Monday, December 31, 2012

Best of 2012



Tallying it up, it looks like I read 21 books, 27 comics (trade paperbacks), and watched 100(!) films in 2012. 45 of the films were documentaries. Looking back, here are the highlights as I remember them:


Top 10 11 feature films I watched in 2012:
The Skin I Live In
Death Proof
Mesrine 1 & 2
the 400 Blows
13 Assassins
Grand Prix
Django Unchained
Drive
Somers Town
NEDS
Red State


Top 5 documentaries I watched in 2012:
Senna
Pearl Jam Twenty
Fire in Babylon
One Night in Turin
Helvetica


Top 5 biker flicks I watched in 2012:
The Wild One
Once a Jolly Swagman
C.C. and Company
Fastest
Sukeban Gerira


Top 5 comics I read in 2012:
Conan (all of the Nemedian Chronicles)
Criminal
Slaine - the Horned God
Northlanders (all)
Incognito


Top 5 books I read in 2012:
Thunderstruck
Icons of Men's Style
Dirty Deeds
Isaac's Storm
Steve Jobs


Top 10 albums that were released in 2012:
Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind
Gojira - L'Enfant Suavage
Zodiac - A Bit of Devil
Neurosis - Honor Found in Decay
Alcest - Les Voyages De L'Âme
Graveyard - Lights Out
Nachtmystium - Silencing Machine
Ahab - The Giant
Aura Noir - Out to Die
Hooded Menace - Effigies of Evil


Top 3 albums I procured in 2012 that came out prior:
Black Mountain - Wilderness Heart
Eddie Vedder - Into the Wild Soundtrack
the Prodigy - Experience




I'm as shocked as anyone that I'd pick Converge as the best album of the year...but god damn, just listen to it. The production rips your head off. It's so clear, but so raw and visceral. The layout is awesome, too. The songs are super eclectic. They're relentless. Catchy. Brutal. Technical but accessible. For a band that I thought sucked for 20 years or so...the last two albums are brilliant.



Django Unchained


I sacrificed by doing two things I hate today in order to do one thing I love. I went to Birmingham and I entered a non-indie cinema. And I did these two egregious things in order to see the most anticipated film of the year: Tarantino's Django Unchained.

Miraculously, the scant crowd actually shut the fuck up for the three hours we were there. We had to sit through the most inane trailers before the film, trailers clearly meant to rip out your very soul, but once the lights dimmed and the tension faded...no body ruined the movie. The scum don't show up at 1 o'clock in the afternoon. Thank fuck.

I think Tarantino and Wong Kar-Wai are probably the two greatest contemporary Directors. That's no secret. Danny Boyle is rubbing shoulders with them, too. Anyway, I was stoked to see Django. And it was pretty fucking good. Albeit, different than what I expected. But so what.

This is far and away Tarantino's most comedic film to date. It's honestly like a comedy set to a dramatic story, rather than a drama with comedic dialogue as one may expect. Definite nods to Blazing Saddles at times.

Best thing about it? The cinematography. The lighting was outstanding. The DP ruled. Great costuming, too.

The entire cast gave a tremendous performance. Christopher Waltz is as charismatic and enthralling as ever. Jamie Foxx and Samuel L. Jackson both played their roles perfectly, too. DiCaprio (one of my favorite actors) was probably out-classed for once. Waltz was THAT good. Of course, Tarantino peppered the film with many actors from the 60's and 70's that I've seen in the biker flicks I've been watching: Don Stroud, Russ Tamblyn, Bruce Dern...

Soundtrack was what you expect from Tarantino...and then some. The overt use of rap was an interesting juxtaposition, but a fitting one no-less. You just had to get used to the fact that this wasn't exactly what you expect from Quentin. He's clearly loosened the fuck up and just doesn't give a fuck. He's made his Pulp Fiction. He's made his Reservoir Dogs. If he wants to do something like Django...fuck the rules.

I believe this was the best film that was officially released in 2012.


The best Tarantino feature films in order, according to me:
Pulp Fiction
Reservoir Dogs
Death Proof
Ingrlorious Basterds
Django Unchained
Jackie Brown
Kill Bill 1 & 2

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Marvel Comics: The Untold Story


I'm gonna save you hours of your life. Don't read this book.

I was pretty stoked to get this for x-mas. I love comics, books and I love documentaries...what better than to mix them all up and read about the origins of freakin Marvel? Well, when you find out what a fucking shambles the company is and what a bunch of money-hungry idiots were crafting the stories...it kinda bums you out.

This book is 430 pages of "this happened" then "this happened" then "this happened." It's reads like an accountant wrote the damn thing. And it all seems to focus around money. The creators remind me of whiny Occupy Movement kids who failed to grow up. They essentially sign contracts, do work, get paid, and then bitch about it afterwards. Motherfucker, if you don't like the contract terms, don't sign it.

It's impossible to keep names straight when reading this because SO MANY people come, go, defect, come back, double-cross, etc. Artists are constantly ping-ponging between DC and Marvel, and then eventually more indie publishers. There's tons of shit-talking.

The shittiest part about this whole thing is how Marvel has been handled for the last 70 years. You can't have Creatives running the business because that's not their strength, but you equally can't have bean-counters running the Creative because that's not their strength. It seems at no point in Marvel's history did they ever really have good management or anyone with any sense making business and creative decisions. Something was always sacrificed and it ALWAYS seemed to hurt the fans as a result.

Reading this books just makes Marvel look like a money-making machine first and foremost. And it makes the content-creators look like greedy douchebags. I read the whole thing thinking it was such a squandered potential. If only they had brought in people with artistic INTEGRITY and business-savvy to run the damn company...

The only guy who still seems cool after 430 pages...is Stan Lee.


Friday, December 28, 2012

One Night in Turin


This film gave me the chills.

This is a great documentary narrated by Gary Oldman. It doesn't matter if you like football or not, this is one of those excellent films that transcends any preconceptions or preferences. For 90 minutes you will care about football. And you might just get the chills.

I was 10 years old when England got into the semi-finals of the World Cup. My family was on vacation in England when we watched their last game. I remember it vividly. Italia '90 is the football event that I measure everything against. It's really cool to see such a well done documentary about such an important time in English football.

The only down side: The hooliganism is fucking disgusting. It really sucks to see it here in all its standard definition glory. But that was part and parcel of everything that went down. Can't bury your head in the sand. I'm glad it's behind us, for the most part.

Moving on...the soundtrack is brilliant. It's all British shit from the mid-90's. Dance/indie crossover shit like the Farm, Joy Division, Adamski, the Charlatans, Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets, James, etc. It's probably the best soundtrack I've heard all year, to be honest.

Stream this on Netflix. It's well worth it.


the 400 Blows


I have a ton of DVDs that I've been meaning to re-watch, but I always get side-tracked by Netflix. I'm going to make it through a lot of those DVDs in 2013. I started by revisiting the 400 Blows.

