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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

MLM: Strange Days, Twelve and Holding, Tamara 

MLM: Strange Days:

The opening sequence to Strange Days is one of the most instantly riveting in film: the prep and execution of a robbery at gunpoint from the perspective of one of the robbers, a rooftop escape while pursued by cops, and a jump from rooftop to rooftop falls just short. And he falls.

The riveting part isn’t the content, but the perspective: the whole experience is first-person. We’re inside his head as the robbery happens, we see what he sees, right up to that last fatal splash into pavement. The screen goes black, distorts, digitizes, changes – as Lenny rips a tangle of wires and sensors from atop his head. The device is called a SQUID, and Lenny is a dealer in the SQUID experience. The science of the SQUID is sketchily explained but unnecessary; the gist is that a person wearing the SQUID can record the full sensory experience of living and then pass on that recording to someone else wearing a SQUID with playback.

Like any quantum leap in human technology, the first uses for the SQUID are, in order, military use and porn. The former for surveillance and spying, the latter a much more abstract deal; ever wanted to have two girls at the same time? Or did you want to be one of the girls? Or appeal to another angle: ever want to rob a bank? Steal a car? Commit a murder?

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Twelve and Holding:

As vital as the tweener demographic is, there’s very few stories told about them. The kids themselves aren’t too interested in hearing about themselves, or so we’re led to believe; the only entertainment aimed at them tend to be fables about high school life that are as authentic as anything starring Hilary Duff could be. Even their marketing handle suggests a transitory state: no longer kids, not quite teenagers, far from adults.

Michael Cuesta’s Twelve and Holding is fascinated with this territory, and treats its subjects with authenticity rarely found in film. Too many movies about children (and for adults) are curiously riddled with reactionary morality and alarmism, as if to ask “Do you know what your kids are up to?” But Twelve is going for something different; instead of assigning morality-play roles for its old and young characters, it simply lets them be, to act as they would.

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Tamara:

We really didn’t need another one of these movies.

Tell me if this sounds familiar. There’s this frumpy, nerdy girl, see, and she’s into witchcraft, and no one in her high school likes her. Everyone picks on her. The only man in the world who’s sweet to her is her English teacher, and naturally she wants to jump his bones but is far too shy to say anything. Instead she uses a bit of the hoodoo in an attempt to work a love spell, which leads us to the awesomely improbable sight of a 20-something public high school English teacher brandishing his own monogrammed hanky. I didn’t know they even made those anymore.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

MLM: Collateral. 

There’s a scene in Michael Mann’s Collateral that, in one striking visual, defines its antagonist and his place in the city he moves through. Max the cabbie (Jamie Foxx) has been forced at gunpoint to drive Vincent (Tom Cruise) around Los Angeles while Vincent kills a number of witnesses in a federal drug case. The two have argued, talked, and finally found a silence that more resembles a cease-fire than anything companionable. Max is driving them through the small hours of the morning when Vincent spots it: a lone, silver-haired wolf plodding the empty streets of a Los Angeles neighborhood.

Laid bare like that, the metaphor seems clumsy at best, obnoxiously overt at worst. It is neither. For half the movie we’ve seen Max and Vincent argue with each other, seen them probe each other’s weaknesses, seen them reason with each other on their own idiosyncratic ways. In the final analysis, there are only two descriptors for Vincent: he is a predator, and he is alone.

We know from the opening scene in the movie that Vincent is up to something clandestine. Max does not. When the two finally meet, when Vincent slides into the backseat of Max’s cab, Max finds the man brusque but intelligent. Vincent doesn’t read like he wants a friend, but he is interesting and conversational… and maybe a little bent.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Quickie X-3 review. 

It's not good.

It's uneven leaning toward bad.

There are two reasons why I wanted to knife the screen: the first part is right before the end credits, the second part is right after them.

The first remains the best.

Brett Ratner remains a hack with no real sense of style.

It's Wolverine's show. Storm stops sucking and starts showing some backbone. Jean Grey/Phoenix is a genuinely frightening character, and there should have been more of her. Thank god they nixed the cosmic stuff, and the fiery phoenix effects.

2 out of 5.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Fun little exercise. 

