Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Zap Comix no. 1 and the Problem with Robert Crumb

I have always been a comic book fan. Well almost always. At least ever since picking up a copy of X-Men #98 at a grocery store with my mom  back in 1976, when i was but a nine year old lad who's only comic book knowledge prior had been Disney & Looney Tunes funny books. Since that fateful day, i have been, what one might call, a comic book kinda guy. 

Since then, my tastes have gone hither and fro all across the sequential art spectrum. From superhero comics (a subset of being what one might call a comic book guy, i have mostly been what one might also call, a Marvel kinda guy) to the indie comics of Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware to the genre comics of Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman to the highfalutin artsy graphic novels of Art Spiegelman and Will Eisner to those counter-cultural underground comix...and yes, when one is speaking of the underground variety, that is comix with an X...that all began with Zap Comix no. 1 back in 1968, at the height of the whole counter-culture shebang that was that era, and it's controversial creator, Robert Crumb.

Arguably, one can say that Zap Comix no. 1 was to underground comix what Action Comics no. 1 was to the superhero genre. Yes, there were comic books that one could lump in with the underground movement made before Zap's 1968 debut, just as there were superhero comics before Action Comics #1 came out, but these are the vanguards of their respective genre and/or movement, and therefore comparable.  And if that is so, then the first appearance of Mr. Natural in Zap #1, a character who would become an iconic symbol of the Anti-war movement of the late 1960's and early 1970's, adorning pins and patches and comix book pages, can be akin to Superman's debut in Action #1 waaay back in 1938. Granted, it is on a much smaller scale, as is probably the case with anything saddled with the moniker of underground (a big budget Hollywood Mr. Natural is probably not coming to a theatre near you anytime soon) but it is still a solid connection. 

And, going a bit further, if Zap #1 is a subculture Action #1, and Mr. Natural is a snarky nouveau Superman,  then it would only lead to the obvious conclusion that Mr. Natural's creator, Robert Crumb is the underground equivalent of Superman's creative team of Joe Shuster & Jerry Siegel. But, as Shuster & Siegel were cheated out of their creation, their royalties, and their legendary status, as has sadly been the status quo in the comics industry (just read what Jack Kirby has said of Stan Lee) and are pretty much unknown these days (it is sad and strange how so few people can name the creators of one of the most iconic characters in pop culture history) Crumb, though far from a household name himself, still has a legendary status among cartoonists all over the globe, and is considered an inspiration to almost every damn one of them. But, when considering Robert Crumb as the human being he seems to be, perhaps he too should be lost to the myriad annals of history.

Let me preface my immanent bashing of a cultural icon by saying this: Robert Crumb is a talented artist. Of this i have no doubts. His thick lined drawing style was the perfect way to display the counter-culture ideals of the time period. When Crumb first unleashed his unique style on the comic book world in the mid 1960's (the X-rated Fritz the Cat being the most prominent) and then helped to create what became the underground comix movement with Zap, it was a style that changed the world of cartooning and comic booking, and has influenced so many contemporary and future cartoonists, your not-so-humble narrator included. 

The thing was, and still is, Robert Crumb is kind of a monster. If one were to open the aforementioned Zap #1, one would quickly find, by page 3 even, thick lined drawings of African American characters as thick lipped minstrel show rejects and foul-mouthed hoodlums. Meanwhile, the N-word is used several times, including in a last page mock ad selling canned n****r hearts. Yeah, that's right. Even waaay back in the unkempt days of 1938, Superman wasn't selling canned n****r hearts to his readers.

Now one could say this was just satire...but no, it was not, or at least not good satire...or even coherent satire. This was just plain and simple ignorance. The thing is that Crumb was called out on his racist portrayals back in the day, but this was a diffrrent time, a different age, an age where such things would not necessarily ruin a person's career. So, Crumb went on to influence several generations of comic book wannabes. Granted, Crumb would do a lot of great comix throughout his career. Throughout the years, most people have known Crumb through Fritz the Cat or Mr. Natural (who wouldn't love Mr. Natural) or his famed Keep on Truckin' slogan, all of which may be offensive to the more puritanical masses out there, but none of which was inherently racist.

