Archive for November 30, 2012

A request

November 30, 2012

I have a comic I need someone to draw. It is about Justin Bieber. Please let me know if you are interested. Thank you.

The Superheroics of Muse

November 30, 2012

I wrote a piece on Muse as legacy superheroes and Matt Bellamy’s voice as their superpower for BuzzFeed Music. The piece was pitched to me as “What is the essence of Muse? What is it people like about them beyond sounding like Queen and Radiohead?” This is what I came up with. Big thanks to my pal Matthew Perpetua for whipping it into shape.

“Boardwalk Empire” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Eleven: “Two Imposters”

November 28, 2012

* “Everything connects, Charlie, whether you know it or not.”

* I’ll tell you all what: I could get used to this show totally leveling up every time it reaches a season’s penultimate episode, that’s for sure. Last year’s nightmarish, flashback-haunted “Under God’s Power, She Flourishes” displayed the show’s most confident and stylish filmmaking since Martin Scorsese’s pilot and, with its revelations about Jimmy, Gillian, and Angela’s past and its final Oedipal confrontation, essentially unveiled, for the first time, what the show was really about, how it saw itself, how it worked best. I don’t think anything quite so dramatic and revelatory went on here, but what we got was in its own way almost as impressive: thread after thread after thread being firmly pulled in the same direction from opposite corners of the room and woven together with furious determination. Just a relentlessly suspenseful and enjoyable episode. When it ended, I laughed and clapped with delight.

* What a great decision to make Nucky’s relationship with his afterthought of an assistant, Eddie, the center of the episode. For starters, well, who doesn’t like Eddie? He’s virtually never been used for anything but mild and effective comic relief, sort of like a Muppet, so no one in the audience is gonna go “Yeah, ice that guy.” Shrewd.

* On a deeper level, maybe we needed to see the only person left who genuinely loves and trusts Nucky come under threat, and see Nucky rise to the occasion and risk everything because it turns out he loves and trusts him back, to keep us invested in Nucky’s plight. If you were uncharitable you could see this as a cheat on the show’s part, a way to make sure we all see that Nucky’s not a villain but an antihero, that he still has a heart of gold deep down in there despite his monstrousness. But it felt truer than that in the moment. Or at least I was willing to cut it some slack.

* Finally, seeing and hearing Eddie, who normally operates at a consistent level of befuddlement, give way to absolute fight-or-flight panic sold the threat like few other things could have, particularly given the number of assassination attempts Nucky has already survived. There were a lot of standout details in that initial attack on Nucky’s suite at the Ritz, from the dead phone to the shootout staged almost entirely through a hole in the door, but Eddie’s desperate cry of “Noocky!” to warn his boss about the gunman behind him will stick with me most of all.

* And how’s this for an increase in scale: Gyp Rosetti conquered Atlantic City. That took my breath away, when I realized that’s what the show was doing. This wasn’t just a hit squad, it was the vanguard of an invading army. They stormed the palace, killed the royal guard, assumed control. When Gyp’s sidekick started talking about meeting with the ward bosses and letting them know it was business as usual it really brought it all home for me. This was one of the clearest demonstrations yet of the show’s belief that crime, like war, is politics by another name.

* Looks like we’re headed for Richard Harrow’s Taxi Driver moment. A few thoughts about that:

** It would seem like my theory about Richard being Nucky’s endgame against Gyp is both wrong and right. There likely won’t be any collusion between the two of them, but Richard will still fulfill that basic role by killing his way through Gyp’s headquarters.

** “Everything connects” indeed: That scene from early in the season when Nucky learns with awe just how deadly Richard is was done to establish this eventuality. And Richard’s relationships with Tommy and with his girlfriend and her father were done to give him motivation. And Gillian’s murder of a false Jimmy was done to sever whatever loyalty he may once have felt to her.

** Does Gillian not realize what kind of person Richard is? That’s not a rhetorical question, by the way: Does she not know what he did in the war, or what he did in Jimmy’s employ? Judging from her recent dialogue she appears to think of him in the same condescending terms you’d expect from her about someone who was “feeble-minded” — a gentle, damaged freak she takes pity on but no longer has any use for. Do you all think this is a viewpoint she could reasonably have come to?

