Carnival of souls

* Well, that’s unfortunate: All that Comics Journal #300 content I linked to yesterday has been taken down on the orders of Gary Groth, leaving me to wonder if it went up on his orders in the first place. (Via Tom Spurgeon.) Dirk Deppey’s passive-aggressive response is a hoot even by comics-Internet passive-aggressiveness standards.

* Italian movie studio Fandango has bought Italian artcomics publisher Coconino. I don’t have much to say about this other than that Coconino’s Ignatz series of deluxe pamphlet-format comics is wonderful. (Via Heidi MacDonald.)

* Tom Spurgeon reviewed Jesse Moynihan’s Follow Me the same day I did. Weird, huh? What’s weirder is that we same almost the exact same things about it but reach different conclusions.

* So in 1993 Marvel launched a ton of crappy characters. Later in 1993, an official Marvel publication made fun of all those characters–and I mean really mercilessly mocked them. They don’t make ’em like that anymore! (Via Robot 6.)

* Curt Purcell loved and hated the latest Blackest Night tie-in issue of Green Lantern Corps. His rationale for the latter reaction makes me wonder who he is and what he’s done with the proprietor of The Groovy Age of Horror.

* T-Shirt of the Day, high-end edition: The great Michael Kupperman has created a t-shirt in honor of the addictively irascible Best Show on WFMU, available to those who pledge $75 or more in the station’s emergency pledge drive today and tomorrow. (Via Matthew Perpetua.)

* T-Shirt of the Day, low-end edition: Look, I’m not gonna lie, I’m attracted to this drawing of a post-apocalyptic Velma by Travis Pitts, available as an $18 Threadless t-shirt. Pale knock-kneed girls, you make the rockin’ world go ’round.

* Happy Birthday to Martin Scorsese, the greatest living American director, whose best film is Casino.

* Finally, Mightygodking’s “Scenes from an Alternate Universe Where the Beatles Accepted Lorne Michaels’ Generous Offer” is really magnificent. I’m not going to spoil a thing beyond that, even though I so, so want to, just to attract certain people into reading it. But if any of the words in the title appeal to you on any level, please go read it, and then come back and we’ll talk about it in the comments. (Via Matthew Perpetua.)

20 Responses to Carnival of souls

  1. Ben Morse says:

    I like Casino, but The Departed takes it out back behind a construction site, makes it give it a blowjob, then pistol whips it until it says sorry.

  2. The Departed is a fine film. Casino is his best film.

  3. Justin says:

    On the next go-round, Ringo becomes the Starr Child. (Oh, I went there…)

  4. Matt Grommes says:

    I loved that alternate Beatles universe piece. Heartbreaking and wonderful all at once. I’ve wondered a lot about what Lennon would be like as an older presence and I think this portrayal is one of the most honest I’ve seen.

    It reminded me of the best parts of The Black Dossier where Alan Moore effortlessly put together his alternate history that tied together so many different historical fictions.

    Great stuff.

  5. Jon Hastings says:

    Blake Edwards is the greatest living American director. (He took it over from Robert Altman, who took it over from Stanley Kubrick…)

    Martin Scorsese is probably the greatest living working American director.

    Casino is a great choice as his “best film” because it is a grand statement on his major themes and it coheres into an (ironic) epic in a way that his later attempts at working on such a large historical scale don’t (Gangs of New York, The Aviator). Personally, though, I think The King of Comedy is his best film.

  6. Matt: The way that piece ties together the wonder and the heartbreak is really the hallmark of any great work of SF. That it’s so keyed to our preexisting impressions of the four Beatles as people, and so thoroughly exploits the sense of “jesus, what a waste” we feel regarding Lennon’s murder in particular…really remarkable writing.

    Jon: I actually was thinking “greatest living working director” simply because I was sure I’d forget someone otherwise, but even still, I’d say it goes directly from Kubrick to Scorsese.

    Re: Casino, one way I enjoy looking at that film is that it has the same relationship to Goodfellas that The Godfather Part II had to The Godfather, with the director trying to communicate that no, these people are just horrible!

  7. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Greatest living director: Godard

    Greatest working director: Jost

    Casino: dull, lazy and obvious; its drinking game is how many times Sharon Stone bugs her eyes out when she thinks she’s acting; I did like Don Rickles

    Best Scorsese movie: Last Waltz

  8. Jon Hastings says:

    I admire that Scorsese has been able to work on such a large scale, while still making fairly unconventional movies, that (for the most part) have managed to find an audience – something not too many other American directors who came up in the 1970s have managed to do. Altman, for example, started working on a smaller scale in the 1980s, and, with only a few exceptions, kept working in that mode until the end. And while Scorsese did make great, “small” movies (After Hours, The King of Comedy, etc.), since Goodfellas, he’s become the greatest American director of epic satire (not sure if that is really a genre, but it should be).

    Re: Casino and Godfather Part II – I think that’s a good comparison. They’re both also formally more daring than the earlier movies. Casino, for example, doesn’t come with a built in audience identification character, like Goodfellas does (part of what makes the characters feel more horrible, I think: we aren’t encouraged to feel for any of them in the way we are with Lorraine Bracco’s character in Goodfellas). And, while Casino doesn’t make use of any “traditional” Brechtian techniques, in some ways it seems to work like his ideas of epic theatre: the movie is less of a story to get sucked into than an essay about violence and capitalism.