Then came the 1994 documentary that showed Crumb as the quirky cartoonist, and an almost cult hero. The comic book godfather to the hipsters of today. Crumb's more racy...er, racist material downplayed in favour of his more so-called friendly work. But eventually more and more stories have come out about not just his racism, but his misogyny as well. Tales of unrepentant sexual assaults would come from his lips. Even while he was badmouthing Trump during the 2016 elections (he's a racist asshole, but a left leaning one) he still managed to seemingly praise the wouldbe president's sexual proclivities. 

So now we have a cultural icon, and one of the most influential cartoonists this side of Jack Kirby and Will Eisner, who is racist and sexist and a probable sexual predator (many of his more sexualized comix portray sexual assault btw)...and let's face it, a monster. Sure, one can always seperate the art from the artist (Birth of a Nation was a cinematic masterpiece, but still blatantly racist as hell) but it is a hard thing to do when that artist puts so much of themselves into their art. 

To be fair to Zap Comix, the series, which ran sporadically for the next four decades, would have many other talented artists come aboard, like Spain Rodriguez and S. Clay Wilson, artists with less neanderthalesque ideas. It influenced many cartoonists and comic book creators, everyone from Bill Griffith's Zippy the Pinhead to the Love and Rockets comic book series from the Hernandez Brothers. It should not be held accountable for Crumb's own disgusting mindset.

As a cartoonist myself (along with my writings and canvas coverings & sculptings, i can also call my self a comic book creator these days) Crumb has influenced my own pen & ink art. So much so that i have contemplated calling my upcoming comix series "Crummy Comix"...something i might still do as my own form of ironic satire. The point is that Crumb, despite his repulsive ideas, has been a big influence on my own cartooning. Granted, my favourite comic book  creator is Daniel Clowes (he's who i really have an affinity for and with) but there is no denying the influence of Crumb...at least on the style of my drawing, if not my content. With all that in mind, i recently purchased a copy of Zap Comix no. 1 on e-bay...and at a surprisingly affordable price. I am glad i now own this rare piece of underground comix history, i just wish it hadn't been created by such a piece of garbage.

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

My Final Oscar Predictions

So here we go kids! Time for my annual attempt at predicting the Academy Awards. My goal this time around, as it is every other time, is to finally break that 20 barrier. For those who do not know, there are 24 categories in which to predict. My record, which I have accomplished on multiple occasions, is 19. Here's to hopin' for that 20th correct prediction. But enough rambling. Let's get on with the show.

Best Picture
Will Win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Could Win: The Shape of Water
Surprise Win: Get Out (which I am rooting for)
Should Win: Call Me By Your Name, though Phantom Thread and Get Out are close runners up

For the first time in years, there is no true frontrunner here. This is actually a three or even a four way race. Will it be The Shape or Water, even with the plagiarism accusations? Will it be Three Billboards, even without a Best Director nod? Could Get Out pull off what Moonlight did last year? Could Dunkirk, the proposed frontrunner when it was first released, pull off an upset? Hell, even Lady Bird could shock us. But, as you have already read above, I am going with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, even if it failed to get a director nod, which Ben Affleck's Argo victory a few years back proved could happen. If THe Shape of Water does pull it off though, it will do it without a SAG nomination, something no Oscar winner has missed out on since Braveheart waaay back in 1995, the first year of the SAG Awards. So either way, it will be an oddity. But I am still kinda rooting for a Get Out victory.

Best Director
Will Win: Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water
Could Win: Greta Gerwig for Lady Bird
Should Win: Paul Thomas Anderson for Phantom Thread

Even if The Shape of Water doesn't pull off a win in Best Picture (and that is still kinda up in the air in my mind), del Toro will still most likely take home the director award, although a surprise win for Gerwig could happen....maybe.

Best Actress
Will Win: Frances McDormand in Three Billboards
Could Win: Ronan or Hawkins, but very doubtful
Should Win: McDormand or Hawkins

Let's face facts...Frances McDormand is winning her second Oscar! 'nuff said!

Best Actor
Will Win: Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour
Could Win: Timothy Chalamet in Call Me By Your Name
Should Win: Timothy Chalamet in Call Me By Your Name

Oldman is yet another shoo-in. A veteran actor who has never won, playing a real life icon? Yeah, this is finally Oldman's time to shine on the Oscar stage. But, just in case there is an upset, Timothy Chalamet could become the youngest Best Actor winner in Oscar history. Quite unlikely though.