** Jack Huston is very, very good in this role. The mask hides that, maybe, and the CGI makeup effects, and the monotone voice. But man, even though he only has one eye and half a mouth to work with, when that switch in Richard goes off, boy oh boy can you see it. It’s terrifying.

** And exciting, let’s be honest. As high-minded as I make myself be about art-violence, it’s thrilling and cathartic to see a practiced killing machine let loose. That overhead shot of Richard assembling his arsenal? I mean, come on, that’s the sort of thing you cheer about. At least I do. I don’t respect myself in the morning, if that helps.

* Lucky getting busted for heroin: another “everything connects” moment? This removes him from the playing field as a potential protector for Gillian, his partner in the brothel. It badly weakens Rothstein and Lansky. Given the expense of his and Lansky’s secret deal with Masseria it throws Masseria’s organization into disarray as well.

* Why not make the undercover cop a fake mute with a gnarly throat scar? Why not stage the buy on a rooftop flapping with laundry?

* Very, very happy to see Nucky interact with my beloved Dunn Purnsley, however briefly. I loved Purnsley’s grin after he and Chalky dispatched the Rosetti thugs who were about to search their truck for Nucky, like, “See? I told you we were loyal, asshole.”

* Laugh out loud line from Chalky: “All due respect, General Custer: This ain’t no spot for a last stand.” All the material involving Chalky hiding Nucky and Eddie was gold. Creatively staged in an interesting set, with easy-to-understand parameters for success and failure, and a crackerjack setpiece in the form of Rosetti’s Italians facing off against Chalky’s African-Americans, all of them bristling with firearms.

* Am I the only one with visions of posters for Boardwalk Empire Season Four featuring a picture of Nucky and Chalky standing back to back or face to face with a tagline like “TWO KINGS”? If things go well for them this Sunday, Chalky becomes the single most important person in Nucky’s organization (if he wasn’t already), and a fixture of the boardwalk, AC’s public face. He could easily be the new opposite pole around which the story revolves. That’d be great, wouldn’t it?

* The ending? Pure fanservice. Fuck it, I’m game. So game that I’m willing to forgive the martial drums and, you know, the very notion of Eli and Purnsley showing up with the calvary in the form of Al goddamn Capone, America’s kindliest young gangster. After all, the beauty of this set-up is that the show is harnessing historical inevitability as a tool in its storytelling arsenal as unequivocally as it ever has. A fight between Al Capone and “Gyp Rosetti” can only end one way. Hahaha!

* A fight between “Richard Harrow” and “Gyp Rosetti,” on the other hand… 🙁

* What’s Capone’s game here? We’ve established that Torrio’s in semi-retirement, content to leave the operation of the Chicago outfit in Capone’s hands, up to and including picking fights with rival gangs. We’ve established that Remus is down for the count and the Midwest needs a reliable supplier, and Nucky’s man Mickey Doyle is running Mellon’s operation. We know he milked Van Alden for information about Dean O’Banion’s operation. We know that Capone — showCapone, anyway — hates bullies.

* Bravo. Onward to victory.

Things you should know about “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2”

November 27, 2012

* The Bunk is in this movie. Yes, from The Wire. He has a scene as a P.I. and fixer for the vampire who used to be a Confederate soldier.

* The guy who played the “bing bang bong” annoying catchphrase incompetent teenage forensic examiner who turned into a serial killer and ruined the show on SVU is in this movie. He plays Dracula, who is gay and an albino.

* Lee Pace from Tumblr and Mirkwood is in this movie. He plays a vampire who fought in the American Revolution (on the American side, this time). He is scruffy and edgy. Many of the vampires have special powers; when my wife asked me what his was supposed to be I said “Sexiness.”

* Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson are in this movie, as contractually required. They could not look or sound more miserable about it. Whatever the truth about their offscreen romantic relationship, they so clearly do not enjoy making these movies anymore, and it’s not like their joy radiated from the screen to begin with. The result is an almost magnetic anti-chemistry anytime they’re required to act sexy or romantic toward one another. Here are two very attractive people (well, I’ll take your word for it on RPatz, whose at this point I can’t see without seeing a million parodies of how he looks, but KStew is a Top 10 Pleasant to Look At Human Beings Worldwide entrant) who we know have fucked in real life, but you put them together and each of them looks like they’ve been forced into close proximity with a person whose 24-hour stomach virus they’re trying to avoid catching.

