal Keaton.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:31 AM on February 3 [6 favorites]


You come away with the feeling that Michael Keaton missed being Bill Murray by this much, like 2 tablespoons too much self-consciousness.
posted by penduluum at 8:37 AM on February 3 [35 favorites]


I feel like Jack Frost was just so godawful that it basically sapped Keaton's will to act. He's been in stuff since then, but nothing really notable, from what I can tell.
posted by kmz at 8:43 AM on February 3


So does that make Jack Frost Michael Keaton's live action Garfield movies?
posted by Elementary Penguin at 8:46 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


Love Keaton and wish that he got more roles but it doesn't really seem like he does.
posted by octothorpe at 8:48 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


24. Micheal Keaton, afraid to make sense and once again prizing his ability at making communication difficult cheers on a herd of brahmas as they chew grass, heads down. This isn't exactly interesting but it's also not completely hackneyed nor quirk-free, much like the string of 80's movies starring the glib young man.
posted by Colonel Panic at 8:48 AM on February 3


Hard to choose my favorite Keaton, but I'll definitely show some love for his role in Ken Burns' Much Ado About Nothing.

I can't wait to show Johnny Dangerously to my kids.
posted by tilde at 8:48 AM on February 3 [4 favorites]


So does that make Jack Frost Michael Keaton's live action Garfield movies?

Actually yeah, if Murray had that 2 tablespoons too much self-consciousness pendulum mentioned, I bet the live action Garfields would have done to Murray what Jack Frost did to Keaton.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:48 AM on February 3


Night Shift is still one of my favorite movies from the 1980s.
posted by briank at 8:50 AM on February 3 [15 favorites]


I worked for years as a house painter and 220 is a standard grit for finishing sandpaper so that "220 221" line got quoted a lot on the job.
posted by octothorpe at 8:52 AM on February 3 [4 favorites]


He's Batman.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:52 AM on February 3 [8 favorites]


Ken Burns' Much Ado About Nothing.

Dearest Beatrice:

The fighting has been brutal. Private Conrade was cut down by a verbal ambush and we could do nothing but hold his hand as his heart metaphorically bled to death. I can only hope that some day I will be able to come home and see you again.

Yours, Benedick.
posted by kmz at 8:53 AM on February 3 [44 favorites]


I was hoping Michael Keaton was starring in a screen adaptation of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:55 AM on February 3 [12 favorites]


I can't wait to show Johnny Dangerously to my kids.

I've been afraid to rewatch Johnny Dangerously for a long time, because it seems impossible for it to be as awesome as I remember. In my mind, at least, it's the perfect silly comedy.
posted by COBRA! at 8:56 AM on February 3


"Cannot stop hearing Michael Keaton, his boundless monologues, the wait-wait-wait enthusiasm for the ceaseless unfolding of story, that flange of worry that emerges in him when a thought goes unfinished, has become my personal tinnitus. . . . For a week, every man I meet—the basketball coach, the guys I play poker with at the American Legion, contractors, teachers, bartenders—all sound like Michael Keaton."

Great writing, but what I took from this is that Michael Keaton is effing exhausting.
posted by pineappleheart at 8:58 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


Keaton's one of those actors where it seems like he could have a defining comeback role at any time in almost any genre if he wanted - like, I could equally see him as the next big actor in the HBO/Showtime/AMC cable drama of the moment or in the most memorable role in a big blockbuster Apatow comedy or something. I don't really rate him as one of my favorite actors but when I try to think of a way to fault him, I really do come up short. Dude's versatile.
posted by jason_steakums at 8:59 AM on February 3 [7 favorites]


He was great in The Other Guys.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:59 AM on February 3 [3 favorites]


I love how out of all of the celebs Keaton sent him to for quotes, Larry David is the one the author feels comfortable confiding in about Keaton's weirdness.

This also reminds me of a somewhat similar Esquire profile from 2005 about Val Kilmer, only in Kilmer's case the ranch house is in New Mexico, not Montana.
posted by thecjm at 9:05 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


Val Kilmer also was great at the young glib guy role - Top Secret, Real Genius.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:08 AM on February 3


Oh lord, I remember the nerd rage when he was first named Batman. Back then, the only outlets we nerdlings had to vent our rage were BBSes and the letter columns at the comic books and it was still beyond ridiculous. That frothing rage that lasted right up until the first trailer.

