Monday, November 18, 2019
Format: TCM on DVR
It's odd how little we talk about cinematography. Of course we discuss actors and dialog. FX are a big topic. We talk about soundtracks and directors. When we're feeling like showing some insidery-type knowledge about film, we'll talk editors. But I'm not sure we always notice the names of the people who actually sit behind the camera, working out the actual look of a movie, which, as we're not listening to radio or watching a play, seems kinda key.
From composition to placement to depth of focus to lighting to movement of perspective... and probably 9 or 10 other factors I'm not thinking of, what we see in a movie is defined by someone who thought about every shot (in theory). Sometimes it draws attention to itself, but more than 95% of the time, when we talk about a movie, we seamlessly discuss story and how we felt, basing it on any of those factors above, but how often do we discuss what the camera did? Or where it was placed?
Sunday, November 3, 2019
Format: Criterion BluRay
Viewing: 4th, I believe
Back in the go-go 1990's, I stumbled across John Sayles, as one was want to do if in film school at the time. People would name drop him as he had a rep as the same guy who wrote Piranha, Alligator, The Howling and other more mainstream flicks, but was basically funding his ability to also write and direct independent film. It's something he still does (apparently), but given the number of times I've heard his name or seen it online or in print the past twenty years, he's fallen away from film-nerd discussion, I suppose - which makes me really wonder who else we've forgotten.
Monday, October 28, 2019
Happy Birthday to one of the great artists of Hollywood, Edith Head. If you don't know Edith Head, I highly recommend at least looking at her Wikipedia entry and imdb page.
|"Yes, I am that damn good"|
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.