* That said, their sex scene was marvelously shot and surprisingly hot for a PG-13 flick geared toward tweens and their parents. Obviously they can’t show any nudity or have too much grunting and panting and moaning and gasping (that’s what On the Road is for), so what they did is stitch the scene together from all but abstracted close-ups of hands and mouths making contact with bare skin. It didn’t quite overcome the follow-up pillow-talk scene where they unconvincingly talk about how they plan to be so disgustingly sexual with one another at all times that the rest of their vampire family will have to stay away from them for a decade, but in the moment it worked.

* By contrast, the third wheel in the triangle, or whatever, Taylor Lautner, seemed happy to be there as always. I’m not sure I would, if my part required me to be a werewolf who falls in love with a baby, which is what happens. So yeah, if you’re going to hold abysmal stupidity against a film, then yes, Breaking Dawn – Part 2 is a bad movie in that there are almost no words to describe how idiotic and repulsive and braindead it is to have a werewolf fall in love with a baby. But blame the truly demented sexual politics of Stephenie Meyer, not Lautner, who sorta sells it as yet another weird thing about his biology he has to come to terms with and explain to others on top of the whole “turning into a giant wolf sometimes” bit. It doesn’t work, but he tries.

* He also makes the most out of his character’s admirably direct method of convincing Kristen Stewart’s character Bella’s dad that the supernatural exists: telling him he’s about to show him something weird, then stripping down to his underpants and transforming into a giant wolf in the guy’s backyard. The scene’s meant to read like an over-the-top spoof of coming out and propositioning a guy, doubly so because the guy has a Village People cop mustache and Lautner pings one’s gaydar like that one scene in Aliens where all of a sudden they’re in the crawlspace above the ceiling. I’ll be honest: If I were the dad and suddenly Lautner’s ridiculous physique were all up in my face, I’d consider it.

* Michael Sheen plays the main evil vampire. Michael Sheen is a hero, a legend. It’s as though all the fun the series’ leads should have been having got stored up, poured into a syringe, and injected into his aorta. He chews scenery until chunks of it spray from his mouth like the Cookie Monster. At one point he laughs like Truman Capote doing an impression of Woody Woodpecker. He kills a major character, holds up his severed head, and smiles in the most “U MAD?” gif-able way imaginable. He makes the movie, even the series. I want him to take tea with Tom Hardy’s Bane.

* I’m not going to spoil it, but the twist ending is so fucking shameless in how it forces the audience to discount pivotal and even devastating information it had recently received that it races right past “cheating” and “cop-out” and blasts off into “I’ve really gotta fucking hand it to you, Breaking Dawn – Part 2” territory. Audacious doesn’t even begin to describe it. I’d heard about it before hand, because with this series who cares about spoilers, and assumed I’d hate the whole film because of it, but it’s so crazy that I sat there like Bobby Baccala gazing at Junior Soprano: “I’m in awe of you.”

* Hearing an audience of low-level Twihards (we saw it the day after Thanksgiving) react with total shock and dismay to the run-up to the ending was wondrous and life-affirming, and I don’t mean that in terms of schadenfreude at all. This film moved and stunned and horrified them when they didn’t expect it. That’s a great thing to be able to do, and to see happen from the outside.

* The aftermath of the twist couldn’t be more open about its real goal if the studio head wandered out on camera holding up a sign reading “STEPHENIE, PLEASE WRITE SOME SEQUELS.”

* The opening credits, lovely lovely time-lapse macro photography of roses and blood and ice crystals and so on, were better than the comparable, much-lauded Skyfall opening credits. They segued nicely into a strong depiction of what vampires’ enhanced senses feel like, too — in other words they smartly saved the need to literally represent or tie into the story until after they were over.

* No Anna Kendrick.

* That Mike guy’s been funny too, but he’s not in it either.

* The closing credits show all the main characters from all five movies. They show the redheaded vampire that they recast with Bryce Dallas Howard twice, once for each actress.

* There’s a scene in which two of the other prominent werewolves are gathered at a little Christmas party at Bella’s dad’s house, and instead of re-hiring the actors who played them previously, the film just took extras and sat them with their backs to us and gave them no lines but had the other characters speak to them.