Keaton had an interesting take on Bats, for sure, and I rank him second, right behind Bale. But let's be honest--the best part of Batman 1989 was Anton Furst.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:14 AM on February 3 [3 favorites]


I liked Keaton in The Other Guys. There never was a good Batman portrayal because Batman sucks.
posted by planetesimal at 9:14 AM on February 3


I think Bale's Batman is going to age horribly, helped out by the diminishing quality of the movies. I think in 30 years if people care about Batman, the best (non-animated) batman will be Adam West, with Keaton a close second.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:16 AM on February 3


Ooh, I used to live in Montana and I worked at the local equivalent of REI. Michael Keaton came in one day with his kids and bought several thousand dollars worth of stuff. I didn't have much of a conversation with him besides "here's your receipt, sign here, have a good day" but he seemed like a really nice guy, if quiet.

We were specifically instructed by our managers not to make a big deal over celebrities because there really are a lot who own ranches nearby and it wasn't uncommon for them to come into the store. So I bit my lip and tried hard not to stare.

Okay, I may have stared at Dennis Quaid, back in his hotter days, and that led to me tripping on the sidewalk.
posted by desjardins at 9:19 AM on February 3 [4 favorites]


1. Freshman year of high school, being taught how to write a term paper in Western Civ class.
2. We're told to put all the points we want to make on index cards, then rearrange the index cards into logical order, then write transitions between the cards.
3. I gaze in despair at the dining table covered in index cards, wondering how I will ever be able to string them all together.
4. Kids today need never feel this despair. It's all just index cards.
posted by HotToddy at 9:21 AM on February 3 [12 favorites]


I'm pretty sure this is the hotel referenced in the article.
posted by desjardins at 9:24 AM on February 3


I'm pretty sure the town referenced in "Do not stay in _______ " is Bozeman, which is a shame because it's a great town, and it's where I worked, but there really aren't any nice hotels, only Holiday Inn and the like. Sorry for the Montana derail.
posted by desjardins at 9:28 AM on February 3


My favorite roll of his is Ray Nicolette, the cop character who confirms that Out of Sight and Jackie Brown are in the same universe.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:30 AM on February 3 [9 favorites]


So is this person eventually going to write the article? Or do we just get the notes?
posted by GrapeApiary at 9:31 AM on February 3 [6 favorites]


You know what's an underrated movie? Multiplicity.

European viewers had much more intriguing titles for it: French and Spanish audiences saw Mes doubles, ma femme et moi or Mis dobles, mi mujer y yo, depending: "My doubles, my wife and me"; Germans had Vier lieben dich "Four to love you"; and in Italy, it was the bald Mi sdoppio in quattro, which means "I have split myself in four." Finns saw it as Minusta on moneksi and although I speak little Finnish, Google translates that as "I think it is many things." Czechs had the heartwarming-sounding Jako vejce vejci, or "Like peas in a pod." And Poles -- here I rely on Google Translate again -- had the opportunity to see Mezowie i zona, which seems to be "Statesmen and wife."

In conclusion, marketing Michael Keaton movies is a land of contrasts. Thank you.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:33 AM on February 3 [14 favorites]


In conclusion, marketing Michael Keaton movies is a land of contrasts. Thank you.
posted by ricochet biscuit
LOVELY.
posted by tilde at 9:38 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


I've been afraid to rewatch Johnny Dangerously for a long time, because it seems impossible for it to be as awesome as I remember.

1. Nope.

2. Still that awesome.

3. Watched it a few weeks back.

4. The only things that kind of hitched it were the malt liquor bit and Dom DeLuise as the pope, but I don't know why.
posted by Etrigan at 9:38 AM on February 3 [3 favorites]


Mr. Mom is comedy gold! I haven't seen it in some years and fear the whole, "Look at the man staying home while the woman goes to work to support the family! Have you ever seen anything so hilariously off kilter and insane in your life?" theme might make me squirm. Still! It's an artifact of its time, and Keaton is hilarious in it. Teri Garr's in it, to, so hey! That's a great combo there.
posted by but no cigar at 9:42 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


I let Etrigan criticize Dom DeLuise as the pope once. ONCE.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:43 AM on February 3 [11 favorites]


I just watched the "220, 221" scene, and man is that the textbook definition of a parallax error.