It's a ballsy bloody move as a Director to shoot your debut film and hang it on the shoulders of school kids. But that's what Truffaut did and "ballsy bloody moves" were the cornerstone of the Nouvelle Vague. So I guess it makes perfect bloody sense after all.

It always blows my mind how intellectual young French kids seem to be in movies. They might be twelve years old or whatever, but they're always going on about Balzac, the politics in Indo-Chine, socialism, or some other aspect of philosophy or literature. Maybe that's just what they were like in the 60's. Now they're probably just playing video games on their iPods or whatever.

Anyway, the child actors don't let you down in this one. Just like Louise Malle or Godard, Truffaut's put together a great cast that can really carry the weight of the mostly non-events that populate this narrative. It's not REALLY about anything in particular plot-wise. It's more theme driven, I would say. It's about being a kid, dysfunctional families, nurture, education, attitudes towards crime and punishment. It's real life. It doesn't need a dramatic turning-point to anchor everything. It's just real life. I definitely think Truffaut was borrowing a page from the Italian neo-realists and British kitchen sink dramatists when he penned the 400 Blows. Then as he started creating more films, he started putting his own idiosyncratic twists and styles into the films. It's a fucking great start, though. Definitely one of his best. But honestly, if you put it up against Breathless or Elevator to the Gallows (debuts from Godard and Malle), then it comes in third. Just saying. Elevator and Breathless are actually my favorites from their respective auteurs.

Anyway, this film is Essential.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Batman: Year One


I don't have a lot to say about this one. It's an hour-long adaptation of Frank Miller's incredible "Batman: Year One."

It's good. The comic is a million times better. Obviously.

Stream it on Netflix if you're in dire need of some Batman in your life. It's not a waste of time. The violence is pretty legit and the story is great.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls


If I ever die, I want to come back as a lesbian in 1969.

Russ Meyer makes the late 60's look fucking amazing in this flick. It's a total send-up of the original Valley of the Dolls (which I haven't seen yet). Meyers and Ebert's satirical take on Hollywood stereotypes. And good god, do they fill the film with boobs! Glorious breasts in every scene.

I'd recommend seeing this flick on boobs and costume alone. The soundtrack is great, too. It's a fun film that's sort of like Scooby-Doo on acid. It follows a female power-trio who move to Hollywood and hang out with rich Hollywood folk. They do a lot of drugs, get naked a lot, fuck porn stars in Rolls's, party every night, make good music, and get murdered from time to time. It just sort of goes with the territory.

I imagine this is the kind of film that rustled a lot of freakin insider feathers upon its release. Most of the characters are spoofing actual people, like Phil Spector and Muhammad Ali. There's even a whole Sharon Tait murder tie-in at the end. The film was written in 6 weeks and the cast didn't even know if it was serious or not. They weren't sure how to play the parts and didn't want to ask Meyer if it was a comedy or a drama. He played it real straight because he wanted them to deliver the lines in earnest, even though the film was a total parody.

"Z-Man" is particularly good in the film. Most of the actors do a good job, but some are total crap. It doesn't really matter because even if they're total crap they're bound to be involved in a lesbian scene sooner or later and that negates any past errors.

I dug the editing, too. All the chicks are way hot. It's a fun film and it makes me want to live in Russ Meyer's world circa 1970.

Groovy.



Saturday, December 22, 2012

King of Devil's Island


Hammer of Doom and Bad Eye both recommended King of Devil's Island. I gave it a watch tonight and was pretty stoked on it.

It's a Norwegian tale based on true events in 1915. There's a reform school for troubled young lads who can avoid prison by doing a stint on this fucked up island. As you can imagine, the authority running the island don't exactly have the boys' best interest in heart all the time. Shit hits the fan and almost a hundred years later there's a film about what went down.

It was actually not as heavy as I thought it was going to be. Don't get me wrong, it's heavy, but thankfully it wasn't overly brutal. It didn't need to go there. You don't always need a cerebral and visceral pummeling.

Great acting. Good overall aesthetic. No complaints on any front.

Dig this.

Friday, December 21, 2012

the Leather Boys


The Leather Boys. Sounds gay, huh? Well, yeah it is actually. Ever wanted to see a love-triangle between two dudes and a chick set in Britain circa 1964 that uses the Café Racer subculture as its backdrop? Have I got the film for you!

We had "Shitty Biker Movie Night" last night and I curated something a little out of the ordinary. I had read about The Leather Boys in one of my Biker Movie books and I knew I had to hunt it down. Most of the flicks we watch are set in 60's America with Chopper culture. Here was a chance to hang out at the Ace Café with Rockers on their Brit bikes for once.

Both of the British biker flicks we've watched so far have been in a league of their own in regards to...let's say..."artistic merit". The cinematography in this was pretty sweet. The framing was good. It was a 1960's kitchen sink drama that unfolds to the tune of vintage Triumph exhaust notes! We've got a high school age couple who get married, go through troubles, and do some soul-searching. They argue over sex, over money, over dinner and housework. Y'know, that kinda crap. But in between the arguments they drink a lot of tea and hang out at the Ace quite a bit. Bumpin shoulders with lots of like-minded Rockers in London.

Oh yeah, the gay bit. It's pretty provocative for the early 60's. I don't wanna give away the whole damn plot but there's an interesting wrench thrown into the gears, if you know what I'm sayin'.

The film definitely hits on some interesting and relevant themes. I'm going to re-watch it again soon so I can catch all the witty dialogue and bike scenes (of which there should have been more!).

Acting was pretty good all round. Music could have been better. Dug the cinematography.

If you're into Café Racers this is a must-see. It's a good movie. But if you don't care about bikes then I'd skip it because it's not easily found on Netflix or anything. I had to drop $25 on Amazon.

Overall, good shit.

oof, that hair.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Alien


I used to watch Aliens all the time as a wee lad, but I'd only ever seen Alien once. So fast forward a couple decades and it was time to revisit the original. After being let down by Prometheus I wanted the mythos to redeem itself. Thankfully, it did.

Alien is clearly influenced by 2001 big time. Which is a damn good thing. Alien is pretty much everything Prometheus should have been. All the places that Prometheus went wrong; Alien got right. The story lines are pretty much the same. Prometheus just reads like someone re-imagined Alien 30 years later and did a crapper version of it.

Alien is much more concentrated and focused. It's tense. It's singular in its approach. Something happens and now we're dealing with that for 2 hours. Thank you. Great pacing. It's really well done.

Obviously it doesn't have shitty CGI. OK, so the chest-burster puppet and the main Alien aren't all that great..., but fuck it. If my memory is correct then they really nailed them in the sequel. The environments are all real cool, and the face-hugger is well done.