* In order to keep Bella and Edward’s rapidly aging vampire-human hybrid child consistent with the child actress who plays her at her oldest, the baby/toddler/young child versions have superimposed CGI faces. Again, if you’re going to hold abysmal stupidity against a film, I can hardly stop you here.

* There are multiple vampires from the Amazon basin who show up in the snowy Pacific northwest in their loincloths and stay that way for the duration. There’s a little trio of vampires from Ireland who look like they came from a Hallmark Channel movie about Ireland. The vampire ladies from Egypt are very pretty. Dakota Fanning is very pretty.

* The big battle happens because the good vampires know the bad vampires, who’ve mistaken their vampire-human hybrid daughter for a child they’ve illegally turned into a vampire, wouldn’t listen if they tried to explain the truth. Based on that assumption, the bulk of the movie happens: gathering allies, training to use their powers, the final confrontation itself. Guess what the bad vampires do the moment they show up and the good vampires try to explain the truth? Here’s a hint: They listen. Oh, shoot, that was the answer.

* There’s a genuinely horrifying flashback sequence in which a blood-covered vampire child is snatched from the body-strewn ruins of the medieval town he just destroyed, his sobbing vampire mother is killed in front of him, her body is lit on fire, and he’s unceremoniously tossed into the flames. He’s like five years old. It’s like Tyler Durden spliced in that one scene from Hostel Part 2 all of a sudden.

* Here’s what I thought of Twilight and New Moon and Eclipse; I didn’t write about Breaking Dawn – Part 1 because it was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, all but unwatchable even with help from RiffTrax. In that movie a superstrong vampire fetus pulverizes Bella’s spine and guttyworks from within, so Edward has to perform an emergency c-section by tearing through her superstrong placenta with his teeth. There’s also a getting-ready-for-sex montage that shows Bella brushing her teeth, and a “no sex please we’re cross-species lovers” montage in which they sit around wasting time and being bored in different ways. Abysmal stupidity opponents, you know the drill.

* This movie, though? The series’ one true camp classic, the one where you could watch it independent of a packed theater and actually have fun with the good-badness of it. We left the theater amazed to be glad to have seen it.

Let your body move to the music

November 26, 2012

I wrote about “Vogue” by Madonna for my music tumblr, Cool Practice. The pre-sexual dreams of a starstruck sixth grader are invoked.

I encourage you to listen to the song and watch the video from beginning to end, especially if you haven’t done so in a long time. It’s remarkable how much anticipation and excitement she packs into that thing. It’s a curtain being drawn back on a new world.

“Boardwalk Empire” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Ten: “A Man, a Plan…”

November 20, 2012

* A dream comes true. Echoing your opening credits in your opening scene is a surefire signal that something momentous is going to happen in the episode, that’s for sure. And while we’re on the subject of how this show brings the dream world into the real world, that shot of Neptune running into the sea was disproportionately unnerving to me. Typhoon! Typhoon!

* The smiling old woman with the rotten teeth was a big moment, too. I don’t know…I just feel like this show has gotten really, really confident in its ability to wordlessly, plotlessly communicate itself.

* Gaston Means is fucking phenomenal. That’s mostly Stephen Root at work, of course: the snake-oil accent, the purred one-liners (“I hope you don’t choose a surgeon on the same basis”), the way he smizes after advising Jess Smith to take his money and “consign it to the fires of hell,” the obviousness of how unused to being caught off guard he is with Smith surprises him in the middle of his home invasion, his IDGAF grin after Smith takes care of the job for him. But it’s also how Means is being presented as a character: Here’s a guy who in the case of Smith alone is playing trusted advisor to at least three people that we know of, all of whom are at literally mortal odds by the end of the gambit. Here’s a guy who’ll double-book a hired gun to people on opposite ends of a conflict, only to serve as his own triggerman. He couldn’t be further removed from the immigrant-gangster milieu of the New York/New Jersey/Chicago Jewish/Irish/Italian criminals, yet he demonstrates that a true genius for graft knows no ethnicity. I hope the show gives him room to breathe — its track record for this sort of character puts him at about 2:1 odds against.

* Speaking of: Please let a negro nightclub be Chalky’s ticket to increased screen time and plot prominence.