Back on topic, I have enjoyed Michael Keaton in many movies.
posted by oneironaut at 9:44 AM on February 3


I got a wallet. Guy gave it to me.
posted by stenseng at 9:44 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


His Batman was fine, but his Bruce Wayne was great. Probably the best. He seemed to actually understand that Batman is just the shadow puppet show for a very troubled man.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:49 AM on February 3 [20 favorites]


I assure you, I would never criticize Captain Chaos. It just kinda took me out of the movie for a second. Maybe because he's dead now, maybe because I'm used to the post-John 23 skinnier, less Italian popes.
posted by Etrigan at 9:49 AM on February 3


I remember seeing Batman in Helena when it came out. It really blew my mind. I don't think the new Batmans really blew anyone's mind. They were entertaining, but it seems like any of Bales' contemporaries could have filled the role and no one would have noticed. Burton's Batman seems to exist on just the other side of reality, and does so on purpose, whereas the new Batmans try to convince us that all these impossible things are reality. It's weird trying to imagine Batman now living in Montana. I'd love to move back there, if the politics weren't so toxic.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:50 AM on February 3 [2 favorites]


From Mr. Mom, the "220, 221" line is the well-known classic, but as a sleeper pick I recommend "want a beer?"
posted by mcstayinskool at 10:00 AM on February 3 [5 favorites]


Has he ever played a crazy conspiracy theorist? His natural manic patter would lend itself well to that.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:00 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


Esquire is kind of BS. It's not so unusual and he's not so important. But he is a good actor and an interesting person who has been in some good movies.
posted by Napierzaza at 10:18 AM on February 3


I wanted to like the writing in this article, because I usually like it when writers mess around with the standard formula and because for sentences at a time the writing here is quite good. In this case it just never became clear why the number segments were there -- I don't see them adding to the article much. So it just feels unfinished, as has been pointed out above.

Maybe this is what the notes to Gay Talese's Sinatra profile looked like before he was done with it.

(I learned about that from this post, which is full of good writing)
posted by cubby at 10:30 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


In this case it just never became clear why the number segments were there -- I don't see them adding to the article much. So it just feels unfinished, as has been pointed out above.

I didn't find the device particularly successful either, but I suspect it was meant to mimic Keaton's list-making.
posted by pineappleheart at 10:36 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


The new Batman movies are overlong shit except for the one saved by Heath Ledger; the final one in particular just failed to thrive on so many different levels. One of the great tragedies of our age is that Christopher Nolan's career isn't dead. He's like Michael Bay only he doesn't realize he's terrible. Nor do many critics, for some insane reason. Then there's Christian Bale, who can't act his way out of a wet paper bag and certainly is not a better Batman than Keaton. Bale's only good role was in American Psycho, which leveraged his plastic inhumanity for good, not evil.

There is also The Prestige, which is a good movie in spite of his presence. Not sucking while having Christian Bale as the lead is probably the greatest magic trick in the entire film.

It's not great, but I've always had an overly soft spot in my heart for The Dream Team.
posted by jsturgill at 10:36 AM on February 3 [9 favorites]


Shit, I thought I was the only one that remembered Dream Team with any fondness. Great cast working with so-so material but when those guys got a great line they SOLD it:

Jack McDermott: This is the body and blood of our savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. And a damned fine Beaujolais!
posted by Ber at 10:44 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


jsturgill didn't see American Hustle, I see... (I agree that Nolan is a bit overrated and apparently lives in a world where his every banal idea is treated like genius, though.)
posted by Navelgazer at 10:52 AM on February 3


And for the culture snobs, there's his Pythonesque Dogberry. He does better I think when not affecting "funny" voices (and hear how poorly he articulates compared to his fellow players).

Though I did like Beetlejuice.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:54 AM on February 3


COBRA!: "I've been afraid to rewatch Johnny Dangerously for a long time, because it seems impossible for it to be as awesome as I remember. In my mind, at least, it's the perfect silly comedy."

I rewatched it last year, expecting it to fail. Nope. It's even better than I remembered.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:04 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


Michael Keaton sings and dances, too!
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:16 AM on February 3 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed this. The writer nails Keaton's body language and tone. Or at least, the body language from his movies - so, is the nailing-the-body-language thing a product of having watched the movies and had some time to think about best phrases for characteristic movements? Or is Keaton's body language still really like that?

