Today is the 89th anniversary of the debut of Steamboat Willie, the first Mickey cartoon to be released. We'll celebrate that next year on the 90th, but this year let's watch Plane Crazy, the first Mickey cartoon worked on by Walt and Ub Iwerks, but held off on release until they could add sound, after Steamboat Willie.
I may have an affection for all eras of Mickey cartoons, but the early, chaotic rubber-hose-armed early era holds a special place in my heart. The ingenuity of story, art, ideas and character is all there from the beginning, just popping off the screen. Yeah, there's influence from contemporaries like Felix and Koko, but Mickey and Minnie are a force unto themselves. And these cartoons are as funny today as they ever were. Just great stuff.
Happy B-Day, Mouse!
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Sunday, November 19, 2017
I had no intention of seeing Justice League (2017).
It's not that I don't like the Justice League as characters or concept - I'm a comics guy who tilts toward DC Comics, and once had a complete run of everything from Morrison's JLA run in the 90's to 2011 (I sold if off during the purging of longboxes about two years ago*). My bonfides include significant runs of Wonder Woman, Superman and Flash comics, reasonable Batman-cred, and having had watched the respective movies and TV shows featuring the JLA characters in a wide variety of live-action and animated incarnations (with exceptions which I can discuss but won't do here). I will happily test my DC Comics-Fu against any of you nerds (but not Mark Waid).
I'm on record regarding Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman. One of these films was much, much better than the other three. Let's just say 2017 was much better for DC than prior years.
It's no secret those first three movies left me a broken, bitter man. The very ethos of the films was so far afield from the DCU I knew and loved, and the take on Superman so fundamentally broken (and at the end of the day, I'm a Superman guy), that I just didn't want to do it again. I'd watch it on cable or when JimD sent me the BluRay against my protestations.
Then, as of Thursday I guess, trusted sources, such as creators Mark Waid, Gail Simone, Sterling Gates and our own readers including Stuart and JimD saw the movie, and weren't furious at it. They had some nice things to say. So, I got my tickets and I went to a 10:45 PM show on Friday evening.
Let's be honest: Justice League has massive plotting issues, bizarrely genericizes and changes Kirby's Fourth World mythology in a way that makes it feel one-note to audiences who don't know their Granny Goodness from their Mister Rogers while also ruining the epic world building for fans of The New Gods (one of the most important ideas in superhero comics and comics in general).** It has some terrible CGI, I hate the Flash's costume (a TV show should not be kicking your butt in this arena), and not nearly enough Amy Adams for my dollar. ***
After three narrative and character misfires and one absolute gem of a superhero movie (you're my hero, Patty Jenkins), shake-ups in management at DC, a switch of directors, reshoots, a slashing of runtime by nearly an hour... Some combo of people and factors finally seemed to care a bit about, at least, Superman. If nothing else, they got Superman right. And I cannot tell you how much of a difference that made to me as a viewer and what I was willing to deal with and what I wasn't in my superhero epic.
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Today marks the 95th birthday of actor Veronica Lake.
I quite like Lake and she's in some great movies, from Sullivan's Travels to The Blue Dahlia. My favorite is This Gun For Hire. Lake's career in Hollywood was brief and tumultuous, and she was gone within a few years, but she left a tremendous mark few have been able to match.
Lake passed in the early 70's, but that's a whole other story. If you only know her from glamour photos, seek out one of her films.
Friday, November 3, 2017
Marvel is at an interesting point in it's movie making history. We're, what, 20 movies in? Now that they're past origin stories, they seem to have embraced two things:
- tone can vary
- letting creators with a vision go a bit nuts means you aren't necessarily repeating yourself (as much)
Guardians of the Galaxy demonstrated that audiences wanted a bit of balance to grim-dark superheroes, and the abysmal approach to DC's slate of films up to Wonder Woman showed what *not* to do - so it's a bit rewarding to see Thor bounce back from what was arguably one of the weakest Marvel movies with Thor: The Dark World* and come back with the pop-corniest Marvel movie since... well, this summer's Spider-Man: Homecoming and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 were both pretty solid entries as well. Let's just agree it's been a good year to be a Marvel movie fan.