One word, sixty seconds, write whatever comes to mind.

My word was "ridge":

I looked over the ridge and decided: Okay, this was probably a bad idea. It was a tall one. But that was no surprise; it's the Grand fucking Canyon, right? Tall. Definitive. And that was the appeal, really. You hop off this sucker and there's no way you're not going to make an impact when you hit the ground.

But, you know.

Maybe tomorrow.

(Thanks to Marc for pointing this out, who got it from Larry.)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Mommy's Little Monsters: Saint of Killers 

The figure looms large in a lot of Garth Ennis’s fiction: men who, in war, find something inside themselves that ultimately consumes them. A primal, interior monster of hate, one that assumes dominance and uses the man’s intelligence to turn mere rage into atrocity. Possession by the dark side. Hyde run rampant over Jekyll. See the seeds of it in Ennis’s take on Judge Dredd, or his Enemy Ace, and most prolifically in Marvel’s vengeance machine the Punisher. But none of those properties were his; no matter how much he plumbed out of the characters, no matter how much reinvention Ennis is permitted, they don’t and will never belong to him.

Enter Preacher and the Saint of Killers. Finally allowed to run rampant and create his own mythos, Ennis and artist Steve Dillon cut right to the bone on one of the central themes of all their work together. The Saint – though once a living man, he’s never given a proper name anywhere in the series – haunts every issue with a relentlessness and purity of purpose that terrifies even God Himself. The Saint kills because he hates… and his hate is bottomless.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Mommy's Little Monsters: Strange Embrace 

David Hine’s Strange Embrace begins with a surreal and menacing dream sequence, shortly transforming into the mundane, which then gives way to hints of primitive savagery surrounding the first of the story’s protagonists, a young boy named Sukumar. What becomes Strange Embrace’s only truly “evil” force soon shows his face to Sukumar, and with a little trickery and prodding, brings the boy under his spell.

The plot is an elusive rabbit hole of a story. I say “rabbit hole” because much of its opening sequences seem only to be lures into ever-stranger territory. First there is Sukumar, errand boy for his father’s grocery store, who fearfully delivers the same weekly grocery shipment to an antique store that never opens. At the tail end of one delivery Sukumar meets Alex, a clairvoyant who wears his contempt for all people on his sleeve. His callousness is clear and chilling, and when Alex shows Sukumar a literal gallery of people whose deaths he was responsible for, we learn how a boy brat becomes an adult monster.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

CAPE! 2: Son of CAPE! 

...was a roaring success. Whereas last year drew in something like 2,500 people, this year drew in 4,500. And that's the conservative estimate.

(Full guest list here. I've heard who's likely to attend next year, and it's even bigger.)

Observations:

1) It's fun asking writers to do sketches of characters they write for. Gail Simone was sporting enough to give me a stick figure Deadpool, and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa gave me his rendition of Spider-Man. Guys, they're great. But you're also probably not going to win any prizes for art. Just sayin'.

2) Continuing the tradition, Lea Hernandez drew a sketch of me right next to the sketch she drew of me from last year's CAPE. She also asked me why I wasn't blogging anymore, so... you know. Lea, consider me chastised.

3) Speaking of Lea, she turned out two pieces for the big Live Art Show Saturday night. I've always thought manga-style art was too kinetic to be "beautiful," but the two pieces she did were exactly that. And they sold for a small fortune, so the good folks at Zeus didn't go bankrupt putting on this show, so more power to that.

4) Bryan Hitch knows how to draw. True story.

5) James Kochalka is a strange cat, and I think all the attention may have overloaded him. But he did get up at the Live Art Show and make a Pac-Man Ghost painting, so I think it all evened out in the end. I don't have a subscription to his American Elf, but I hear he did some art about it.

6) Also, he drew me Fuckin' Super Leaf, so even if everyone spontaneously caught fire and died on Sunday, the weekend would've been a success.

7) Rain can't stop the fever. About 3 o'clock, Texas weather struck and rain started coming down pretty hard. The event proper was under a tent and in the store, but 150 boxes of quarter comics were set out on tables in the open air... I know, I know, you're getting ready to cry, but it all turns out okay in the end.