At any rate - favorite Keaton factoid, which I found out not long ago -- as a young man he worked as a prop guy on Mr Rogers' Neighborhood. He would hide in the closet (where Mr Rogers hangs his cardigan) and whisper jokes to Mr Rogers while they were filming.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:27 AM on February 3 [6 favorites]


Gung Ho is my favorite Keaton movie. That is my statement.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:01 PM on February 3


He's Beetlejuice.

Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Beetlejuice! (That's 4x though.)
posted by discopolo at 12:04 PM on February 3


Night Shift is still one of my favorite movies from the 1980s.

"I'm an idea man, Chuck..."
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:15 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


Love Keaton and wish that he got more roles but it doesn't really seem like he does.

It's a couple of years old now, but he was so great in The Other Guys.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:19 PM on February 3


I will never not watch Beetlejuice if it's on. George Lazenby was the best Batman ever. That is all.
posted by Mister_A at 12:28 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


Just wanted to chime in and recommend Keaton's interview with Marc Maron on WTF. Well worth a listen.
posted by nevercalm at 12:35 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


The Paper. Keaton in classic form. Possibly the best Ron Howard film, too.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 12:37 PM on February 3


I love Keaton and yep, The Paper is one of my favourites. I also love Pacific Heights.
posted by turbid dahlia at 12:54 PM on February 3


My favourite Michael Keaton story was told by Shelley Long on Letterman when she was promoting "Night Shift." She said that she and Michael and I guess some others went out on the town after filming one day. They ran into some of Michael's brothers in a bar. (He comes from quite a large family.) Her comment on the evening was something like "Let's just say that Michael is NOT the funny one in that family."
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 1:18 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


Desjardin's is right about thea hotel, it's the Murray. It's the only hotel I've stayed in in Montana where the desk clerk has to take you up in the elevator.

Bozeman not has a couple of decent hotels, but the Murray is a much better place to stay, even if it no longer has the rooftop hot tub..
posted by ITravelMontana at 1:32 PM on February 3


Some of us don't remember The Dream Team with any fondness because it is over-the-top insulting and patronizing to anyone with mental illness, works with patients, or is close to one.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:45 PM on February 3


I don't get the Bale hate or the Nolan hate AT ALL. I'm totally baffled by it. I'll admit the last Batman film comes apart in the third act, but the first two are by my lights the best superhero films yet made. I'll also eagerly defend Nolan's other work (Memento is still brilliant; ditto The Pretige) as well as Bale's, but this post is about Keaton.

Despite being mired in the 80s, the Keaton/Burton Batman films are legitimately good, and are without a doubt the best Batman films that were possible at the time. The whole idea of taking comic heroes at all seriously was still sorta new for cinema back then, so these were the "Dark Knight"-iest versions we were gonna get until Nolan and Bale.

Once the first one worked, Burton got a much freer hand, and as a consequence Batman Returns was a much better film, especially on a character level. The interplay between Bruce/Batman and Selena/Catwoman is in particular delightful, and not even scenery-chewing by DeVito and Walken could ruin it.

Then, of course, Schumacher came in and stank up the joint.

(Adam West? Seriously? That's only the best Batman if you're a ten year old boy in 1968.)
posted by uberchet at 1:58 PM on February 3 [5 favorites]


Some of us don't remember The Dream Team with any fondness because it is over-the-top insulting and patronizing to anyone with mental illness, works with patients, or is close to one.

Mental illness is very hard to get right. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Rain Man, and The Dream Team were it for a while as far as mainstream Hollywood went. It may be the least of those three, and the most problematic, but not worthless. I think it depends on whether you read it as strictly a comedy, or if you find pathos in it. I recall the performances being way better than the material, and the characters pretty human.

I can totally understand disliking it intensely, though.
posted by jsturgill at 2:07 PM on February 3


(Adam West? Seriously? That's only the best Batman if you're a ten year old boy in 1968.)

The movie was comedy gold, and West is great on the commentary track, too, if you happen to have the DVD.
posted by jsturgill at 2:13 PM on February 3


I also love Pacific Heights.