Best Supporting Actress
Will Win: Allison Janney in I, Tonya
Could Win: Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird
Should Win: Lesley Manville in Phantom Thread

Although Janney has taken precursor after precursor, and has that flashy over-the-top role that Oscar tends to fall in love with, if there is a surprise in any of the acting categories, it could be Laurie Metcalf pulling out a victory here. Perhaps as a way to reward Lady Bird in some way. I'm still sticking with Janney though.

Best Supporting Actor
Will Win: Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards
Could Win: Willem Dafoe in The Florida Project
Should Win: Richard Jenkins in The Shape of Water

Although Dafoe looked like a shoo-in early on in this awards season, Rockwell has come on way too strong to think anyone but he will win. And it would be nice to see such an underrated actor win an Oscar. Still though, Jenkins stole every scene in The Shape of Water.

Best Original Screenplay
Will Win: Get Out
Could Win: Lady Bird
Should Win: Get Out

Best Adapted Screenplay
Will Win: Call Me By Your Name
Could Win: Mudbound
Should Win: Call Me By Your Name

Best Foreign Language Film
Will Win: A Fantastic Woman
Could Win: The Square
Should Win: The Square

Best Animated Feature
Will Win: Coco
Could Win: Coco
Should Win: Loving Vincent

Best Documentary Feature
Will Win: Faces Places
Could Win: Icarus
Should Win: Faces Places

Best Cinematography
Will Win: Blade Runner 2049
Could Win: The Shape of Water or Dunkirk
Should Win: Blade Runner 2049

Best Production Design
Will Win: The Shape of Water
Could Win: Dunkirk
Should Win: The Shape of Water

Best Film Editing
Will Win: Dunkirk
Could Win: Baby Driver
Should Win: Dunkirk...or Baby Driver

Best Costume Design
Will Win: Phantom Thread
Could Win: The Shape of Water
Should Win: Phantom Thread

Best Makeup & Hairstyling
Will Win: Darkest Hour
Could Win: Darkest Hour
Should Win: Darkest Hour

Best Original Score
Will Win: The Shape of Water
Could Win: Phantom Thread
Should Win: Phantom Thread

Best Original Song
Will Win: Remember Me from Coco
Could Win: This is Me from The Greatest Showman
Should Win: The Mystery of Love from Call Me By Your Name

Best Sound Mixing
Will Win: (out on a limb) Baby Driver
Could Win: Dunkirk

Best Sound Editing
Will Win: Dunkirk
Could Win: Baby Driver

Best Visual Effects
Will Win: War for the Planet of the Apes
Could Win: Blade Runner 2049

Best Animated Short
Will Win: Dear Basketball
Could Win: Garden Party or Lou

Best Live Action Short
Will Win: DeKalb Elementary
Could Win: DeKalb Elementary (It's a film about a school shooting)

Best Documentary Short
Will Win: Edith + Eddie
Could Win: Heroin(e)

There ya have it. Three Oscars for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, including Best Picture...maybe. I'll be back on Monday, with a round up of the show, and to let ya'll know just how well I did in my predictions. At least 20, baby! That's it gang. See ya 'round the web. Now the Oscars, if ending the way I am predicting, will have to answer to this guy....

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

My Favourite Films of 2017

Hey Gang O' Mine, here we finally are at my annual best of cinema list...or, at least my favourite films of the past year. I know, I am a touch later than my normal first week of the new year posting of said list, but alas, I have been busy as of late, and...oh, who cares...let's just get on with the damn list. Anyhoo, awaaaay we go....

1. Mother! - The most divisive film of the year, is also, in my not-so-humble opinion, the best damn film since 2011's Masterful Tree of Life! A film I would qualify as a masterpiece...and that is a word I never use lightly. Darren Aronofsky has woven together a biblical allegory like no one has ever seen. Even more batshitcrazy than the auteur's Black Swan or Requiem for a Dream (though the latter is still one of the most gorgeously disturbing films this critic has ever seen), Mother! is an enigma of a film that many moviegoers, and many of today's critics, will just not get. Too bad for them!

2. Call Me By Your Name - Directed by Italian auteur Luca Guadagnino, and based on a novel by Andre Aciman, Call Me By Your Name, with it's deliberate pace and naturally lit scenes, hearkens back to the arthouse cinema of the 1950's and 1960's. Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer give two of the finest performances of the year, which only adds to the sensational magic with which this love story engulfs its audience.