Everyone -- and I mean everyone, guests, artists, writers, volunteers, attendees -- saved the comics in a mad dash akin to, I dunno, a mass migration of the Nerd Flock. And the comics were saved. The only stuff that really bit the dust was the promo heap at the Pop Syndicate table, but unless you were dying for a The Hills Have Eyes poster, that's no big.

8) Andy Lee's incredible to watch. He doesn't just paint, he creates performance art. Arms, hands, fingers, whatever, he uses it all, and the art is simply gorgeous. The dude is making me consider bisexuality. (As if it were an investment.)

9) The people behind The Hero Foundry are eager to talk to you, and it's good that they are. I personally cannot think of a better investment of your old trades and comics, and whatever they can't use, they'll turn around and sell to fund getting more trades and comics for the little'uns. Stop by, take a look, and offload your comics on them.

10) The Fantagraphics Funny Book FTW.

11) Marc Andreyko is a funny guy, and entertaining to talk to. I'm glad of it. His Manhunter is one of the best titles DC is putting out and, because I like it so much, it's in danger of being cancelled. Typical. But he did point me toward this Save Manhunter! group, and hey? Maybe it'll have more effect than your typical online petition.

12) Also, Andreyko's seen the Superman Returns script and pieces of the movie in order to do the comic adaptation, and he guesses it'll be the second biggest movie of all time, second only to Titanic. I am not now and have never been much of a Superman fan, so I can't summon up more than mild interest, but best of luck to them. Here's hoping it doesn't suck.

13) Unlucky!

14) Brad Albright's Bad Painting: A Terribly Creative Tale, a Dr. Seuss-style tale of a painting that eats its critics, is pretty goddamn entertaining. There's something innocent-yet-not to his style, something paranoid, which is made abundantly clear in Stressed Out West: A Nervous, Wordless Graphic Novel. Give it a shot.

15) The Live Art Show Saturday night was the perfect cap to a perfect comic book-centered weekend. It all went down and the schmancy Metro Grill, and at any given time there were at least 3 artists (but typically 5-10) working on mat boards and sketch pads, all to the cheers of the 250 or so people watching.

Even the work-reclusive James O'Barr got into the fray, pencilling and inking what is probably the largest piece of Crow art he's ever done, and the first Crow art he's done in who knows how long. He didn't stop there: other works he did included a portrait of Joan Jett and a jam sketch with Brian Denham featuring a classic What If scenario: "WHAT IF? Syndrome killed the Incredibles?" The art itself is, no lie, Mr. Incredible in Crow makeup.

Truly a classic.

Kochalka did a couple pieces, as did Hernandez, and Andy Lee did roughly 3,573 (at last count), but the true star of the show was Brock Rizy, he of the upcoming Emily Edison graphic novel from Viper. Brock's new to the game and was pretty nervous doing big pieces right next to the pro's, but he held his own and showed a true cartoonist's wit and innovation. That's an artist to watch.

For that matter, so is Josh Broulet, he of no web page. Josh's art looks like what would happen if Paul Pope and David Lapham had a love child, and his Money Equals Love comic, available now, is worth a look-see.

Everyone was making art. Hell, even one of the bartenders got into it, did a sketch, and ran away before she could be noticed. The whole event lasted 5 hours, and never have I felt that much fun and good will in one room.

Oh, and everyone was drinking. It was that much more fun as a result.

So... what did your store do?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

MLM: Deadwood. 

It’s a hard town where lawlessness itself is law: Deadwood, sitting in the Black Hills of what will become South Dakota. For the TV show Deadwood, this setting spins everything else into motion. It’s a town full of (mostly) white prospectors in a land still belonging to the Indians; operating on the US dollar but not on US law. In short, people can do whatever the hell they want… and what results isn’t anarchy. No, nothing so naïve. Deadwood is a town built and sustained on a foundation of greed.

Which is what we’re forgetful of when we first meet Al Swearengen, owner of the Gem Saloon and de facto ruler of Deadwood. Swearengen acts callously, orders and commits murders with little emotional investment, and generally chews up every scene he’s in. We think we’ve seen the face of evil, and accustomed as we are to traditional Westerns, we think we’ve met the Black Hat.

And that’s when Cy Tolliver rolls into town.

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