Very entertaining. I'll put Aliens in my queue to re-watch again, too. I can't be bothered with Alien 3 again. Shit, they probably even made a 4, didn't they? Meh.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Criminal


How the hell did I forget to review this thing? I'm normally so bloody diligent about that. Damn.

Criminal: the Deluxe Edition. It's amazing. It's tremendous. It's worth every penny. Did I really miss reviewing it?

I read the first story (Coward) after Bad Eye loaned it to me. I waited around for the Deluxe Edition to come out, as it was a collection of all the books in the Criminal series (plus extras). Coward was amazing and I needed more.

Criminal is modern noir. But it's a little bit more on the realism tip than say Sin City. It's stylized in its own way. It's incredibly cinematic. There's a lot of humanistic aspects to the drawing, especially the postures and facial expressions, that really elevate the art past everyone else out there. It feels like you're reading a film, frame by frame, as opposed to reading a comic. The brilliant art and great writing just suck you into the Criminal word from the get-go. You're immersed. You live it.

All the stories are worth reading. Characters and places reoccur from story to story and it makes you feel like you're part of a Criminal universe. It makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Similar to Sin City in that regard.

I gotta look back, but I wouldn't be surprised if this was the best comic I read in 2012. It's essential.

Incognito


I read Criminal by Brubaker and Phillips and absolutely LOVED it. So I talked to my man, Sanguis, and he turned me onto Incognito by Brubaker and Phillips. It sounded weird, but I was more than willing to give it a shot based on the strength of Criminal. These guys are a brilliant duo.

Without giving it all away, the gist of the book is there's a dude with super-powers who used to be a "bad guy." He gets put in witness protection by the gov't and forced to lead a normal life. They use drugs to inhibit his super-powers, so he's just an average joe. Well, one thing leads to another and he ends up being a "good guy" and using his powers as a masked-avenger. But it's not quite as straightforward as all that. His past comes back to haunt him and you're sucked down a really fucking cool tunnel of heroes and villains.

The premise is novel, the writing is great, and the artwork rules from beginning to end. I love the colors, too. It's just a fucking great book to read. You blaze through it. I've immediately put it back on my "to read" shelf because I need to re-read it slower and scrutinize the art more. It's too damn good.

Top class. If you have eyes you should get this book (after you've read Criminal!).

Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone

I honestly don't think I'd ever heard Fishbone until I saw this doc'. I'm not losing any sleep over it. As it turns out I don't like what they do at all, but I figured I'd give the documentary a shot and see what they were all about.

Lawrence Fishburn does the narration. The production value is pretty good throughout. The film lets the members tell their tale in their own words, with a few interjections from the narrator every once in a while. Archival footage is paired with recent interviews and animation to weave the whole narrative together. It's done pretty well.

I really don't like their fusion of ska, punk, pop, r'n'b, metal, funk, and weirdness. I don't like RHCP or No Doubt or any of the other bands that look up to Fishbone. But that's besides the point. The documentary is worth watching cuz it's an interesting trip regardless of the music. A weird group of guys playing weird music for 25 years. It's entertaining. You learn everything you'd ever care to know about Fishbone in the movie. You're all set. Such a bizarre band. I honestly don't see how people like their music. Probably the same people that like Mr. Bungle and worship everything Mike Patton does.

Anyway, it's worth watching. Most of the characters are pretty likable and there are some really interesting ups and downs in Fishbone's career.

Steaming on Netflix. Word.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Cycle Savages


We kicked off this season of "Shitty Motorcycle Movie Night" with a good one. Well, "good" is relative when describing 60's moto cinema. Generally the worse it is; the better it is. And this one ruled! Confused? Good.

Bruce Dern really held it down in this. A legitimate actor doing a legitimate job in a genre devoid of acting talent. So that made for a change. Anyway, Bruce is actually really good as the President of an outlaw M/C. Casey Kasem holds it down as his brother, who's a bonefide pimp in Vegas. This isn't the only motorcycle exploitation film that Kasem has appeared in, believe it or not. The dude wasn't always so squeaky clean...

The rest of the cast sucks. But what totally rules is the AWFUL plot. The whole thing revolves around a bad ass illustrator! There's an ex-marine who's drawing pictures of women in the park and whatnot, and even drawing pictures of the M/C. They get wind of this and they're pissed! What if the Man finds out!? They'll be thrown in jail over these drawings... Yup, that's the crux of their hatred for this artist. If the law sees these drawings that will incriminate the M/C and they'll all get locked up.

I'll give you a second to ponder that "logic".

So, what's any druggie/prostitute ring oriented M/C to do? They need to fuck up the illustrator's hands and make it look like an accident! But how? Well, they're gonna have an orgy, get wasted on acid, and then come up with a way to seek revenge on the illustrator. I won't spoil the surprise. I'm afraid I've already said too much.

It was a pretty memorable flick. Definitely recommended. For being a a biker flick and having some amazing bikes (no doubt), they don't show enough riding! It looks great, but they focused too much on the plot. And that's NOT what we watch biker flicks for. This was almost too legitimate. It was like a hybrid of typical moto genre shit with some half-baked idea that they could direct a "real" film. I think they should have had a lot more riding. That's my only gripe.

This still ruled.


Kasem, you pimp! Look at that shirt.

The Walking Dead: Vol 17


Holy fuck! Remember when that fucked up shit happened to the Governor way back when? How you put the book down to digest what you just saw? You had to re-read it to see if your eyes were playing tricks on you. Well, issue 100 is contained within volume 17 and this is the second-most-fucked-up thing you've seen since the Walking Dead started. It's brutal as all hell. It's merciless. It's psychological. It's a bit of a bummer.

Anyway, we're introduced to some new characters and new threats. And some shit is really gonna go down in volume 18. I can't wait to see how this plays out. The ante has been upped. I think it's interesting how Rick is handling this. And I dig the Jesus character.

This is gonna be good.

The Walking Dead: Vol 16


I'd gotten behind on the Walking Dead. I cracked open trade 16 and it took me a little while to remember the bloody characters. Problem with the artist is that he kinda sucks. Half the time you don't know if it's a dude or a lesbian, or if the character has suddenly gotten Downs Syndrome. Wait, is that Maggie or Glen on this panel? He's terribly inconsistent in his physical portrayal.

Anyway, once I realized it was a dude and not a lesbian things started to fall back into place.

Overall, this volume seemed like a good little segue into volume 17, which is where shit REALLY hits the fan...


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers


Marie bought me this book a few years ago. I've been meaning to re-read it and finally got around to it. Shit, it doesn't even take an hour to get through. I shouldn't have waited so long.

Trying to explain Wabi-Sabi is impossible. Explaining it isn't the point. You have to know it. True to Japanese culture, this concept is intuitive rather than scientific. You don't have to write it down and formulate it for it to exist or to be understood.

Confusing? Yeah, kind of.