3. Phantom Thread - Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis! Together again! How could this combination not lead to such a beautiful work of art as Phantom Thread? A story of obsession and how far someone might go just to feel alive, this film manages to be simultaneously sinister and heartfelt. Mesmerizing in full. But alas, this also seems to be the swan song of the great DDL.

4. Get Out - Taking the sad reality of what it is like to be a person of color in racist modern day America, and placing it smack dab in the center of a classic slasher film frame, Jordan Peele has created a unique blend of comedy, horror, and social commentary, using the tricks and tropes of each genre, and flipping them all on their respective heads.

5. The Shape of Water - A succulent film full of gorgeous cinematography and luscious production design, and with brilliant turns from Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, and Michael Shannon, Guillermo del Toro has fashioned an homage to classic cinema and a love story for the ages. 

6. A Ghost Story - This low key (and one might say low brow in certain aspects) supernatural love story is the second film bringing together director David Lowrey and leads Casey Affleck & Rooney Mara, and is a tragic tale that takes the idea of losing a loved one, and twists it around to a whole nother realm of existence. 

7. The Killing of a Sacred Deer - Yet another brilliantly disturbing film from auteur of the absurd, Yorgos Lanthimos. Following last year's The Lobster (the best film of 2016), The Killing of a Sacred Deer, starring Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman, and based on the Euripides play, Iphigenia in Aulis, is absurdist tragedy in the vein of Bunuel.

8. Personal Shopper - I never thought I would say this, but Kristen Stewart gives one of the best performances of the year. Yeah, that's right! Channeling Jodie Foster in many ways, Stewart takes Olivier Assayas' psychological thriller to a strange new level of organic psychosexual terror.

9. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - Playing like a rural take on a Tarantino theme, this film of revenge and small town politics (as well as racial and gender relations in America), highlighted by a stunning central performance by Frances McDormand, is as refreshing as it is frustrating. 

10. The Beguiled - Sofia Coppola has taken the very masculine 1971 Don Siegel-Clint Eastwood film and recreated it from the female point of view so missing in the former film. And she does it with her usual quiet grace and beguiling arthouse manner.

Special Mention: Twin Peaks: The Return - Yeah yeah, I know, this was a TV show, but it was so much more than that! With this return to his 1990 TV series, David Lynch has put together the most disturbingly brilliant work of his career, with the possible exception of Muholland Dr.. So yeah, I'm putting it on my best films list. Take that!

Runners-Up (in no particular order): Lady Bird; Logan; Okja; Wonder Woman; I, Tonya; Blade Runner 2049.

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

People Who Need to be Punched in the Face, Part Eleven

So, hey there faithful readers and true believers! I'm back! Yeah, after waaaay too long (my last post was nearly three months ago) and just a dry writing/blogging spell in general (this is just my tenth post of 2017), this boy is back on fire. And to get things kickin' again, what better way than making a list of people whom should be punched in the face. That's right! Let's punch a buncha people in the face! Oh, and for "insurance" reasons, please take note that I am not saying you should necessarily go out and punch any of the people on this list, just that certain people may need a good face punching now and again. And if you do go out and face punch any of the people on said list, please make sure the women are punched only by other women. I mean, come on, I am still a gentleman after all. But hey, do what ya'll want. Anyhoo, here's that aforementioned list everyone was all giddy about earlier.

Donald Drumpf, aka that Cheeto-Face Shit Gibbon
Anyone who voted for said Shit Gibbon
(the above were way too obvious)
...and now on with the list...
Lena Dunham
Tommy Hilfiger
Lex Luthor
Ted Cruz
Betsy Devos
Seth MacFarlane
Pennywise the Clown
Guys named Buster
Rob Liefeld
Tim Allen
Tim Allen Fans
Brann Stark
Lena Dunham
Pumpkin Spice Lovers
Right Wing Bloggers
People who still watch MTV
The Ghost of Johnny Paycheck
Everyone in those J.G. Wentworth Commercials
People who prefer August to October
Richard Spencer (again)
Susan Sarandon
Cersei Lannister
Coldplay Fans
James Woods
Those Skynet Bastards
The Ghost of Thomas Kinkade
People who laugh at Everybody Loves Raymond
Carl Burnett (I never did like that kid)
The Boston Red Sox
Vince Vaughn
Tom Selleck
Dennis Miller
Janine Turner
Scott Baio
Kevin Sorbo
Meg Griffin
Lena Dunham
That Brad Douche
Waffle House Regulars
Garrett Linebaugh
Tom Brady (of course)
Butterhead Jones
Baron Zemo
The Drake
The Dutch
The Little Mermaid
Chicken Little
Rich Little
Little Richard
Natty Bumpo
Dr. Frank Burns
Little Bitches
Dog Haters
Flat Earthers
Lucy Van Pelt
That Bastard Aaron Kraybill
(Just seeing if you're paying attention Kraybill)
Whoever was responsible for downgrading Pluto
The "All Lives Matter" Crowd
People who make stoopid lists
People who read stoopid lists
People who spell stupid, stoopid
Bigfoot Non-Believers
Seven O'Clock
Itchy AND Scratchy
Lazy Muthahfuckers
No, seriously, Aaron Kraybill
People who don't like sandwiches
Mamby Pambies & Wishy Washies
Q (you know...that guy from Star Trek)
Dennis Dunphy, aka Demolition Man
Milton the Toaster
Minnie the Moocher
Mickey the Mouse
Most White People
The Pepsi Generation
Ugly Kid Joe
Billy Joel
Mel Sharples
Lena Dunham
(as always)

