Saturday, September 7, 2019
I have to say - the marketing team absolutely dropped the ball advertising Stardust (2007). I recall hearing the movie was coming, based on Gaiman that I hadn't yet read, saw the trailer and decided: eh, I'm good.
My memory of the trailer was that it looked like a doofy guy trying to woo Claire Danes in the basket of a hot air balloon or some such. I wouldn't say I took a hard pass, but I didn't see it til 2019, so...
Very, very Neil Gaiman in character and ideas, the movie has the feel of a familiar fairy tale or legend, but spun from pieces of zeitgeisty-concepts and all new notions. Castles, kings, pirates, magic, rights of ascension... There's the matter-of-factness of a 19th Century story for children in the telling, which uses that semi-lecturey tone to insist "of course there's a fairy-tale land with witches. Everyone knows this." And whether we respond to this as adults out of nostalgia or training, I can't say - but it's a great way to frame a story.
Wednesday, September 4, 2019
Format: Criterion Channel
Originally, I'd put this film on as I've pondered doing my own episode of "What is Love?" for the PodCast, but - like others who took on the task - I am also faced with the dilemma of a stable relationship of many years. I like movies that include or which are about people finding each other in this mixed up world, but it's almost like a High School movie to me - I have been there. I have done that. I am now elsewhere.
Wings of Desire (1987) is part of a movement of film that we called "Art House" back in the day, and which I am afraid is fading out. A film like this, today, would get festival accolades, play about twenty theaters in the US for a couple of weeks and then vanish, popping up on Netflix with zero fanfare and a description which did the casual browser a disservice.
Saturday, August 10, 2019
I haven't actually read Garth Ennis's The Boys series. I read the first trade and always intended to follow up to see where it went from the set-up, but never quite got there. I'll make up for it now, but it's gonna take some purchasing power, I guess.
Flat out, Garth Ennis is one the three or four best writers in comics, and, on some days, I think he's just "the best". Some of us stumbled upon him due to his bizarre ability to make gore and violence absolutely hilarious (in the right context) but stayed for the amazing characterization, astounding turns to genuine sympathy for unsympathetic characters, and his ability to grasp humanity and the tragedy and comedy of his characters enough that they feel can feel three-dimensional. All while existing in profane, graphically violent, sexually frank or ridiculous situations that seems like it would send many-a-comics-twitterer running for some pearls to clutch.
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate.
All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
Time to die.
This one hit us all hard and never let up.
Tuesday, July 9, 2019
The week of the 4th of July, I was in Michigan's Upper Peninsula to visit some old family stomping grounds. The Marquette/ Ishpeming/ Negaunee area is where my mom's people landed after arriving from Finland. My grandfather worked in iron ore mines for forty years while my grandmother cleaned houses and other odd jobs. And, when my mom arrived as a surprise when they were in their 40's, then raised the sparkplug that is the lady we call "Mom".
This area is also the setting for the novel Anatomy of a Murder. When Otto Preminger decided to adapt the book circa 1958, he brought the entire production up to this remote area.
You can read more about it in Part 1 of this photo tour.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the release of Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder. If you've never seen it, it's a terrific film and holds up far better than you'd expect considering the changing mores, attitudes, laws and and more since 1959. In some ways, it's covering territory we seem to cover over and over as a society and may be more relevant now than ever. A legal drama, it should be a bit out of my wheelhouse, but instead it's been one of my favorite films since college.
Starring Jimmy Stewart, it has a terrific cast of well-known and lesser known actors. Eve Arden, a very young George C. Scott, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzarra, Arthur O'Connell, and Kathryn Grant (a University of Texas alumnus and, at the time, just married to Bing Crosby). And, a bit bizarre for the time and place, Duke Ellington.
The movie, however, was based on a novel written by Robert Traver. Traver was the pen name for attorney John Voelker, who lived in Ishpeming, Michigan and served as the city prosecutor, ran for other public office and was generally highly involved in public life in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Monday, February 4, 2019
Today marks what would have been the 101st birthday of screen actor, director and producer Ida Lupino. Ida Lupino passed in 1995.