Marvel's movies have reflected or echoed an arc not dissimilar to what has happened with the printed comics. Hitting the stage with a surge of quick hits that were better than what we'd seen of late in the same genre, an expansion of the universe with a diversity of types of comics/ movies that reflect the milieu of each character, pulling them back together with Avengers comics/ movies as mega-events that never quite work, exactly, but do ground everyone in a single reality, then push everyone back out into their own books/ films.
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Happy Birthday to Margot Kidder!
She is, of course, one of the greats of Superman media as Lois Lane in four Superman films and with a brief stint on Smallville. Arguably, Kidder did quite a bit to pivot the popular conception of Lois as less a straight-laced member of the newsroom (something she never was in the comics, but that's how she was played on TV's Adventures of Superman) and into the gutsy risk-taker with no time for a Dictionary that made absolute sense as the kind of woman who would capture the heart of the Man of Steel.
And, she's absolute dynamite in those first two Superman movies. The interview scene is pretty incredible if you haven't seen it in a while.
Happy Birthday, Ms. Kidder!
Monday, October 16, 2017
This is the most excited I've been for a Marvel movie (beforehand) since Guardians of the Galaxy. Everything about this surpasses what were my biggest hopes for a Black Panther movie.
Saturday, October 14, 2017
It's kind of funny that in this post and the last, I'm referring to movies referenced in my own title banner, but there you have it.
I checked, and it has been a while since I last watched George Pal's 1953 movie of War of the Worlds. A number of years now, in fact.
My interest was piqued by the idea of a Martian invasion in 6th or 7th grade when I learned about Orson Welles' and the Mercury Theater's 1938 War of the Worlds radio broadcast - which supposedly caused a panic (sort of, but not really). Click on the link and listen. It's a hell of a show.
Shortly after all this, around the age of 12, The Admiral found out I wanted to watch the original movie, and so he and I rented it and I think it was just the two of us who watched it.
Honestly, despite the fact it was not a gore fest or built on the tension-making trip wires of, say Ridley Scott's Alien, that movie scared the hell out of me.
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Prior Blade Runner posts:
January 9, 2016 - film watch
September 16, 2016 - novel
January 6, 2008 - DITMTLOD
SOME SPOILERS BELOW:
Like a lot of people of my generation, Blade Runner is one of my favorite films. To expect objectivity regarding the film at this point is a difficult request as I cannot separate the film's actual merits from the impact it had upon me when I first watched the film circa 1988 and deepening appreciation over time.
In a recent comment, Fantomenos asked what the last band was that I related to on a deeply personal level, where I felt they were speaking straight to me (I dodged the question), and I think movies operate much the same way. I will simply never feel quite the same way about a movie now as I did in high school. Whatever openness I had to experience during that period of development is a maze of decades of other movies, cynicism and life experience.
At this point, I've watched Blade Runner dozens of times. I know the beats, the characters, the dialog. And so do you, most likely. I can talk about things explicit and implicit to the film's story, talk about the production of the movie and tell you about seeing a Spinner and Rachael's dress in Seattle. I'm aware it's likely part of how I became interested in cinema noir, film design, and remains the high water mark for movies about AI, in my opinion.
If Star Wars had created a totally immersive universe through design, sound, music, character and themes - a fairy tale universe in which I would have been happy to jump into, Blade Runner provided a similar experience with a dystopia in which everything seemed to fall out of the current culture, in which I could draw a line from our current lives to how we might reach this world of constant rain, stratified social classes, surreal landscapes of mega-structures and ubiquitous advertising (some of it beautiful). And, no, despite the Rachaels, I would not want to live in the world of Blade Runner. The world of this movie is the world of the end of humanity.
Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Well, it's that time of the year, and we're watching movies about monsters and murders and transdimensional-psychotic states brought on by a rich cocktail of hallucinogens.
Saturday, September 16, 2017
If you're a Monster Kid of any stripe, you know the work of Basil Gogos. Whether from his work painting covers of Famous Monsters of Filmland to album covers, Gogos spent the back half of the 20th Century and early 21st Century as king of a niche others are just now entering - illustrative portraiture of cinematic marvels and monsters.
Yesterday I became aware of the news that Basil Gogos has passed beyond this veil of tears. But of this I am certain - his work is now as much a part of Monster Movie fandom as the films, actors and creators. His uncanny visuals have been wonderful additions to pop-culture and modern culture itself.
Friday, September 15, 2017
Somehow, death has taken one of the best, Harry Dean Stanton.
A notice in the New York Times.