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The 10 Coolest Famous People w/ First Names that are the Same as the Last Names of the US Presidents

Yeah, that's right! It's a convoluted title, but I'm sure ya'll get the idea. Famous people whose first names are the same as the last names of some of our esteemed (and some not so esteemed) former US Presidents. I say former, because there are not many famous people with the first name of Trump (thankfully for them). For that matter, one could probably exclude such Presidents as Eisenhower, McKinley, Van Buren, or Obama, as well. I suppose Adams is out due to that last letter. But what about all those Washingtons, Jeffersons, Roosevelts, and Jacksons out there? Yeah, they may just make the list. And sorry Taylor Swift, but you just aren't cool enough to make the list. Same goes for you Jefferson D'Arcy. All the Married With Children fans in the audience know of whom I speak. And sorry, but there is no love for you, Arthur Treacher. A fine actor indeed, and I loved your namesake fish & chips, but you too, are a no go. And alas, poor Jefferson Airplane, I knew them, Horatio, but they are a band, and not a person, so away with them. But enough of these no shows, howzabout we get to the ten who did make the list. Oh, and with one special mention as well.

And awaaaaaaay we go...

Special Mention: Carter Liotta

Now since this list is (conveniently) meant to look at the famous names of the title, I will relegate my good friend to the special mention slot. Carter Liotta, probably not named after Jimmy Carter, is a doctor, pilot, filmmaker, world traveler, and self-proclaimed man of leisure. Is there anything this guy can't do? Well, hold his liquor, I suppose is one thing (which may be able to be seen in the above pic), but let's not dwell on the so-called negative. Carter Liotta may not have been named after our 39th POTUS (though he may still enjoy some peanuts now and then), but his first name gets him a very special mention here.

10. Ford Prefect
When the world is destroyed, to put in an intergalactic bypass in its place no less, you could not have a better BFF than Ford Prefect. At least for Arthur Dent, the one human Ford saves before the aforementioned demolition. An alien journalist (a native Betelgeusian, to be more precise on his alien origins) and field researcher for the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Ford's actual given name is only pronounceable in an obscure Betelgeusian dialect, but for the purpose of our little ole list here, we are going with his adopted Earth name, which incidentally was created well before Gerry Ford ascended to the presidential throne. Above are two of his filmic portrayals. And please remember, always bring your towel.

9. Washington Irving
Possibly named after our first president (he was born at a time when George Washington, though not yet president, was a national hero), Washington Irving came to international fame with the 1819-1820 serial, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.. You haven't heard of it? Really? Well, two of the stories from this collection are Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Oh, now you know of what I speak. Irving also wrote a multi-volume biography on his possible namesake. So yeah, Washington wrote about Washington.

8. Pierce Hawthorne
Technically, Chevy Chase's Community character's first name is Pierceinald (that's right, bitches), but to keep the illusion going here, we are going by his nickname of Pierce. Granted, this one is named after one of the more obscure presidents (Franklin Pierce was our 14th Commander-in-Chief, for those lacking in American history knowledge), but he is a character on one of my favourite shows of recent times, so obscure reference or not (and Community likes the obscure references), real first name or not, Pierce Hawthorne, late heir to the Hawthorne moist towelette fortune, is right here at numero ocho!