He was pretty damn menacing in that film. He can really bring the crazy when he needs to.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:15 PM on February 3


Adam West? Seriously?

I heard that he was genuinely hurt that they didn't call him for what became the Keaton/Nicholson one
posted by thelonius at 2:26 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure Burton made almost exactly the Batman movie he wanted to make. I don't see it as being somehow constrained by unsophisticated movie making technology, or whatever point you're trying to make. It was an excellent spectacle, with a villain only matched by Ledger's Joker. Most people probably couldn't even name the actors who played the villains in the first Nolan picture. I'm not sure Batman is even in the third one.
posted by Brocktoon at 2:28 PM on February 3 [2 favorites]


For the type of Batman Adam west was, he was the perfect Batman.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:39 PM on February 3 [2 favorites]


You know what's an underrated movie? Multiplicity.

"I LIKE PIZZA!"
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:56 PM on February 3 [5 favorites]


I don't get the Bale hate

I could explain it to you, but it would be a series of unintelligible grunts.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:57 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


Beetlejuice is one of my all-time favourite silly movies. Keaton was just spectacular.

His surprise cameo on 30 Rock was pretty awesome too.

I would have liked to have seen pre-IG Tarantino (i.e., Tarantino before he bought wholesale into his own hype after KB and had gobs of money thrown his way) direct Keaton in something. Anything, really. I think Tarantino could have done with Keaton what he did with Travolta.

Then there's Christian Bale, who can't act his way out of a wet paper bag

Pistols at dawn, sir or madam. See also: Empire of the Sun. "There was.. opulence!"

not even scenery-chewing by DeVito and Walken could ruin it

PISTOLS AT THE DAWN AFTER, MADAM OR SIR.

Scene-chewing by DeVito and/or Walken can only ever improve a movie. This is just How Things Are.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:19 PM on February 3 [3 favorites]


I liked Christian Bale in All the Little Animals, but it wasn't really a "Christian Bale" movie, per se; it was a John Hurt movie that had Christian Bale in it.

I also liked him in Empire of the Sun.
posted by infinitywaltz at 3:23 PM on February 3


I'm pretty sure Burton made almost exactly the Batman movie he wanted to make. I don't see it as being somehow constrained by unsophisticated movie making technology, or whatever point you're trying to make.

There was a lot of studio interference.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:26 PM on February 3


I would have liked to have seen pre-IG Tarantino (i.e., Tarantino before he bought wholesale into his own hype after KB and had gobs of money thrown his way) direct Keaton in something. Anything, really. I think Tarantino could have done with Keaton what he did with Travolta.

I say again, Keaton is in Tarantino's Jackie Brown.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:45 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


I suppose I should have added 'in the lead role' but I thought that was kinda obvious oh well
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:47 PM on February 3


Ah! No, I just misunderstood you.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:53 PM on February 3


>> Adam West? Seriously?

> I heard that he was genuinely hurt that they didn't call him for what became the Keaton/Nicholson one


He went on a speaking tour around the time of the '89 movie & said they should have chosen him. He then proceeded to make a bunch of sexist jokes about various catwomen which did not go down well at a small midwestern liberal arts college. He thought he was a funny guy, but seemed completely unaware of the camp factor of the Batman TV show or that the character could be played another way.
posted by morganw at 4:05 PM on February 3


remember seeing Batman in Helena when it came out. It really blew my mind. I don't think the new Batmans really blew anyone's mind. They were entertaining, but it seems like any of Bales' contemporaries could have filled the role and no one would have noticed.

I agree about Bale, who is a solid actor but for me is a bit too straightforward and overly earnest to make much of an impression. Remember that back in the day, people were shocked about "Michael Keaton as Batman? Are you kidding me?" But Keaton was a great choice, because he could do comedy and drama.

I liked the Burton Batman films alright, but the goofy tone didn't work for me; it was only slightly more serious than the 60s TV show. (And we will not speak of Joel Schumacher's distortions). But Christopher Nolan's reboot was fantastic, even though the sequels, though good, are far too bloated.

In short, in another world, Michael Keaton is Batman in Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins, and that is the best world.
posted by zardoz at 4:12 PM on February 3 [3 favorites]


Could we at least give him the Batsuit from The Dark Knight so he can finally turn his head?
posted by entropicamericana at 5:17 PM on February 3


uberchet: "(Adam West? Seriously? That's only the best Batman if you're a ten year old boy in 1968.)"