    That said, I think his work over the last decade has been – well, it would be ungrateful to say “disappointing” since The Aviator and The Departed are both fine films, but they seem safer, more a retreat from the kind of thing he achieved with Casino and tried to achieve with Gangs of New York.

    And that said, apart from being a great filmmaker, the work he’s done in film preservation and in bringing attention to overlooked should-have-been classics has been invaluable. He’s really one of the good guys, in that respect.

  9. Ben Morse says:

    That Beatles piece really is something, and I’m not even a devotee.

  10. We’re talking about AMERICAN directors, Tom, you miserable comment troll

  11. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Oh, Malick then. And anyone scurrying around the Internet comparing The Wire to cop shows starring people with unfortunate hair doesn’t get to call anyone else a troll for ten years.

  12. Jon Hastings says:

    I considered Malick, and comparing him to Scorsese gives us one of those classic Richard Petty vs. David Pearson-style greatness dilemmas.

    Malick is four-out-four for masterpieces. So, percentage-wise he’s ahead of Scorsese. But I think there’s a stronger case to be made for Scorsese based on the breadth of his career: he’s made crime pictures, “women’s” pictures, comedies, musicals, biopics, etc. And not just in terms of subject matter: Malick perfected his style with Days of Heaven and didn’t do anything new with The Thin Red Line or The New World, but Scorsese seems to be constantly pushing and shallenging himself. The King of Comedy, for example, doesn’t look like any of his other movies.

    That said, The New World is better than anything Scorsese has done since Casino, at least.

  13. Hated The Thin Red Line. HATED. The whole bit with the photo of his sweetheart–gimme a break.

  14. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Another great thing about King Of Comedy is that it predicts the Ricky Gervais school of comedy in that scene where DeNiro takes the woman out to Jerry Lewis’ house.

    I may not have a horse in this race in that I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the capricious nature of comparing careers as opposed to comparing films or equivalent runs of films. It’s tough. I mean, it’s sort of like we’re rewarding Malick for what may be a crippling personality disorder. Or, in the classic case, film fans frequently punish Woody Allen for putting together that producing framework in place that allows him to work a lot.

    Depending on the day, Errol Morris flits between #28 and #2 on my personal preference chart, which is totally stupid.

  15. Jon Hastings says:

    Yes – when you start comparing careers, any number of outside issues get in the way, especially when it comes to making movies on the scale we’re talking about. It’s rare that you’ll see a perfect storm of talent, temperment, and opportunity that results in a career like that of Ford’s or Ozu’s. And while I’m not sure how fair it is to hold lack of opportunity against a director (is Dreyer any lesser of a director than those guys because he had a lot of troubles getting movies made?), I think temperment is something that has to be taken into account, if only because directing a movie is as much an industrial process as an artistic one. Maybe it’s different if you’re a novelist (or a cartoonist!), but a director has to be able to get people to do things and if something in ther personality gets in the way of that, then I think we’d have to take that into account when assessing their careers (regardless of their talent).

    It’s tricky, though! Take Sam Peckinpah: he was definitely treated badly by Hollywood, in that his films were taken away from him, he was pigeonholed as merely an action director, and he ended up helming some questionable projects. But a lot of that was his own doing. He was (arguably) equally as talented as Robert Altman (and just as much of an independent), but Altman was better able to naviagte his way through Hollywood. If we’re talking about artistic success, it may seem kind of gross to hold Peckinpah’s alcoholism and mental illness against him, but those things had to have affected his work, as well as his opportunities to work.

    Or look at Orson Welles. On the one hand, he really did have enemies who activiely worked against him. On the other, though, even Welles admitted that he made bad business decisions which led to him having all sorts of troubles during his career. And, again, some of these troubles show up in the movies (Mr. Arkadin, especially, I think, but at least that one was “finished”). I’m not sure that Ford or Ozu ever made a film as good as Citizen Kane, but they each came really close a bunch of times. Maybe it’s not fair to compare careers like this, but the kind of consistency (a consistency of excellence, not just solid performance) shown by Ozu and Ford has to count for something.

    So, what makes Scorsese (or Blake Edwards – haha) a candidate for “the greatest” isn’t just talent or that he managed to make a few great movies, but that he made a few great moives, plus a whole bunch of other very good ones (again, pushing himself and trying out new things while he was at it), all the while managing to keep in the game, staying flexible, and rolling with the punches (i.e. making Last Temptation on a much smaller scale than he had originally wanted to).

    I’m not really arguing here, just taking the opportunity to write up some of my thoughts on the subject. Ultimately, of course, there’s no need to choose, but I think these kinds of disucssions can lead to insight on why we value what we value.

  16. Even a working clock gives the wrong time twice a day?

    My inclination is not to hold factors that limit artists’ production against them, even internal factors. Like, I may still call My Bloody Valentine a better band than REM even though REM has made more good albums while Kevin Shields basically just gave up after Loveless because I like Loveless more than any given REM album.

  17. Do you seriously think Casino is better than Taxi Driver, Raging Bull or The King of Comedy? Really?

  18. I’m always serious.

  19. Jon Hastings says:

    The word “overrated” is usually used in too bague a way to be useful, but I do think that Taxi Driver is a big mess whose reputation rests on it being a particularly powerfully expressed mess. I think it’s fascinating, though, in the way it offers insights into some of Scorsese/Schrader’s fantasies/pathologies.

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