* Also speaking of: I liked Owen. Hailing as he did from the auld sod, how could I, Sean Thomas Patrick Collins, not like Owen? But…did he ever really get off the ground as a character? Better: Did he ever really reveal his character? It was never clear to me whether he was ever truly down for the Cause or simply a gangster who went where the market for his talents provided. It was never clear to me if he was the compunctionless killer who choked a man to death in a men’s room and remorseless liar who proposed to poor Katie knowing full well he’d be skipping out on her, or the romantic who apparently sincerely planned a life on the lam with Margaret and her two-point-five kids. This made it difficult to know how to feel about pretty much everything he said and did in this episode.

* Crystal clear how to feel about our final glimpse of him, though: jesus, that was grim, grim business — high-Godfather mafia-movie violence at its most dramatic and unpleasant. Margaret’s dragged-out screaming and sobbing and flailing in response was all but unbearable. Certainly that character’s finest moment in a long, long time.

* Regarding Means and Owen, and also Lansky & Luciano’s betrayal of Nucky & Owen to their former rival Masseria: Their respective storylines in this episode embody something Terence Winter said in interviews after the conclusion of season two: that among other things, the show turns out to be a show about the difference between people who are able to make a go of high-level high-stakes criminality versus those that aren’t. This, I suppose, is how he squared the circle of having people named Al Capone interact with people named “Jimmy Darmody” — since we know what the show can and can’t do with those two sets of people, they might as well make it a theme.

* Richard’s galpal looks a little bit like Gillian Darmody, doesn’t she?

* The shovel to the protruding head murder is one of the most appalling I can remember seeing on television. If Owen-in-a-box is The Godfather, Gyp’s execution of his underling’s hapless fisherman cousin is Casino. Makes me wonder if my “Richard is the endgame” theory is incorrect and Gyp’s heretofore acquiescent underling will be his boss’s undoing.

Skyfall thoughts

November 20, 2012

Hey, I went to the movies! Second time this year! I miss it.

* Skyfall was good. I enjoyed it. I don’t understand the contention that it’s the best Bond movie ever. I’ve seen very few Bond movies but I can tell you that I enjoyed GoldenEye and Casino Royale and very probably Quantum of Solace more at the times I saw them in the theater than I enjoyed Skyfall yesterday.

* It reminded me an awful lot of the experience of watching The Avengers, which was the last time I actually went to a movie theater and bought a ticket and watched a movie, in that it was a good time overall with strong action sequences punctuating long boring stretches. Now, Skyfall‘s long boring stretches weren’t nearly as long or as boring as The Avengers. This movie’s non-battle character interactions were actually capable of making me laugh more than twice, and it was more accomplished as filmmaking on nearly every conceivable level, up to and including simply giving you lovely things to look at as often as it could, even when what was going on was otherwise a bit on the dull side, so in fact “boring” may be overstating the case. But yes, same overall pattern.

* The dullness was particularly dull in the long first third of the movie, following the opening sequence in which Bond appears to have fallen to his death. Since it’s unlikely that the rest of the film was going to play out in flashback, we knew he was still alive; since it’s a James Bond movie, we knew he’d be back on the job. Everything that led up to his resurrection and reinstatement, therefore, was just playing out the clock. You can get away with an awful lot when you have a set of strong, visually magnetic actors being all authoritative at one another, but that’s only papering over the lack of dramatic drive during this section.

* Kind of felt like a James Bond-fronted Christopher Nolan Batman movie cover band, didn’t? Numerous plot points and even specific mechanics and images were ported nearly wholesale from The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. I don’t know enough about the film’s production history to tell if this was deliberate or a coincidence, and frankly don’t care enough to go look it up, but man was it striking. Javier Bardem playing the Joker made it all the more so. So did the identical “he let himself be captured” scenes, the calm supervillain in the isolated jail cell, two students of the same master, etc etc etc.

* What was up with the Evil Homosexual vibes from Silva in that one scene, by the way? I almost couldn’t believe my ears and eyes, it was so flagrant and anachronistic. Sure, it gave the movie a chance to imply that Bond has had homosexual experiences too, but that’s not really enough, is it. Also hinky: We’re not to think any less of M for handing Silva over to be tortured to death. It’s on him for not understanding!

