News from last week that Ben Affleck will play Batman in the upcoming "Superman" sequel got national attention.
Not only from mainstream media but from across the tweetosphere, where lots of folks expressed their displeasure.
Ben was too old. Ben didn't have the gravitas to portray Bruce Wayne's scarred soul. Ben's last stab at being an action hero in 2005's "Daredevil" had flopped.
And on, and on.
Seriously? Even on slow news days, don't we have weightier matters to ponder than whether the director/star of the Oscar-winning "Argo" has the chops to play a comic-book hero?
It shows how far we've come down the celebrity-culture highway. Not that long ago, supermarket tabloid covers were our main source of sordid peeks into their world.
Now, celebrity culture is a two-way street. The latest iThis or iThat makes wannabe movie producers, casting directors and instant reviewers of us all. Anyone can second-guess billion-dollar business decisions in the land of Fans-R-Us.
Affleck himself unintentionally weighed in on the debate when he starred as TV's original Superman, George Reeves, in 2006's "Hollywoodland."
The still-mysterious circumstances surrounding Reeves' death are at the center of this cynical, noir-ish look at Hollywood's movie-TV industry in the 1950s.
Considering the fate of a later "Superman," aka Christopher Reeve, it would be surprising if there aren't several screenplays about "Superman's Curse" floating around Hollywood these days. But central to Affleck's underrated performance in "Hollywoodland" was the theme of how embarrassing it was for a serious actor (at least in his own mind) to be playing a cartoon.
In those early black-and-white days of TV, Reeves consoled himself by thinking no one would see it. How could he have guessed that the words, "It's a bird, it's a plane !" would become better known than the lyrics to the National Anthem, or that by 2013, comic-book heroes would the absolute rulers in the multibillion-dollar movie industry?
In fact, Superman and Marvel Comics were cornerstones from the beginning of that industry, no matter what fantasies about great acting, great storytelling, great filmmaking or great myth-making some of us incurable romantics still cling to.
What's new is the anonymous power bestowed by social media, capable of transforming any of us into moguls in the studio systems of our imaginations, happy to weigh in on any question, regardless of our qualifications for the job.
At 41, Affleck already knows the ups and downs of the roller-coaster ride known as fame.
As Hana's iconic Kris Kristofferson might advise him, the greatest successes lurk in the failures - not at the peaks of fame and fortune, but at the depths after cosmic body punches, where true heroes find previously unknown inner strengths to respond, and reach new heights in the process.
Luckily, there are still gifted artists playing for somewhat lower stakes, making movies for their own sake.
They include writer-director Woody Allen, ethereal Cate Blanchett, smarmy Alec Baldwin, happy-in-spite-of-it all Sally Hawkins, Bobby Carnevale, Andrew Dice Clay and anybody else who had anything to do with "Blue Jasmine."
Blanchett, shooting to the top of this year's Oscar race, plays the former wife of a Wall Street merchant-of-greed, trying to put her life back together following their downfall.
With Alec Baldwin a no-brainer casting choice for the sleazeball financier, any resemblance to Bernie Madoff is purely intentional.
Blanchett's Jasmine (not her real name) isn't doing too well. Actually, she's a sociopath.
Allen's script takes her to the San Francisco apartment of her sister (Hawkins), where, despite Jasmine's diminished fortunes, she can't shake her self-absorbed, class-based delusions of superiority.
This is one of those serious Woody Allen movies, where he offers brilliant observations of both a character and a society on the brink of decadent collapse, rather than turning them into a string of one-liners.
To both Allen's and Blanchett's credit, not liking Jasmine doesn't mean we don't find her endlessly fascinating.
* Contact Rick Chatenever at firstname.lastname@example.org.