The book says, “Wabi-sabi is the quintessential Japanese Aesthetic. It is beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional…“

That's Wabi-Sabi in a nutshell. This book gives examples and expands upon what it means in regards to metaphysics, spirituality, state of mind, moral precepts and material qualities.

When we buy our next house I'll revisit to book to probably help focus our interior design decisions.

Wabi-Sabi is something I know, but didn't know it had a name until I was introduced to it. It just is. Sort of like being introduced to StraightEdge when I was 13 or 14 or whatever. I just knew.

This is the weirdest, most confusing and bizarre write-up I've done. But if you take an hour to read the book, it'll all make sense. It's by Leonard Koren and it appears you can download a pdf for free from here. Or get it on Amazon for ten bucks.





Saturday, November 24, 2012

My Blueberry Nights


I first saw this in a theatre in Bangkok. I wasn't that impressed. James, my friend who saw it with me and who's also a big Wong Kar-Wai fan (I believe) wasn't that enthused either. But I didn't want it to end like that. I wanted it to be better than I remembered so I gave it a few years and watched it again this morning.

Visually it's awesome from the get-go. Wong Kar-Wai's trademark saturated hues and gratuitous use of slo-mo. The cinematography is fucking awesome. But the dialogue just wasn't working. And for a film that's pretty much all dialogue...that's a crucial element! I didn't want to look at Norah Jones for 90 minutes either. Where's Natalie Portman?

So, even though it was gorgeous to look at, I wasn't that hooked from the start. But as the film went on I started to dig it more and more. New characters came into play and eventually it just clicked. I like this movie now.

Natalie Portman does eventually show up. Ok, her hair is awful in this, but even bald she's still the hottest chick in the room. Goddman she's sexy. Especially rollin' in a jaaaag. Tantalizing.

Anyway, Norah Jones is a good actor. My only beef with this is the script. Since this is Wong Kar-Wai's first English film I can cut him a bit of slack, I guess. I love him for the space between words. The glances. The longing. The pain. The music. The colors. The slo-mo. The framing. The loss. The negative space. I don't particularly love him for the dialogue. Normally it's very spartan. And normally it's in Cantonese, so I'm only getting a subtitle. I don't know how it reads in its native tongue. I felt the English in My Blueberry Nights was just a little too cheesy or poetic at times. Sort of noir-ish, really. I might have loved it if they were speaking in Cantonese and I was reading subtitles. Who knows. Wong Kar-Wai is famous for writing scripts literally the night before filming, on set, or not really having one at all. But clearly this was nailed down prior to shooting.

So, I think this is better than I thought it was. But I'm looking forward to something better when his next movie comes out, which is about the dude who trained Bruce Lee and stars Tony Leung. That's gonna be freaking rad. The Grandmasters. Word.

Friday, November 23, 2012

13 Assassins


Last year I pegged 13 Assassins as the 2nd best film I saw in 2011. It's goddamn impressive. I checked it out at the DFT and I was pretty blown away. So less than a year later I decided to watch it again on Netflix. It still rules fucking hard.

Takashi Miike, the prolific Director being Ichi the Killer, directed this amazing flick. It's a modern distillation of everything you want in a samurai film, with some unique flavor thrown in for good measure. The plot revolves around politics and honor, as it should, but it's not so complicated you get lost. The first hour is set up and the second hour is all swordplay and rivers of blood. It never gets dull, though. Miike knows how to shoot, pace and edit the action so every slice is as riveting as the last. Every decapitation as vital as the next.

One of the unique aspects of this film is the FUCKED UP Lord Naritsugu. His character is vile beyond imagining. He's a truly shocking character and has to go down in cinema history as one of the most twisted fucks on the silver screen. He makes Freddy Kreuger look like Mahatma Gandhi. It's worth noting this film isn't for those with a weak stomach.

This film rules. You're retarded if you don't see it.


"Being a samurai is truly a burden. Do what you want...with your life." Immortal words.


Mesrine Part 2: Public Enemy #1


I just watched Part 1 for the second time a few days ago. I wanted to watch Part 2 shortly thereafter, so I sat down with a tofurkey sandwich and fired up Netflix.

I don't have anything to expound upon that wasn't covered in the first review. The difference between both films is minimal. I found Part 1 to be better because it was a little bit more dynamic. It was more drama-oriented. Part 2 is almost non-stop action. So depending on how you like your pacing or depth, you might lean towards one or the other. Six of one, half-dozen of the other.

Some great Peugeots in this installment. And that brown 5 Series with yellow lamps? Awesome.

Truly a spectacular double-feature. A legitimate classic. I can't think of a better gangster film. Seriously.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Somers Town


I really dug Shane Meadows' 2006 film, This Is England. It took his film-making to the next level. Dead Man's Shoes was a worthwhile flick from '04, but This Is England was truly powerful. So with two good flicks under his belt and the lead actor from This Is England, I was confident Meadows' 2009 flick, Somers Town, wouldn't disappoint. And it definitely didn't.

Shane clearly did this film on a shoestring budget. I haven't researched how he went about making this film, but it reminds me of the way the Nouvelle Vague would shoot. Natural light, non-actors, on location, and just seemingly flying by the seat of their pants. Very D.I.Y. Very minimal. Exceedingly good.

The 70 minute film is about a friendship forged between a Polish immigrant kid, and a young boy running away from familial strife in the Midlands. They form an unlikely bond. Things are a bit sketchy at first, but good things eventually happen for the two of 'em under the grey skies of London.

The film is pretty much a two-person play, with a few supporting rolls popping up from time to time. The two young actors really pull off believable and sympathetic performances. It's rather kitchen sink, but not in the über-depressing manor you expect from such dramas.

Meadows is a great story-teller. Very human. This is well worth watching. The trailer doesn't do it justice. It's a funny, sincere, entertaining drama. Check it out.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Generation Ecstacy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture





I wanted to know more about techno as I've recently been diggin' on some old British drum'n'bass like Goldie and Grooverider. I've also been bumping a lot of Prodigy and Underworld. But my list of electronic music is very clearly limited to album-oriented artists in the mainstream. Aphex Twin, Crystal Method, Justice, Roni Size, Chemical Brothers, Massive Attack, Bjork, Portishead, etc. I love it all, but I wanted to get deeper to find more artists who produced music similar to my favorites. I fucking love the first three Prodigy records, especially the first two. Who else does shit of that caliber and what's it even called? I'm diggin' the Metalheadz stuff, but where do I go from there? And what else am I missing? Clearly I'm a neophyte and I hoped a 450 page book on the first 10 years of techno might help a brotha out. So my friend suggested I pick this up. And that I did...

I dig that it starts in Detroit, like a lot of good, heavy, world-changing shit seems to do. While I was here in its heyday, I was far too immersed in hardcore punk to even contemplate hardcore techno. Fuck dancing, fuck drugs. Not my thing. Never has been. But the music and the creativity...clearly I was missing out big time. I wish I could go back in time and accompany friends to some of those warehouse raves. Sheeeeit.