No matter what he was in, he elevated the movie. Ebert himself said: "no movie featuring either Harry Dean Stanton or M. Emmet Walsh in a supporting role can be altogether bad."
- Cool Hand Luke
- Kelly's Heroes
- Godfather: Part II
- Escape From New York
- Repo Man
- Red Dawn
- Pretty in Pink
- Last Temptation of Christ
- Wild at Heart
- Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With me
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
- The Avengers
- Twin Peaks
We're going to miss you, sir. But thanks for everything.
Saturday, September 9, 2017
The other night Jamie and I watched Superman: The Movie for the first time in some time. For us, that meansL it's been over a year since we sat down and watched it. For me, it's been greater than 6 months. It may be that same "more than a year" timeframe - these days I can no better remember a particular viewing of the movie than I can an airplane flight or yet another hotel room. I've been trying to watch things new-to-me and kind of failing at it, and re-watching this movie, yet again, was not going to get me into anything novel.
What spurred us down this path was the recent article on a site called Polygon that discussed what most Gen-Xers and our forebears already knew: Christopher Reeve is more than just a buff, cut dude in spandex. He was a Julliard-trained actor. And, he was working with a director and script that didn't just ask him to glower or look mournful across the span of two movies. In comparison to the funeral dirge of Man of Steel and Cavill's limited acting opportunities and Batman v Superman and the inane use of the character, Superman: The Movie's myth-building, multi-tier, multi-faceted structure gave Reeves (and the film itself) the chance to do something deft and nuanced when it wasn't being broad and slapsticky.
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
I had two failed attempts to see Shin Godzilla (2016) when it was released in October 2016 and then had a quick return to the screen around New Years 2017. The first time something at work came up and I had to cancel. The second time I went to see the movie with PaulT and Jamie and something was wrong with the film. It started and a 1K tone was laid over the soundtrack to the movie. Which was both awful and hilarious. Anyway, they stopped the movie about three minutes in, we had this weirdly informal conversation with the manager about what we should do, and I got a couple passes to come back, but couldn't attend the next screening as it was my first day back to work after the holiday break.
And the more stuff I saw about the movie, the more goggle-eyed I became. I really wanted to see this flick.
In case you don't know what Shin Godzilla is, essentially Toho Studios rebooted the Godzilla franchise from square one (it was also marketed in the US as Godzilla: Resurgence). And if you've never seen Gojira, the 1954 Godzilla that is the Japanese version and lacks Raymond Burr (a) shaaaaaaame on you, and (b) fix that immediately. It's a terrific film. And aside from Godzilla 1985, Gojira is one of the only movies that's just about Godzilla (aka: Gojira) attacking Tokyo by himself and for mysterious reasons and is not fighting, say, Anguirus*. Here, in a re-booted universe that's never heard of Godzilla, our scaly pal returns again for the first time to wreak just horrible, unthinkable havoc upon an unsuspecting Tokyo.
And it is really, really good.
Monday, August 7, 2017
Harou Nakajima, the original Man-in-Suit, has passed.
Watching Godzilla movies will tell you that our gigantic, atomic-fire-breathing-pal had a definite personality. And I think you can chalk a good chunk of that up to Mr. Harou Nakajima.
To get a better idea of what I mean, give those first few Godzilla movies a spin and watch as the big fella becomes more himself. A sort of cranky giant who definitely has opinions.
I recently saw this video interviewing the actor. It is absolutely inspiring and a testament to a certain mindset we could all stand to try on.
The all-around film star is apparently celebrating her birthday today.
This year, she's also been a space captain of some sort in a cameo in Guardian of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (and what I wouldn't give for the movie suggested by the grouping there at the end) and will be a very different kind of Captain in Star Trek Discovery.
She really is... out of this world.
Sunday, August 6, 2017
Today marks the 100th birthday of actor Robert Mitchum, born this day 1917 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. You hear a lot about Robert Mitchum off-screen, but there's no one else like him when he's on-screen. TCM is running a marathon of his films in celebration. Tune in if you got yourself some cable.
Here's to you, Bob.
Tuesday, August 1, 2017
These days, I'm not writing up every movie I've seen. And I'm not going to write up this one. But I'm suggesting you catch this one while it's still in theaters.
Monday, July 31, 2017
Like every other DC Comics nerd, I know Andrea Romano's name from watching my Batman, Superman and Justice league cartoons a little too closely. And, of course, the extras on the DVD sets.