I first came to note Lupino in High Sierra, I believe (I can't recall anymore), and have gone on to try and watch whatever I see going by on TCM. Yes, she's a terrific actor and has a presence that stills like the one above don't always capture. There's an intelligence to her work that - when I learned she had gone on to do work behind the camera and established her own production company, just sort of made sense. She had the misfortune of being a woman born two or three decades too early, who still managed to carve out a place for herself in a field controlled by men.
In 2018, a few retrospectives took place honoring her work and legacy. Did I watch any of her films from these retrospectives on my own time? No. Something I need to rectify.
But I am glad that Lupino's reputation is getting elevated and the strides she made during her career are being seen by today's film fans and makers.
Anyway, I hereby pledge that before Ms. Lupino's 102nd, and pending availability, I will watch the following projects which she directed:
- Never Fear (1950)
- Outrage (1950)
- Hard, Fast and Beautiful (1951)
- On Dangerous Ground (1951)
- The Hitch-Hiker (1953)
- The Bigamist (1953)
- The Twilight Zone: The Masks (1964)
Tuesday, December 18, 2018
According to numerous press sources, director and actor Penny Marshall has passed.
Like everyone else my age, I grew up with Laverne & Shirley, where Marshall played a working class girl cohabitating with her best pal, Shirley, as they had weekly misadventures for years on network TV.
She disappeared briefly, only to re-emerge as a director of a number of movies I saw and liked in formative years, including Jumping Jack Flash and Big. Honestly, I've thought of her more as Director Penny Marshall for decades at this point, and it's a remarkable two-part career she was able to pull off.
Thursday, December 13, 2018
Format: Amazon Streaming
Hal (2018) is a documentary about prominent 1970's film director Hal Ashby, best known these days for, probably Harold and Maude, The Last Detail, Coming Home and Being There.
Thursday, November 29, 2018
I started reading All the Answers (2018) a couple of weeks ago, got ten pages in and realized that I wouldn't have time to read it cover to cover in one sitting, the way one generally wants to watch a film, and so I put away the book and picked it up again when I had uninterrupted time.
Written, researched, drawn and lived by Michael Kupperman, a cartoonist and artist I've followed for well over ten years at this point, the book is more than a minor pivot from a particular brand of humor comic that I would fail to capture here if I tried (and what is explaining a joke, anyway?) - this is also a biographical and autobiographical graphic novel. I believe Snake n' Bacon strips were my entree into Kupperman's work, followed by Tales Designed to Thrizzle - something that should be a staple in any comics-studies course. And, of course, Mark Twain's Autobiography, 1910-2010.
Monday, November 12, 2018
I am, like everyone, mourning the loss of Stan Lee who passed at age 95.
But. What a world we live in where everyone is mourning a comic book writer/ editor/ huckster! What an amazing guy we had with us for almost a full century!
Thursday, September 27, 2018
Comics artist Norm Breyfogle has passed. Reported here by The Washington Post.
When I got into comics, like any 10 or eleven year-old, I didn't really know how they worked. I had no guidance, and no one was around to explain them to me. We had spinner racks at the grocery, shelves at drugs stores and 7-11, and however B. Dalton and Waldenbooks wrangled their comics that week.
Pretty quickly I went from just grabbing random comics to gravitating to Uncanny X-Men and Batman comics, especially once I figured out that I could get two Batman comics every month with Batman and the oddly named Detective Comics.
It was a hell of a time to get into comics. What was okay to do in art was changing fast.
Monday, July 16, 2018
Man of Steel 6Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Jason Fabok
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Josh Reed
Associate Editor: Jessica Chen
Editor: Michael Cotton
Group Editor: Brian Cunningham
Cover: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado and Alex Sinclair
Sunday, July 8, 2018
Comics creator Steve Ditko passed this weekend at the age of 90. As you may know, Ditko co-created Spider-Man and was responsible for the art chores and certainly deserves co-writing credits with Lee on the early years of the wall-crawler's adventures. He was behind some of my favorite Spidey villains like Sandman, The Lizard, Electro, Doctor Octopus, and - of course - Green Goblin. Not bad.
Sunday, June 24, 2018
Thursday, May 31, 2018
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils: (mostly) Ivan Reis and 2 pages by Jason Fabok
Inks: Joe Prado
Colors: Alex Sinclair
Lettering: Cory Petit
Editor: Michael Cotton
Associate Editor: Jessica Chen
Group Editor: Brian Cunningham
Well, it finally arrived.