The parallels between both hardcore scenes (punk and techno) are shockingly apparent. After reading the book it's no wonder many punks (especially anarcho-crusties) crossed over and really got into techno. Evidently I'm a bit late to the party. All I knew in 1995 was that I loved the music from Hackers and Trainspotting. And still do. But now I'm putting it into social and evolutionary context.

But enough about me. This is about the book.

It's half good and half jounro' pomp. The chapters that deal with music chronology and history are good. The half that expound on theories and the author's philosophies aren't so hot. He can weave a good tale, and I don't mind it being interspersed with opinion, but sometimes he just rattles on about philosophical garbage. The diction changes from straightforward sensible word-choice in the documentary parts of the book, to thesaurus-requiring unnecessary journalistic one-upmanship in the psycho-babble parts. Maybe the book would read better as two tomes: The History in part 1 and the Analysis in part 2.

Allegedly it came with a cd, which would have been rad if it really did...But I purchased a used copy on Amazon for $4 and alas, it didn't. However, a cursory search didn't reveal any new books that mentioned anything about a cd at all...so...I just used youtube on my iPhone to bring up songs as I was reading along. "What's "gabba" sound like? Ooof, this sucks. How about Chicago "house"...oof, this sucks, too."

SL2 "on a ragga tip"...now we're talkin! ;)

Hyper On Experience? More of that please.

Unfortunately most of these artists were vinyl-oriented and track-oriented, meaning it's impossible to get this crap on cd ten years after the fact. So it might be slim pickings as I hunt down some of the stuff I'm diggin' on.

This is a worthwhile read. It's a good crash course and general overview on techno. It's certainly flawed, but it's still worth the effort if you're a music nerd historian. 








Monday, November 19, 2012

Mesrine Part 1: Killer Instinct




I saw this in the theatre last year and pegged it (along with Part 2) as the best films of 2011. I watched it again on Netflix cuz I was in the mood for some fast-paced prison action. Errr…that sounds terribly wrong.

Vincent Cassel is the man. Great actor who really shines in this real-life French gangster flick. The dude was a nutter. No regard for his life or the well-being of others. He had a twisted sense of loyalty and a warped sense of morality. Serving in the French Army couldn't have helped. Anyway, his life is awash with bank-robbing, prison escapes, women, fast cars, babies, guns, gambling, violence and a great mustache. Put all this in a blender and you've got one hell of an action-packed film. It's all documented with a classicism that avoids pastiche and simply exists as a legitimate documentation of the times it portrays. The styling is top notch. The editing is great. Definitely a nod to Saul Bass here and there. It's fucking great.

The content is certainly rough, though. If you're afraid of some sickening violence against men and women, then stay away. If you can't handle prison torture and you don't like seeing terrible things happen to good people…this isn't the flick for you. It's brutal. It cuts deep. Just like most great art should. Cassel isn't afraid to step up to controversial films, as we've seen in the in-fucking-credible Irreversible. While this isn't on that level, it's still pretty gnarly at times.

Anyway. It didn't disappoint on the second viewing and I'm looking forward to watching Part 2 later this week. Vive la France!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Deep Water


The sea is a scary-ass place. Unforgiving waves ready to crush you like an insect. Blackness. Emptiness. Cruelty. Void.
You're surrounded by impending doom. 70% of the Earth's surface is covered in water. That's 70% Doom.

In 1969 nine sailors decided to race around the world singlehandedly in an attempt to be the first person to circumnavigate the globe in a sailboat without stopping. No aid. Just a dude and a boat trying something that had never been done. Brass balls.

This documentary is about that race. But it's specifically about one dude from England. The Dark Horse of the nine. He was in Deep Water and subsequently in Deep Shit. You'll find out why if you watch the flick.

The film uses archival footage and photography mixed with interviews done for the film. There are no recreations. It's well put together. I think it's an interesting narrative and it's accompanied by compelling visuals. It doesn't rely on slick effects or bullshit like that. It's just real people telling a real story. It's woven together cohesively. I enjoyed the trip. Tension mounts, brothers and sisters.

It's streaming on Netflix. It's inspiring. Watch it.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Prometheus


Prometheus starts off with some CGI.
CGI sucks.

Then we're introduced to the archetypical crew of Alien-mythos characters: We've got a simulant who bleeds white "blood", we've got a bad ass black dude, we've got a crazy white dude with a predilection for foul language, we've got some nerdy scientists, we've got a the woman-on-a-mission who won't take shit from anyone, we've got a token non-white guy, and then some other people who are just good for death scenes. We wont miss them because we never got to know them. Sound familiar so far?

Then we meet a couple new characters introduced for this flick. The Weylands. You'll find out about them if you watch the movie. Thing is, I don't suggest you watch the movie.

The trailer looks way cooler than the flick really is. The trailer is more ominous. Big massive fuck-off score that gives you the chills. The flick looks immense. But it's not.

Visually it's alright. Sonically it's mediocre. Acting is crap to good, depending on who it is. It's just not as intense as it could have been. Honestly, I think it could have been an hour longer and that would have helped it. Yup, a three hour version might have saved it.

The thing is, the film isn't bad. It's just not that great. You could watch many worse movies, but you could watch a zillion better ones, too. So why bother with Prometheus? Fuck CGI.

Meh.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Man's Story


I wanna be rich like Ozwald Boateng.

I want a wardrobe like the motherfucker, too. Ever since I first saw Boateng's designs I knew that he'd be the first guy I'd go see if I ever truly "made it." I'll fly my ass over to London and beat down his door on Savile Row. I want him to make me a suit before I die.

Boateng takes a very sharp, very modern approach to English tailoring but adds his own dandy twist to the party. He's provocative and ballsy, but somehow he manages to keep a lid on it. He's irreverent in some of his color choices but it's completely alright because it's so well proportioned and put together that you just can't argue with it. He offers a very refined "fuck you." Love it.

The film follows Ozwald for ten years! You see him go from the gutter to the penthouse. It's great to see the ascension unfold. The dude is unflappable. The production value is pretty low. The audio isn't always that great. The video isn't always that great. It's never distracting, though. But the film is definitely raw. I woudln't give the Director any awards on any level. The whole thing is pretty good, but it's really basic. You could give the raw footage to someone else and I think they could do something better, to be honest. But whatever. Good effort.

If you wanna watch a fly-on-the-wall doc about the best men's fashion designer currently cutting cloth, then this is for you. Otherwise...meh, you could watch something else. Hey, I just got Prometheus in the mail today...


As Tears Go By


I finally watched the first Wong Kar-Wai flick, and subsequently the last full-length feature I needed to see to complete his filmography.