* I’ve spent a lot of time giving everything from the Nolan Batman movies to Homeland the business for their ludicrous plot holes, so I’d like to point out to everyone that I’m not going to say a word about any of that here. The reason why is because this is a James Bond movie, and even if it’s in the more serious Daniel Craig mode, and even if fancy-pants director Sam Mendes is in charge, no one here has any delusions about what that means. Contrast it with Homeland, allegedly conceived as a sort of penance for its creators’ stint writing terrorists as supervillains and torturers as hard-man heroes on 24 yet increasingly driven by supervillainy and soap-operatic sloppiness itself; or with Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, which despite the marvelous villain performances and skyline photography in its final two installments spent so much time cultivating itself as an “adult” take on the superhero genre that it did nothing to enrich its inch-deep dorm-room philosophizing and a titular protagonist who’s frequently incidental to the advancement and resolution of the action. Live by Serious Business, die by Serious Business. This movie never did, to its great credit, and so there’s no need to put the boot in for how all of Silva’s fake/rogue cops know exactly which subway station he’ll be fleeing into and out of at every moment.

* What a pretty, painterly film! Again, the fact that it’s a James Bond movie cuts against the pretension of, say, having not one but two explicit homages to Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog. I haven’t seen a Sam Mendes film in a long long time, deliberately, but I must say I’m impressed by his use of all those lovely lovely rectangles of imagery. Bond overlooking the London skyline, the Romantic/Byronic Wanderer in the urban wilderness. Bond bound, his back to us, framed by row upon row of jerry-rigged computer mainframes. Bond in the mouth of the dragon. The Bond Girl forced to live out the William Tell routine against a backdrop of crumbled totalitarian sculpture. Fighting in silhouette against a backdrop of LED signage. You never knew what the next juicy morsel of eye candy would be, and that helped propel you through the slow spots. The use of silhouettes in particular also helped compensate for what I assume was Mendes’s inexperience in shooting action, not that you’d necessarily know it from watching the shootout in the hearing room or the opening motorcycle chase or the showdown at Skyfall.

* Komodo dragons! I love love love that they didn’t limit Bond’s “you gotta be kidding me” look to a single shot — he kept looking at the thing incredulously for several seconds, even when busy getting flipped upside-down by his opponent.

* Ben Whishaw as Q: They’re casting roles in blockbuster franchises directly for Tumblr at this point, aren’t they?

* Extremely good-looking people are almost like aliens. Daniel Craig as Bond is one of the most iconic examples of ugly-pretty’s male division since Jagger; the man wears a suit impossibly well, and hell, the movie was basically built around how he looks much older than he is. Clever of them to leave that just-graying stubble intact for so much of the movie as well. And Berenice Marlohe as his ill-fated entry point into Silva’s world — when they’re having that conversation in the casino, her features were so perfectly, oddly symmetrical and striking she seemed like a special effect. Which of course is how Bond Girls are employed, historically, but seeing the two of them together like that really brought it home.

* Her beauty is less unusual or otherworldly, but I also thought this was the best I’ve ever seen Naomie Harris look. Making Moneypenny a genuine peer of Bond’s does a lot to right the ship.

* I didn’t feel at all cheated by the climactic battle sequence, which is almost unheard of in the major franchises these days. With the possible exception of the out-of-nowhere sudden paramount importance of Bond’s gamekeeper, which I didn’t mind because it was Albert Finney with a beard and a shotgun, everything was properly weighted from a dramatic perspective as well as cohesive and coherent and intelligible as action. Nice work, gang.

* Silva pretty much won, right? He killed M. He died not knowing it, though, and I suppose that’s what matters.

* How nice to watch a big action movie in which details of framing, editing, and sound design matter. Proper superspy storytelling requires its leads to be aware of the people on their periphery, the sounds beneath the sounds, the corner you’ll turn two corners from now; proper superspy filmmaking requires the same, and the deft touch necessary to nudge the audience in the direction its characters are headed, just a couple paces behind. Simple things like Bond asking SĂ©verine about her “friends,” and then oh look, a couple of goons are standing out-of-focus over her shoulder in the distance — so deeply pleasurable to me. Bond is nothing if not a cinema of pleasure.

* PS: This is as good an excuse as any to direct you to my review of the three Matt Damon Bourne movies and the previous two Daniel Craig Bond movies, probably my single favorite piece of film writing I’ve done for this blog. Hope you dig it.