7. Wilson Pickett

In the Midnight Hour. Land of 1,000 Dances. Mustang 'Freakin'' Sally. These are just a few of the songs that Wilson Pickett made famous back in the day. Wilson Pickett is a legend of music history. Born and raised in Detroit (as so many music legends have been) Pickett was a member of the famed Stax Records crew, back in the mid 1960's, and is now a member (and rightfully so!!) of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Granted, Pickett probably wasn't named after Woodrow Wilson, but they were both integral in helping to change and modernize their chosen professions.

6. Roosevelt "Rosey" Grier

 Rosey (and yes, his real first name is Roosevelt, the last name of not one, but two presidents) is probably best known for his NFL career. A New York Giant for a while, before becoming one of the LA Rams "Fearsome Foursome," Grier retired from pro ball in 1966. Rosey would later write several books' including Rosey Grier's Needlepoint for Men. Yeah, I wouldn't mock the guy for it, either. Nowadays he is a Christian minister, helping inner city youth. What a lot of people probably do not know, is his hand in the world of a wouldbe president. As a bodyguard, Rosey could not stop the assassination of Bobby Kennedy (who would have become president over Nixon!) but he did manage to subdue the assassin. You go Roosevelt. Oh, and when you get the chance, check out the 1972 film, The Thing With Two Heads. You will not be disappointed. Well, you might be disappointed, but you'll still have a good time at it.

5. Truman Capote

A famously eccentric author, Truman Capote (not named after Harry S. Truman, our 33rd president) was known later in life as an amusing talking head, and prolific talk show celebrity (he often told elaborate stories of his past celebrity encounters, such as his friendship with Garbo and a sexual dalliance with Errol Flynn, that were just not true), but back in the day, he wrote some pretty great books too. His most famous is Breakfast at Tiffany's. Granted, Hollywood vastly altered the book for their movie version (in early 1960's America, Hollywood wasn't ready to make a big mainstream film about a gay man and his fag hag) and Capote hate hate hated the adaptation. He was also pretty well known for his true crime book, In Cold Blood, as well as being the model for Harper Lee's character, Dill, in her To Kill A Mockingbird. Lee and Capote were friends their entire lives, and she even aided him on the research for In Cold Blood.

4. Grant Morrison

 One of only two non-Americans on this (kinda) American list (especially funny, since his name is that of US Grant), the Scottish born Grant Morrison, was a member of the so-called British invasion in the comic book industry back in the 1980's. Morrison, who always puts a more philosophical bent on his superhero tales, has written everyone from Batman to The Doom Patrol, from Animal Man to the JLA, from The Fantastic Four to the New X-Men. And he didn't just write these characters, he gave them all new life, and is often thought of as the quintessential writer of several of these characters (Animal Man and Doom Patrol, especially). He also wrote, along with artist Frank Quitely (whose artistic interpretation of Morrison can be seen above), my all-time favourite Superman tale, All-Star Superman. He is currently turning DC's Multiverse on its proverbial head with his Multiversity mini-series.

3. Jackson Pollock

Technically, Jackson Pollack's first name was Paul, but his nom de plume (his middle name was Jackson) is how everyone knows him, so it is Jackson we are going with. And Andy Jackson has always been my favourite historical president. Pollock is known, of course, as one of the greatest artists of modern times. He died quite early (at 44, due to an alcohol-related car accident) but before that, his so-called action paintings, helped him to become one of the most important figures in my favourite artistic movement, Abstract Expressionism. His paintings, often criticized in his day, as much as they were praised, are brilliant abstract pieces of art, splattered with a crazed fury of passion. Yeah, that's right.

2. Tyler Durden

 Nobody ever remembers poor John Tyler (he was our 10th commander-in-chief, becoming president after William Henry Harrison died, a month into his own presidency) but most people in today's world know who Tyler Durden is. Played by Brad Pitt (sorta) in the David Fincher film, Fight Club, Tyler Durden is one of the most iconic film characters of modern cinema. Yeah, I think there might have been a book too, but I can never spell the author's name so...just kidding, it was Chuck Palahniuk. But hey, the firs rule of Fight Club is that we don't talk about Fight Club, so I'll shut up about Tyler Durden now, and move on to our numero uno pick.