I gotta say, it starts off kinda rough. I know it was his fist flick and it was 1988 in Hong Kong...but that music is inexcusable. I could point to far too many other Directors that weren't using crap like that in 1988. But let's not dwell on it. Moving on. It seemed a little shoddy right off the bat, but as the film went on it was almost like Wong Kar-Wai was putting it all together right in front of your eyes. Things just got better and better as time ticked by. By the end of the flick you've forgotten about any rough spots and you're fully immersed.

It's cool to watch because you can see Wong Kar-Wai planting the seeds for his future masterpieces. His trademark color and chiaroscuro is already in play. We don't have Christopher Doyle on hand just yet, but the DP does a great job on this, too. Many of Wong Kar-Wai's trademark visual cues are employed even in this first film. It's instantly recognizable as one of his own. It's rough, but that's alright. Sometimes it reminded me of a Samo Hung / Jackie Chan flick. That's both good and bad as it relates to As Tears Go By.

The plot is a pretty straightforward Chinese gangster story. Of course there's love, there's violence, there's culture and tradition, and there's tragedy mixed into every Wong Kar-Wai flick, and this one is no different. The acting is great. I really dug the characters and the plot. It's pretty rad actually.

Having said all this...of all the Wong Kar-Wai films out there, I wouldn't put this at the top of your queue. I'd want to see some of his classics before digging into something as raw and maybe early as this. If like me you've seen all the rest, then I definitely think you'll enjoy this. It starts out rocky but it soon brings you into the fold. It's some good shit.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Objectified


Just watched Objectified again. It's by Gary Hustwit, who also Directed Helvetica. This is the second in his design trilogy. I just watched the final installment, Urbanized, a little while ago. All good films in their own right.

Objectified doesn't glamorize or try to make industrial design sexy. It's a somewhat dry documentary. Maybe "subtle" is a better word than "dry." I don't know. I dig it. It's unvarnished and pretty mellow. We see interviews with a variety of designers who have some pretty interesting and relatively deep insights into design. And we see interviews with a couple lunatics. The art fags you just couldn't see eye-to-eye with in art school. SOME of them end up getting paid well for being flighty art fags. Whatever. The rest of the cast have their heads pretty well screwed on to their bodies.

Surprisingly, Karim Rashid has some really valuable insights. I say "surprisingly" because the man wears white nailpolish and lots of pink accessories. The long-hair dude with the nice couch in the background is my other favorite interviewee.

The ideas are translatable to other areas of design. Obviously, as an Art Director, I could relate to their processes even though we work in different specialized fields.

If you've ever wondered about industrial design process then watch this flick. And even if you don't care about how they design handles for potato-peelers...watch this flick.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Grand Prix


Total fucking car porn. This movie is amazing. Rent it. Buy it. See it. Car porn, design porn, style porn, it's just all round x-rated.

I started watching this and I was hooked from the opening shot. I knew something good was in store. I just didn't realize HOW good it was gonna be. So, the credits start rolling and it looks slick as hell. The editing is just pure class. It's innovative, it's intimate, it's just so well balanced and juxtaposed. Then I see Saul Bass is the man behind it all. Of course. It's only a shame he didn't design an awesome movie poster, too. The one they use is kinda lame. If Bass had done it I might have gotten a freakin back-piece tattooed of it!

Anyway, the movie starts and it's pretty much 20 solid minutes of the 1966 Monaco GP in glorious car porn fashion. Amazing onboard POV shots. Helicopter tracking shots. Heel-toe shifting spliced with two other simultaneous shots for a triptych split screen. Glorious 60's FI cars racing through the Monaco streets. It's just awesome.

The film is 3 hours long. It's about the 1966 F1 season. The attention to detail is second-to-none. Frankenheimer made a car film for car nerds. He was also responsible for the other car  film I watched recently; Ronin. He's a serious car nerd and he really poured his heart and soul into Grand Prix.

You've got a big-name cast including Toshiro Mifune and Eva Marie Saint. It's an international cast that hops from circuit to circuit around Europe. From Monaco to Belgium to Monza to Brands Hatch to wherever. They filmed during the actual racing events. It's all real shit. So, there IS a story, too. It's about racing, love (of course), mortality, fidelity, perseverance, the human spirit, and crap like that. They wrestle with existentialist issues. They get drunk. They race. Some crash. Some die. Some live. And one even breaks up with Francoise Hardy...idiot! 

Before the sponsors, before the money and before the safety there were just bad ass dudes like Phil Hill and Jackie Stewart racing balls-out cuz that's how they fucking rolled. If you call yourself a gear-head, a petrol-head, a car-guy, or even just a fucking Man; you must see this film in all its 60's racing glory.


Northlanders 6: Thor's Daughter


When Conan runs dry there's fucking Northlanders.

Actually, that's not fair. That's implying that Northlanders is inferior. It's not. It can be just as good as Conan. Albeit in a very different way. Northlanders is definitely unvarnished. It's raw, gritty, brutal viking yarns set in many grim and frostbitten kingdoms. Awesome series.

Thor's Daughter isn't the best installment, though. And to me that's cuz the main story is illustrated by a new guy and his style clashes with what I love about the first 5 books: Realism. Normally I find the art sharper and more visceral. But that's alright, the other stories are illustrated with a style that's in keeping with the older books. This book ends up having some of my favorite and least favorite art in it.

But that's only a small hiccup. The stories are still awesome. The writing fucking rules.

Vikings tell the best stories.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Satan is Alive: a Tribute to Mercyful Fate


Finally sat down with my Satan is Alive playlist and listened/read my way through the book.
It's really pretty damn cool.

Lemme back up. I pre-ordered this mofo via Mark Rudolph's Kickstarter project as soon as I got the link. What a rad idea. Interpret the songs of Mercyful Fate in a comic book format? Fuckin' sign me up already. 

Mark actually hand-delivered the books to Ferndale, although I wasn't in when he stopped by. My first impression was actually, "holy crap, this is physically smaller than I anticipated." I was a bit let down with the small-ish size. I expected something akin to traditional U.S. comic books. This is more like a large postcard. It's a two color litho cover on matte uncoated stock (butcher paper-ish), with a one color text weight inside. Production value is pretty high. Definitely a quality product. 

The book is sandwiched with some forewords and afterwords by a lot of heavy hitters in the metal scene from "E" from Watain to Fenriz to Phil Anselmo. There's a lot of dudes throwing in their 2 cents about what Mercyful Fate means to them. Impressive roster, but nothing all that cool. It's straight. The meat and potatoes is yet to come. 

The book kicks off with the Mad Arab and I really dig the way the artist fills the frame. I don't know who it is because there's no attribution that I can see. No table of contents. If you catch a signature, cool, but if not, it's a bit of a guessing game for each installment. Anyway, whoever this is is one of my favorite contributors. I like the lettering and the frenzy in the art. It's just really well composed. 