“Boardwalk Empire” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Nine: “The Milkmaid’s Lot”

November 18, 2012

Last week’s thoughts today, again!

* “The man is on the phone. The gypsy.” Nightmare phrasing right there. This show is actually quite good at tipping reality juuust over into nightmare. In fact, now that I write that out, isn’t that what Nucky’s impairment following his concussion is all about? Giving his speech and thought process the non-sequitur, molasses-slow quality of the show’s dream sequences? I thought it was tremendously effective, placing him in a dimension just slightly alternate to reality like that.

* Actually, while we’re on the subject, isn’t that the point of Gyp Rosetti at this point as well? Gyp’s reality is obviously all too real to him — from what we’ve seen last week and this week he’s barely holding it together — but that surreal, unpredictable intensity makes him a nightmare figure to everyone else. The guy strode on to the beach to look on his works while wearing a tri-corner hat, for pete’s sake. If Nucky saw that he wouldn’t know if he was awake, asleep, or hallucinating.

* “I’ll wear that fucking dago’s guts like a necktie.” I wonder if it’s Margaret’s failure to get with the handsome liberal doctor that’s pushing her toward escaping her marriage to a murderous monster by running away with…the murderous monster’s chief enforcer. Maybe it’s just those smilin’ Irish eyes of his.

* Tommy’s an artist, just like his mother.

* Everyone at the Legion hall loves Richard. Whatever’s broken inside him, they don’t see it.

* I still think he’s Nucky’s endgame against Gyp, somehow.

* Enormously depressing, watching all the real-life gangsters wash their hands of Nucky. Depressing even though I know the basic contours of Joe Masseria’s career and thus could predict how this particular segment of it would shake out. Now, I suppose, we learn how well the show can manage building up real-world people into characters knowing full well they can only take them off the board at the appointed time.

Cat’s eye view

November 15, 2012

Page 20 of “Destructor Meets the Cats” has been posted. You can read the whole story so far on one continuously scrolling page by clicking here.

Carnival of souls: special post-BCGF edition

November 13, 2012

* The Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival was this past Saturday. I missed it because I was busy throwing a surprise 60th birthday party for my mom, which went great, thanks, but it’s still a bummer to miss the best comics show I’ve ever been to. Tom Spurgeon liked the show a lot; Robert Boyd did not. To this outside observer it appears the show has reached the “victim of its own success” tipping point, where those not favorably predisposed to attending or exhibiting may be turned off by increased overcrowding, venue issues and suchlike inherent to the show picking up steam from year to year that veterans and enthusiasts are more able to gloss over or ignore. But since the acknowledged strength of the show is its organization, in terms of presenting a thoughtful and rewarding selection of exhibitors, panels, satellite events, and special guests in order to entice attendees and make them feel glad they came, I’d imagine the organizers will be able to use that same intelligence to fix logistical problems. This isn’t something that could have been said for, say, the MoCCA Festival when it reached its own tipping point a few years back, since in retrospect that show did as well as it did because it was the first (and only) of its kind in the area. (For what it’s worth, they handled growth really well by expanding to two days and multiple floors in the original venue, the Puck Building, then really poorly by moving it to the Amory and not preparing at all for change. Obviously exhibitor relations left a lot to be desired as well.) Anyway, for an idea of what I missed, here’s what Leah Wishnia bought there. (Man, is that ever a BCGF haul photo!)

* Related: BCGF co-organizer Bill Kartalopoulos launched his Rebus Books imprint at the show.

* Al Feldstein and the estate of Harvey Kurtzman are filing to reclaim the copyright of various 1950s EC Comics titles on which they worked, including MAD Magazine.

* WHOSE RESPONSIBLE THIS? My friend Rob Bricken, bless his heart, is leaving Topless Robot, the caustic nerd-news site he created and edited since its inception, for a gig at io9. I got a lot of enjoyment out of what Rob did there over the years. In true Topless Robot fashion, Rob signed off by posting lists of his eight favorite listicles, five least and five most horrifying fan-fiction posts, and five favorite things about the site overall. I was always very very happy with the few things I wrote for TR, particularly the music posts.