He didn’t need molded plastic to improve his physique. Pure. West.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:09 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]


Bunny Ultramod: "His Batman was fine, but his Bruce Wayne was great. Probably the best. He seemed to actually understand that Batman is just the shadow puppet show for a very troubled man."

I agree. I remember seeing Burton's Batman in the theater and being amazed at the scene in Vicki Vale's apartment where Bruce Wayne confronts the Joker:

Bruce Wayne: I know who you are. Let me tell you about this guy I know, Jack. Mean kid. Bad seed. Hurt people.
The Joker: I like him already.
[laughs]
Bruce Wayne: Now you know the problem was... he got sloppy. You know? Crazy. He started to lose it. He had a head full of bad wiring, I guess.
[Walks towards the fireplace]
Bruce Wayne: Couldn't keep it straight up here.
[Points to his head]
Bruce Wayne: He was the kind of guy who couldn't hear the train until it was 2 feet from him.
The Joker: Hmm.
[Smiles and nods his head]
Bruce Wayne: You know what happened to this guy, Jack?
The Joker: [Shakes his head]
Bruce Wayne: Well... he made mistakes. Then he had his
[grabs a poker and smashes a vase]
Bruce Wayne: LIGHTS OUT! Now you wanna get nuts? Come on! Let's get nuts.


I thought that Keaton just totally took the focus of the scene from Nicholson. From Jack *freaking* Nicholson! Which I would have thought impossible if I hadn't just seen it.
posted by John Smallberries at 7:02 PM on February 3 [4 favorites]


Tell me something, John Smallberries...have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 7:15 PM on February 3 [2 favorites]


Has this shown up here yet?
He's always been such a "down to Earth guy".
posted by Mr.Me at 7:16 PM on February 3 [2 favorites]


I agree with Bunny Ultramod, in that Keaton's Batman isn't the point. His Bruce Wayne is easily the best interpretation. The key moments to me are in the first one, where he threatens the Nicholsen with the fireplace poker, seeming crazy enough to give the Joker a pause, and the second, when he tears off his mask to try to convince Selina that she can still just walk away, that he doesn't have to be Batman, she doesn't have to be Catwoman. When Walken as Max Schreck asks why Bruce Wayne is dressed up as Batman, she replies "He is Batman, you idiot!" and is, essentially rejecting his idea that they could ever be anything different than they are. Nothing in any of the other movies comes close to capturing that.

The Keaton Bruce Wayne is the interpretation of Wayne as a horribly damaged man who uses a mask to try to fix the world that's fallen apart around him. The Bale Batman is the psychotic masked avenger who has a useful disguise of a billionaire playboy that he uses only when he absolutely has to, who despises the time he spends not being Batman. Sure, the Bale Batman kicks ass, and is definitely a great Batman, but Keaton is a fantastic Bruce Wayne, and through that, his Batman retains some of the warmth and humanity that Bale's Batman has discarded.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:10 PM on February 3 [10 favorites]


Also, I obviously agree with John Smallberries.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:11 PM on February 3


Pacific Heights is so close to being a great movie that it just makes my heart ache to think about it, but it was made merely good right at the beginning, where you find out that Keaton's character is, if not a bad guy, definitely mixed up with the bad guys. If they'd left out that one scene, you might have wondered, at least for a while, if the nice young couple were just freaking out a little and picking on their new tenant without much of a good reason because they were worried about the house that they'd sunk all their money into and weren't prepared to be landlords. As it is, you're just waiting for the other shoe to drop, like any other suspense flick.

Speaking of not being fair, any and every time the fanboys freak out about the announced casting of the next big superhero film (Ben Affleck being the latest beneficiary of this studied refusal to get a grip), I think of all the hullaballoo over Keaton's casting. The thing about Keaton's Bruce Wayne is that he seemed like the sort of weirdo loner (not all that far from how he's portrayed in this article) who might just get it into his head one day to have someone make him a bespoke furry suit to wear while beating up thugs, even though his Batmobile is impressive enough in its capabilities that there's no more reason for him to get out of it than there would have been for a tank commander to exit his machine and challenge a Wehrmacht platoon to a fistfight. I never got that from either of the Batschumachers--Clooney could have done it, but didn't, and Kilmer seemed to be stuck in that sort of diffident contempt that seems to be his natural state--and even though I think Bale is a fine actor, he never gave the impression that he was really into it so much as he thought that it would throw crooks off-balance, which it probably would.