It seems she's hanging up her... headset? microphone? and passing off her duties as she heads into well-earned retirement.
It's hard to say how one measures the skill of a voice director for cartoons, but here's a sample of shows she's worked on:
- Chip N' Dale Rescue Rangers
- Duck Tales
- Tiny Toon Adventures
- Batman: The Animated Series
- Batman Beyond
- Static Shock
- Justice League
- Teen Titans
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold
- Spongebob Squarepants
- The Boondocks
and a whole lot more
I know the folks 10 or 15 years younger than me will disagree because they've got nostalgia on their side, but I couldn't ever figure out what was wrong with the acting in the Marvel cartoons of the 1990's (or, heck, today). The voice acting always sounded rushed, like people just shouting lines into a mic. But DC's work always sounded natural, like a radio show or movie, just animated. Her characters were distinct, had their own cadences and personalities.
And when you think of shows like Animaniacs or Tiny Toons - those voices were so specific and as much a part of the characters as any cell animation - you can't really separate the two. Hell, the Warner Brothers (and the Warner Sister) still bounce around in my head in perfect pitch.
Yeah, that's because WB has a great stable of voice actors, but they've also been working under Romano for decades now. She brought in name talent like Clancy Brown for Superman, and she found a fellow by the name of Kevin Conroy and made him "the" Batman for two or three generations of fans, no matter who was putting on the cowl in the feature films.
Back when I was still buying DVDs and BluRays of DC movies and series, I'd always jump immediately to the extras and hope they'd have an interview with Romano, who was casual but a total pro every time she was on camera. Her feel for the characters and, really, how to work with actors was superb, and it played out in every story, in every series and movie and arc. And even though she's not associated with Justice League Action - which all of you should be watching - the show's production carries so much of her stamp, such is her legacy at at WB Animation.
I'm sad she's retiring, because it means less of her work, but it's important to say a big thanks to Ms. Romano, who has been such a huge part of so many hours of entertainment we've all been able to enjoy, and who's amazing abilities elevated an artform that many thought of hokey kid stuff.
Here's to you, ma'am.
Actor, Playwright, Director and pretty-cool-guy Sam Shepard has passed at the age of 73. He had been dealing with ALS for some time.
Shepard appeared in one of my favorite films, The Right Stuff, as real-life hero and pilot Chuck Yeager. It's one of those roles and performances I imprinted on at a young age, and I still marvel at each time I watch the movie.
He'll be missed.
Sunday, July 30, 2017
It didn't occur to me that smoking was something that would become something people forgot to know how to do, let alone show on film. The early 00's saw the end of smoking in film and as an acceptable habit for white urban and suburban middle-classes as well as a sign of rebellion or cool in film and television. So when smoking - something that makes total sense for your 1989-era spies to be doing - becomes something they don't look like they know how to do, and your movie can't quite figure out that drawing attention to smoking (unless you're David Lynch) is antithetical to cool, anyway, you become somehow less cool than had you never tried in the first place.
Somewhere in the plot-drenched Atomic Blonde (2017) there's a deeply smart movie fully capable of keeping an audience used to cookie-cutter plots on its toes. This movie also features one of the more ground-breaking action sequences you'll see in any movie this summer, merging the seamless combat sequences of Marvel's Daredevil show with the manic life or death choreography of one of the better Jason Bourne films - and it may be worth the price of admission just for that set-piece alone.
Unfortunately, it's a movie that relies of the same @#$%ing MacGuffin of most spy/ espionage films of the past 20 years - someone has a list of all the covert agents and our hero has to get it back before blah blah blah - while also trying to lift from Le Carre's moral DMZ of Cold War Berlin, and maybe trying to riff on Bowie and other late 20th Century musician's leaning on Berlin as a sort of crucible of self. But that is giving someone's sexy spy actioner more credit than it's due, at least in presentation rather than intention.
The end result is an overly long movie which seems to believe it's delivering on style while dropping the ball on what 1989 looked like, fails to develop any characters - up to and including our lead - and lets James McAvoy run around looking like a Brad Pitt character a decade early. But don't worry - someone went to Spotify and filtered for "'80's" and applied period-specific pop songs with a Zack Snyder-esque penchant for making the song so on-the-nose you start thinking about the mechanics of how this movie got made.