Bruno Guerreiro is up next and paints a picture in stark contrast to the opener. His stuff is real cool, but it's more like a series of separate stills, rather than a continuous flow. Oh, before Bruno there's a one page entry by Tom Neely and it's fucking amazing. You'll see. It will be xeroxed and used for flyers from here til eternity. 

Rudoph is up next and pens a great installment, really giving life to a corpse with no soul. Then someone tackles Melissa with a quirky style that's a nice contrast to the slick work before him. It's cool to see so many takes on the same subject. 

Vasilis Lolos comes out of left field with some really angular shit. It's like the prog-rock of comic books. Really cool. Sandman-esque at times. Bizarre, but it keeps you coming back to his stark stylized visions. 

Ed Luce does Black Funeral next. I like how he didn't take it too literally or seriously and was able to just have fun and interpret the lyrics his own way. Hats off for the originality. 

Nick Green's story is a bit of a waste in my opinion. Immature and sort of pointless. But that's alright cuz Tom Neely gets back in the mix with my favorite artwork again. This dude rules. His art's got a painterly depth to it at times. Love it.

ChuckBB of Decibel fame delivers his installment after we get a visit from the Mad Arab again. Chuck's work is big and bold and really fits Evil well. It's just in your face and is a great complement to the song. I love the last frame. Fucking awesome. 

Rudolph pops up again with Satan's Fall and does an excellent job. It's like a freakin music video as you read along. He definitely has a great way of storyboarding a compelling narrative. All the frames fall right into place, you're singing along and reading the book...it just works. He could have done a whole album's worth of illustrations and you wouldn't be bored. Who knows what he has in store based on the success of this one? I'd like to see Misfits Earth A.D. illustrated from beginning to end...Mark?

Tim Sievert's installment is cool. I like his interpretation of the lyrics. Cool depictions. Most artists managed to infuse something original to take the concepts one step away from King Diamond's lyrics. One step beyond, but in a parallel path. So it's all good. 

Mark Thompson is up next and his last panel is like 2001 a Space Odyssey meets Anton LaVey. Sweet!

I'm not a fan of J. Bennett's writing. His story is pretty humorous for once. But again, sort of pointless. I can take it or leave it. 

There's a timeline and then the afterword by Phil Anselmo. All in all a really unique concept that we're lucky saw the light of day. It's a well-executed volume and I hope it's the beginning of something bigger. I'd love to see a series of books in the same vein. 

Pick it up! Ave Satanas!





Friday, October 19, 2012

Conan: Road of Kings


Bugger. The last book that's currently out. I had to pre-order the next one, which comes out in February I think.

Well, at least I can move on to the Criminal anthology, a new Northlanders, and 100 Bullets. I'm not lacking in the comic department. Shit, I've got some catching up to do on the Walking Dead, too. I might even be two TPB's behind at this point.

Road of Kings. Different artist. Very angular. This guy is more exaggerated and more "comic book-y" for lack of a better term. I prefer a bit more realism in their portrayal. This is a little more light-hearted and comedic. The blood is just a pool of red. It's not as visceral as it should be. Conan is a gritty character. He's not fucking Disney-fied.

Thievery. Piracy. Pubs. Sewers. Ale. Wenches. Jewels. Kings and Blood. Another tried and true Conan story. When's the dude ever gonna learn about women? They're always getting him into bloody trouble and it generally has to do with jewelry of some sort of another. Anyway, this is a good sprawling tale that takes Conan all over the place. He's hunted by some crazy Gestapo looking dude and he has a fair amount of encounters with crazy animals and insects along the way to saving a hot princess. Like he's prone to do.

You get used to the art. It's a good book. Story flows well. I'll look forward to re-reading these all over again. Maybe I should read Preacher again next year first, though...or Y the Last Man...Fuck, so many good books, so precious little time. I really need to reboot Walking Dead from the start. For sure.

Conan: Iron Shadows in the Moon


Almost done with the Dark Horse Conan series. Just one more book until volume 12 drops in February.

Iron Shadows in the Moon picks up with a few characters we've encountered in previous books. Story lines weave in and out from volume to volume. It's easier to keep track of when you're reading the books in relatively close succession. The main aspect of this journey is Conan's foray into piracy! The man commands a troop of free lancers on the battlefield one day and a sordid band of pirates the next. From field to sea and back again, Conan doesn't give a fuck. He'll decapitate at the drop of a dime.

This story seem a bit familiar. It doesn't stand out as a true Conan epic to me. Maybe it focuses on the action more than the drama, and I kinda like the dramatic aspects of Conan just as much as the bloodletting. Too much of that gets old. But it still has its twists to keep it interesting. A solid yarn with all the requisite attributes you'd expect.

The final third of the book is an additional story with a different artist. I just do no feel his style. It's sort of sloppy and organic, and demented in a childlike way. Not feeling it. But thankfully he didn't take over the main story. It's fine. Movin' on.

Yeah, another good read from Dark Horse.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Conan: Free Companions


This book is made up of some REH stories as well as some new yarns that are spun to help fill in some gaps. It's all handled equally well and I thoroughly enjoyed this installment in the series.

The book revolves around Conan's acquisition of an army of free lancers, 5000 strong. We see them slay, conquer and slay again, with Conan calling the shots. Conan has the respect and loyalty of Amarlric's army at his disposal. We see the Free Companions come into some trouble, though... Yasmela...I knew she was hot as hell, but didn't expect her to be so fickle when it came to the Cimmerian. Anyway, Yasmela brings trouble and things go south really quickly. It sucks. But I can't divulge more cuz that's what you're supposed to find out when the read the damn thing.

The art and writing hold up. I've complained about the Truman/Griorello team before but once they found their stride things have been solid. We're good now.

Another good one. Fo' sho'.

the Dunwich Horror


Films like this are basically what fuels the creative fire for Electric Wizard. They woudln't exist if it weren't for shitty occult flicks about sex and satan.

This was produced by American International Pictures (AIP). They were known for their biker flicks of the 60s and 70s. They generally dabbled in exploitation pictures. Lowbrow flicks for those of us who like a little lowbrow action from time to time.

This is like an American "Hammer Horror" flick. It really borrows a lot from the Wickerman, even though the story is actually Lovcraftian in origin. The plot revolves around the Necromicon, and a young descendent of Dennis Wheatley who tries to use the book to conjure some demons from another dimension. There's a virgin sacrifice, a frightened town ready to lynch anyone or anything they don't comprehend, and some hot innocent young chicks.

The story is very straightforward. The acting is pretty stiff. It's alright. For what it is, it's really not that bad.

Go watch the Wickerman.

Fungus the Bogeyman


I hate kids and I hate it when adults read shit that was meant for kids.