And, of course, Batman Returns is much better than the first one, not because the first one was that bad (although there are weird little glitches and oddly missing parts in it) but because it gets to a decent portrayal of the likely emotional reality of costumed folk, that they'd try to connect with each other in some way (despite being on different sides of the law) but be unable to because they were as intrinsically isolated from each other as they were from society at large.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:47 PM on February 3 [2 favorites]


I want pizza. Get me some pizza.

And a monkey.


...

And yeah, I always loved his Batman. But part (much?) of that was probably Burton.

He was good in Out of Sight too. Amongst many other movies.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:55 PM on February 3


Hey kid, you like music?

Nice frame.

Call Starkist.
posted by bongo_x at 10:05 PM on February 3


I agree. I remember seeing Burton's Batman in the theater and being amazed at the scene in Vicki Vale's apartment where Bruce Wayne confronts the Joker:

Youtube.
posted by flug at 11:57 PM on February 3


Halloween Jack: "And, of course, Batman Returns is much better than the first one"

This is not a universally held opinion.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:08 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


The more I think about Bill Murray and Michael Keaton, the more I want to see a new Ghostbusters movie where the antagonist is Beetlejuice.

I know this could go horribly wrong, but if you let the actors including Murray and Keaton have a hand in the script, pull in a few others to work the draft over, and then have the right production staff, it could be a thing of beauty.

I'm thinking Tim Burton produces along with the old Ghostbuster crowd, but does not direct. Director is hard. My heart kind of wants to see what Trey Parker and Matt Stone could do for the franchises, my intellect wants Joel Coen but realizes it totally wouldn't fit (maybe he could help the script?), and my gut's telling me Greg Mottola or Edgar Wright are near perfect fits. Obviously I must subconsciously want Simon Pegg to have a part.
posted by Muddler at 7:36 AM on February 4 [3 favorites]


I used to dream.
posted by planetesimal at 7:39 AM on February 4


As soon as the quote came up about three mountain ranges I knew where this was. We stayed in that town last summer. To call the little bistro next to the hotel a "coffee shop" is a great disservice. I'm just sad we didn't get to eat at the white tablecloth place behind the hotel (they closed at 9:00, which is pretty typical for the West/Midwest).
posted by Ber at 8:57 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


"Take LIVE tuna fish, and FEED 'em mayonnaise!"
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:10 AM on February 4 [1 favorite]


Whatever. Batman Returns is absolutely the better of the Burton ones.

And Bale's interpretation was basically like what Bill says about Superman in the end of Kill Bill. That is to say, for Bale, Bruce Wayne is the human suit that Batman wears in public.And that's how it has to be for the story they were telling, where Batman keeps telling Rachel that he can take off the mask, and she understands more than he does that no, he really really can't (and of course the end of TDKR undercuts this but that movie was awful anyway.)

As others have said, Keaton's Bruce Wayne is a convincing billionaire loner who only interacts really with Alfred, and who little by little over the years started beating people up dressed in a bat costume, like it was a natural progression for him.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:15 AM on February 4


Beyond the ridiculous Batman voice, I'll never forgive Bale for badmouthing Newsies. That just ain't right, mister.
posted by kmz at 12:29 PM on February 4


As others have said, Keaton's Bruce Wayne is a convincing billionaire loner who only interacts really with Alfred, and who little by little over the years started beating people up dressed in a bat costume, like it was a natural progression for him.

Even that uncharitable description of Keaton's take is an improvement over a Batman who became a ninja master so he could fight crime. Is it 1983 again and I didn't notice? Holy montage, Nolan!

I feel like Batman's fundamental nature (when taken seriously) dictates he should be Indie in this scene, not the guy with the scimitar. Nolan's Batman is totally the guy with the scimitar.
posted by jsturgill at 12:48 PM on February 4


This is not a universally held opinion.

Wow. That's far and away the least favorite thing of Chris Sims' that I've ever read. It seems like he's ranking it below the Schumacher movies, so I think I can just stop right there.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:17 PM on February 4 [1 favorite]


This is not a universally held opinion.