Thursday, February 1, 2018
So, it's weird that Forbes.com is where DC announced that Brian Michael Bendis is taking over both of the main Superman titles, right?
I mean - just that tidbit alone is probably worth a full blog post about comics vaulting their way into mainstream culture and something something what is happening at Forbes.com which is supposed to be a business and economics interest site?
It's also weird that Bendis is taking over *both* Superman and Action Comics, right? I mean... he's just getting to DC. You'd think he'd want to putter on a couple of diverse titles or something, get his feet wet... but, nope. Both bi-weekly Superman titles. (One expects we'll continue to get Supergirl, Super Sons, New Superman, and Superwoman... or something.)
And while I am more than game for Bendis on one or both titles, or some Super-title, I am also a bit crushed to be losing Dan Jurgens on Action Comics and Tomasi & Gleason on Superman. They've put so much love and effort and imagination into those comics the past 18 months or so, I genuinely wish they'd spin up Man of Steel and Adventures of Superman again and just keep giving us more Superman.
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.
Sunday, September 10, 2017
Gerry has informed me, and social media - from Paul Kupperberg to Paul Levitz and Elliot S! Maggin - confirms, that Len Wein has passed.
A report at CBR, Newsarama, and we are certain the reports will be in the hundreds.
My ear is not to the comics social media ground the way it once was, and I confess I didn't know he was ill. When his fellow Swamp Thing creator, Bernie Wrightson, passed in recent days, I'd known of Wrightson's illness in part because of announcements and some of his work stopped that I was reading. Wein had recently returned to the DC stable and I hadn't heard.
I just check Comic Vine, and Wein has 1640 credits on comics to his name between credits for writing, editing, et al.
69 seems far off when you're in your twenties. When you're in your forties, it seems very, very young and very unfair.
But Wein left an incredible legacy, and was a huge part in the shift in content and tone that led to modern comics. From his contribution in creating Wolverine and Swamp Thing to his work on establishing X-Men in much the way we think of them today, to great work on Batman and practically every other character in comics.
I can't say anything that Wein's peers and friends won't say with more grace and with far more meaning than myself. I encourage you to read the tributes which are already appearing. But I will say he will always be remembered, his work loved, his contributions honored and the folks he inspired who came after him owe him a great debt of gratitude for paving the way to a new kind of comic - which, in turn, changed our culture.
Sunday, August 27, 2017
You're going to see the names Jack Kirby and Jacob Kurtzberg a lot today. Jack Kirby is the pen-name of the greatest comic artist and creator to grace this orb we call planet Earth.
Here, on the centennial of his birth (August 28th, 1917), it's possible to suggest that Jack Kirby may be one of the most important artistic and literary figures of the past 100 years. The recognition came late, decades after his passing, and, still, his name is hardly a household word. But the creations he unleashed upon popular culture from the 1940's to the 1990's would either be taken up directly by the public (at long last), becoming part of the parlance, or influence generations who could never produce that same spark of imagination, but built either directly or indirectly upon what he had done before.
There are Kirby bio sketches out there a-plenty (but no definitive monograph that I'm aware of), a magazine dedicated to the study and fan-splosion around his work, and Mark Evanier - who apprenticed under him - has become the living memory of his professional life while his grandchildren have taken up the cause of preserving the memory of the man. Now there's a virtual museum (which deserves a physical location), and a charity it's worth considering giving to sometime. And a slew of collections and books celebrating Kirby's influence and work.
Kirby was not first in when comics became a way for kids from the rougher neighborhoods of New York picked up a pencil or ink brush to start bringing in bread, but he was there really early. He was a workman who put everything he had into the work, comic by comic, year by year, becoming better and better. As they tell you in art-school, master the rules before you start breaking them - and that's what he did, finding his own unique style, his own way of creating action and drama, and eventually shattering what it meant to create a comics page.
Taking from mythology, from science-fiction, from films, from his colleagues and the bottomless well within, Kirby created whole universes, pockets within those universes, and held the lens to each character, bringing the internal life of gods, men and monsters to life.