* Eventually my current headlong retreat inside myself only to find I can barely stomach anything in there either will come to an end and I’ll read all the comics I have lying around. At that point I will then read the following reviews: Chris Mautner on Ron RĂ©gĂ© Jr.’s The Cartoon Utopia and Theo Ellsworth’s The Understanding Monster. Katie Haegele on The Cartoon Utopia. Grace Krilanovich on Charles Burns’s The Hive. Marc Sobel interviewed Ellsworth, too.

* “Operation Vaporizer” by Jordan Speer is one of the best webcomics I’ve read all year, and I’ve read plenty.

* Jesse Moynihan’s Forming is delivering knockout after knockout.

* Mr. Freibert’s in a really good place with Weird Road right now.

* I’m always glad to see a new Conor Stechschulte comic — his Water Phase debuted at BCGF. No one textures pages like he does.

* Goodness, Space Face Books is a promising new publisher. I mean, it’s all but made good on its promise already. Forsman, DeForge, Hanselmann right out of the gate.

* Fucking hell, DeForge.

* When evaluating the recent work of Jonny Negron, please do not overlook the cementing of his signature style — meaning, literally, the style of his signature.

* Also, XOJane’s Annie Kreighbaum discovers what you look like when you use Jonny’s colors as your makeup palette.

* Yuko Shumizu’s drawing of Shirley Manson from Garbage pretty accurately captures the appeal of Shirley Manson from Garbage.

* Carrie Battan’s article on the creation of indie-flavored pop music by Solange Knowles, Sky Ferreira, Charli XCX and others is a fascinating look at how some fairly tasty sausage gets made.

* Jessie Ware’s album Devotion has quickly become one of my favorites of the year. I’ll never not be a huge mark for sophisticated late-’90s dinner-party music, and this is that at both its most sonically refined and most emotionally raw. And my my my my my this video.

* Finally, it occurred to me I never linked to Meghan “Moneyworth” Garvey’s astonishing hip-hop Illuminati illustrations when she and I got in touch a few months ago. She’s great; they’re great.

“Boardwalk Empire” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Eight: “The Pony”

November 11, 2012

Last week’s Boardwalk Empire today! Sorry for the delay — I had a house full of hurricane refugees and time was short.

* Nice to know that you can have half a face and no ability to modulate the pitch of your voice and you can still say something like “Jimmy deserved better than this” and make it crystal clear what you really mean.

* Hey, Hymie Weiss is being played by Meadow Soprano’s fiancĂ© Finn!

* Poor Van Alden, with that whiskey still pumping away amid his kids. That guy is like this weird swiffer cloth, attracting venality and corruption to him wherever he goes.

* Lotta laugh lines in this one:

Nucky’s man Friday: I am so sorry for your loss.
Nucky: Don’t be an idiot.

Nucky: That’s all you’re gonna give me?
Means: Rather more than you came in with.

And of course Esther’s line about running naked through the pages of the United States Criminal Code for fun.

* My notes for this ep, which all my notes for this show are starting to resemble, are basically a series of OMGs. “Jeeeeeesus that club Mellon’s in.” “Sheesh, that low-angle shot of Gillian pouring Nucky a drink.” “Gyp and Richard. Hoo boy.” “That fucking shot of Chicago.” A series of exciting things to see and think about.

* Margaret’s DTF.

* Capone puts on his hat realizing he’s the boss now, right? He is a weirdly lovable figure on this show.

* No question whatsoever that that asshole at the iron company was getting an iron in the face. You really have to admire how far the show went into the absurd with that whole sequence. They’re really making very little effort to either make Van Alden less of a mutant or to tie him into the prevailing tone of the rest of the show.

* The Billie situation was easy enough to see coming, particularly when we start getting her “just a small-town girl, livin’ in a lonely world” backstory. Ah well. Goodbye, Nadine Beckenbauer.


November 9, 2012

I will not be at BCGF this weekend, but apparently an “Origin of Stoner Alien” minicomic I wrote will be, so keep your eyes peeled.

For the record

November 6, 2012

If you haven’t already, please go do what I plan to do in a few minutes and vote against Mitt Romney and Republicanism by voting for Democrats and Barack Obama. Thanks.

Aw, shoot

November 3, 2012

I can’t go to BCGF next weekend due to family obligations I’d totally forgotten about. If you are a person who plans to have books there that you would have wanted me to see, drop me a line and let me know how best to get ahold of them. If you are a person who just wanted to see me, maybe there’s some way we can get together earlier in the week?