To say the least. I thought the Burton Batman movies were OK at the time, but had not aged well at all and I have a pretty low opinion of them, although I haven’t sat through a whole one in years. I guess I just assumed that everyone shared that opinion and was surprised to find people here that really like them.
posted by bongo_x at 10:47 AM on February 5


"constrained by unsophisticated movie making technology,"

My point has nothing to do with technology, and everything to do with what was possible to get funding for. Superhero stories had gotten grittier and more realistic in comics by 1989, but the movie people wanted no part of that kind of superhero movie in the 1980s. Burton's films are, in some ways, Adam West crossed with Frank Miller.

As for the actors opposite Bale, I suspect most people know who Liam Neeson is, and that he played the baddie in Batman Begins, so my guess is you're wrong about that. If you're not sure Batman's in The Dark Knight Rises, I suspect you of not having seen the film.

"...Keaton is a fantastic Bruce Wayne, and through that, his Batman retains some of the warmth and humanity that Bale's Batman has discarded."

That's not wrong, of course, but the most influential text on the Nolan films (i.e., Miller) includes precisely this psychopathic nutjob Batman who barely exists otherwise (as stated by someone else, it's kind of like Bill's discussion of Superman in Kill Bill). That wasn't Bale's choice, I don't think; that was the nature of the story being told. By the time Frank Miller published The Dark Knight Returns, the idea that Batman could actually function as a normal human AND be this obsessive, highly tuned vigilante was pretty well dead. Modern Batman is necessarily understood as a crazy person.
posted by uberchet at 12:06 PM on February 7


Shh, you'll summon Grant Morrison and his deranged cabal of Silver Age fans.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:00 PM on February 7


I'll bite. I think Crazy Batman/"Bruce Wayne is the mask!" as the "true" interpretation is not only wrong but boring now after being done. to. death. Honestly while there were some diamonds in that mine, it's pretty much been tapped out. I think maybe Darwyn Cooke's Batman: Ego was the last story in the Crazy Batman milieu I really liked, and a whole lot of that was down to it being a Darwyn Cooke story, not so much because it was yet another glimpse into Bruce Wayne's troubled psyche. Not saying it's necessarily a bad interpretation of Batman (I don't really think there is such a thing, actually), but it's been low-hanging "deep", "realistic" fruit for too, too many writers since the 80's and I think embracing all kinds of takes on the character can be far more challenging and rewarding, especially the closer you get to taking the character and his world and the deeply weird and ridiculous history at face value without taking an ironic tack and still making it work. With DC especially, in general the harder it is to make the audience suspend disbelief, the better the story is when you pull it off, imo, and taking the Crazy Batman way alone or even primarily is like playing that game on easy mode. The idea that Batman's a nutjob makes loads of sense as an interpretation, and while that makes the suspension of disbelief easier, it limits the kinds of stories that can be told, because now everything else in the story is weighed against this little bit of "in the real world he'd have to be crazy".

And the love of fewer limits on what can and can't be in a Batman story isn't so much a reverence for Silver Age comics specifically, but more... you've got this whole toy box of history, stories made by hundreds of creators who came before you. Playing with all the toys is way more fun. And this also isn't to say that Bruce Wayne isn't a crazy guy with a head full of delusion and a twisted worldview, but I don't think the character is even primarily that. Batman and Robin selling war bonds in WWII, or Batman quipping his way through a fight with his Old Chum, or shirtless Bat Bond making out with Talia while he's not busy swordfighting her immortal international superterrorist dad, or even uber-90's Azbats nuttiness are all just as Batman as Frank Miller's interpretation, or the Batman of Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth - which is a top tier Crazy Batman story and one of the cornerstones of his grim 'n gritty personification and of interpreting him and his villains through a psychological lens, which was written by... Grant Morrison. People seem to forget that when they paint him as simply a Silver Age fanboy.
posted by jason_steakums at 6:03 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Uberchet, when I talk about "Bale's Batman" I'm not putting that on him as an actor, or, I would have to say, Keaton's Wayne being entirely his own thing either. The vision of the film is different, and the focus on who is 'real' is different between the Burton and Nolan films. I might prefer the Nolan films and stories, but, Joker and Alfred aside, I prefer the Burton characters.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:33 AM on February 8


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