So it's a bit odd for me to write this review. See, I loved being a kid. Don't get me wrong about that. Being a kid had its moments. As a youth I was particularly fond of this book, Fungus the Bogeyman. I poured over every panel on every page in meticulous detail as I absorbed what it meant to live the life of a "bogeyman."

Somehow I saw someone recommending this book in my RSS feed and I knew I had to re-buy the thing. So I did.

Raymond Briggs, the Author, is probably most famous for his Snowman animation. You know the, "I'm flying in the aiiiiiir" thing with the choir of little boys... Anyway, it was massive in Britain. Fungus the Bogeyman is the darker side of Briggs. No little boys in robes flying across rooftops with friendly snowmen here. This is all snot, pus, and gnarly shit that gives you boils on your neck in the middle of the night. It's the life of a bogeyman.

The book is a documentary of a bogeyman named Fungus. It follows him throughout his daily routine of scaring people, tapping on windows, being creepy, giving people pimples, and so forth. But Fungus is having a bit of an existential crisis. He's questioning why. Why does he exist, why is he scaring vicars in the dark, why does he do what he does? Why?

So, Briggs goes in depth explaining everything from bogey anatomy to bogey passtimes to just anything and everything bogey. We follow Fungus, get inside his head, and get a pretty good understanding of what it means to be a bogeyman.

The book employs subtle British wit and humor throughout. As a kid I really liked scrutinizing the panels and squeezing out every last detail I could. The illustrations are great and fit the scummy subject matter to a T.

This books is great for children. It'll have them turning to their dictionaries frequently as they learn new words that their classmates wont encounter for  years. It asks a lot from the reader, but you get a lot in return.

As an adult I definitely enjoyed this. If you're a parent then I'd highly recommend this book for you and your kids. Well, your male kids. I don't think chicks would dig this at all.

Fungus rules. Get this book.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Helvetica


I watched this with my team at work today.

I like this film. I like the contrast of opinions. Some people think Helvetica started the Vietnam war, others think Helvetica is the only font on earth worth using. Personally, I love Helvetica, but it's by no means the only choice for me. Unlike some of the purists who think type should be invisible, I think type can be expressive. However, I don't go as far as David Carson does. I am not a fan of his work, personally. I think it's dated as hell and incredibly impractical. It's a bit full of itself.

Anyway, Helvetica (the film) documents the origins of the typeface and its use in the last 50 years. It's ubiquitous, of that there is no doubt. Helvetica is amazing for signage. It's not the only choice, but it's a good choice. We get commentary form many big name type designers and designers throughout the course of the film. Everyone has an intense stance, one way or the other. There's not much more to the film. It's just people talking about why they love/hate Helvetica, and what kind of social impact its had on the world. But that's cool. It's well put-together. Has a sort of glitch-pop soundtrack. It's well-edited. I like it. And I think it's accessible to anyone, not just designers. Go add it to your Netflix streaming queue already.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams


Werner Herzog sounds like an evil German speak-n-spell.

Herzog narrates this documentary about the Chauvet Cave in France. The cave houses the oldest known drawings ever recorded by man. Some of these cave paintings are approximately 35,000 years old! The fucked up part is that they look good! It's like the paleolithic Guernica in there. Seriously. Some great drawings of bulls, lions and horses. Good motion, balance, and stylization.

So, it's a cave in France with old paintings. No one's really allowed to see it. Herzog got special privileges to film, so you're lucky to even have the opportunity to see these works of art at all. There are interviews with paleontologists, archeologists, and the occasional perfumer. All of them lend their own perspective on the cave, its art, and the people who made it. They're like Sherlock Holmes, minus the deerstalker hat, as they try to unravel the mystery of the cave by looking at the clues that have accumulated over thousands of years.

I thought the doc was good. But nothing mind-blowing.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Between the Folds


Meh.

I watched an hour-long PBS documentary today called Between the Folds. It wasn't quite as "riveting" as the Netflix synopsis claimed.

Basically, the documentary as an artistic statement didn't have a whole lot of merit. You could have edited this down to a half hour and it would have been just fine. It simply follows a few different origami experts and reveals their passion for folding paper. There's no glue holding it together or anything extraordinary about the film. It just is.

The people documented are an interesting bunch, though. And by interesting, I mean incredibly nerdy. Math geeks. Geniuses. Art fags. French art fags! One guy is making his own paper and says, "boy, I just can't wait to fold this!" His enthusiasm for paper-folding borders on the perverse.

A lot of what they do IS incredible. It IS impressive. It IS very artistic and emotive. The topic is great, it's just that the Director isn't as good as making films as the art fags are at folding paper.

I wouldn't watch it. But don't hold your breath for the next, great, origami documentary to come along...for I fear you might turn blue in the process. If you must know about the geometry and art behind origami, this is probably your only choice.


Isaac's Storm


Even the books I read are documentaries.

This is the fourth book by Erik Larson that I've devoured. I read it this weekend. Couldn't really put it down. The cold weather made for a good excuse to sit on the couch with book in hand and hot cider close by.

As with Thunderstruck, the Devil in the White City and In the Garden of Beasts, this book is based on historical fact. Larson deftly weaves the facts into a riveting story that unfolds hook by hook. His books are often difficult to put down. He puts a ridiculous amount of effort into research and it pays off in spades. His novels are part history lesson and part thriller. 100% addictive and informative.

Isaac's Storm is about an insane hurricane that hits Galveston, Texas, in 1900. It's the "Katrina" of its day...only I believe even more deadly and devastating, if you can imagine.

The protagonist is a meteorologist, and the story follows his involvement before, during and a little bit after the storm. Other Galveston citizens' stories are woven into the narrative, too. It's pretty heavy on the meteorological talk, but not to the point of distraction. It's simply part of what you're getting yourself into when you read the book.

Once you've read one Larson book, you don't need much persuasion to read another. I'd suggest you didn't read In the Garden of Beasts as your first exposure to him, though. The Devil in the White City is his fucking masterpiece, followed by Thunderstruck, Isaac's Storm and In the Garden of Beasts. I'll buy whatever he puts out next without question.

This was great. You should definitely read it!



Friday, October 5, 2012

Conan: Black Colossus


A return to form.

Giorello and Truman finally find their groove. This book reads better than their previous efforts. The writing is just smoother. Less stilted. The illustration is brighter, bolder and sharper. Both seem more effortless and comfortable than previous outings.

Conan is growing up. Conan's becoming a wise man. Conan's travels are really shaping him up to be a more mature leader.

Black Colossus sees Conan meet his hottest squeeze yet...Princess Yasmela. Conan had it good, man. Conan had it good...

Anyway, the book has a lot of set-up. Almost cinematic in scope. There's a gnarly evil wizard, a hot voluptuous princess who needs saving, and many heads to be decapitated. It's a classic Conan yarn.

I believe the following book continues in the Yasmela/Conan relationship, so let's see where that takes our Cimmerian hero next...