1. Harrison Ford

First off, he has both a first AND a last name that matches a president. Technically three presidents, since there were two Harrisons (William Henry and his grandson Benjy) to go along with Gerry Ford. Secondly, and more importantly, he is Harrison Ford. He is Han Solo. He is Indiana Jones. He is Captain of the Millennium Falcon, and did the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, and as everyone knows, parsecs are a unit of distance not time, so that in turn makes him a freakin' time traveler. Yeah, that's right. Do the freakin' math people. Not only was Han Solo the man who shot first, he was also a time traveler. And that is who Harrison Ford is. He is Han and he is Indy too. He is BFF's with a Wookiee. In his spare time, he flies helicopters on fire rescue missions. Yeah, that is Harrison Ford. End of story. He is number one. Huzzah!

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Best Damn TV Show of 2017 or: How David Lynch is Still One of the Best Damn Filmmakers Working Today

I first fell in love with the cinema of David Lynch at the tender age of nineteen. It was the Fall of 1986, and this was when I first saw that sexy beast of a film called Blue Velvet. Over the previous year or two, thanks to the booming new home video market, and the likes of Kurosawa, Fellini, Chaplin, Bergman, and other art films and filmmakers falling into my lap, I had transitioned from casual moviegoer to budding cinephile. Lynch and his Blue Velvet, which I was lucky enough to get to see in a darkened theatre, on the big screen, made that budding cinephile explode with cinema-loving glee. Granted, it was a somewhat uncomfortable cinema-loving glee, as that is the emotion Lynch most aspires to, but glee nonetheless.

Lo these past thirty some years since, this budding film freak has transformed into a downright expert on the history and technique of cinema. As far as my love of Lynch goes, it has more than merely deepened over the decades. Going back and discovering Eraserhead and The Elephant Man and the criminally undervalued Dune. I was working as a projectionist in a now long defunct local movie theatre, in 1990, when Lynch's brilliant batshitcrazy Wild at Heart came out. I think I watched that film at least a dozen times over its two week run. I remember also getting in an argument with the local newspaper's film critic (back when local papers still had film critics) about the film. She hated it!? Sacre bleu! Anyhoo, next came ABC's Twin Peaks, and Lynch went to a whole other level of batshitcrazy brilliance.

With Twin Peaks being an episodic television series, Lynch was able to go deeper and further down his own perverse rabbit hole. Sure, network television may have limited some of the more openly perverse things in said rabbit hole, but the long form format of an entire season (or two) of storytelling, allowed for a wider and deeper swath of good old fashioned Lynchian melodrama. To this day, even with the present being a truly golden age in TV making, I would still list Twin Peaks as one of the best shows to ever appear on the small screen. And now, after 25 years, a big screen prequel to Twin Peaks (Fire Walk With Me), and several movies made in the meantime (17 years in, Mulholland Dr. is still the best film of this century so far), and with the majority of the original cast back (where have you gone Lara Flynn Boyle?), Lynch brings his Twin Peaks back to episodic television.

Now on Showtime (as well as Hulu and Amazon), Twin Peaks: The Return, picks up the aforementioned batshitcrazy Lynchian nightmare narrative, right where we left it so many years ago. Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is stuck in the Black Lodge, while his doppelganger (also MacLachlan, in long hair and extra crispy tanned skin), possessed by the ghost of Bob, is out causing trouble in the so-called real world. It is Cooper's redemption, and his way back to the real world, that is the crux of the new series. And MacLachlan is just the tip of the iceberg, as most of the cast has returned, from Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer to Russ Tamblyn as the mysterious Doc Jacoby, doing strange things in the woods. We even get to briefly see Catherine Coulson as Margaret, The Log Lady, who filmed her scenes in the weeks leading up to her death back in 2015 (leave it to Lynch to bring the dead back to life). We also get a slew of newcomers to the show, including Naomi Watts, Michael Cera, Jim Belushi, and Laura Dern. Even Lauren Tewes, aka Julie McCoy of Love Boat fame, is set to appear at some point.

I gotta tell ya, everything about this new series (or is it season three?), from the episode one opening (I truly got goosebumps when that theme music first clicked on) through to the full four episodes aired so far, says it is every bit as good, and every bit as uncomfortably Lynchian, as the original. Everything from the acting (or one might say non-acting) to the super lo-fi special effects in and around the Black Lodge (these scenes, including the fascinating first ten minutes or so of episode three, some of the best minutes in television today, are like the most brilliant student film ever made, or at least since Lynch himself was a student filmmaker) to those uncomfortable weird silences and eerie music, Twin Peaks: The Return is easily the best show on what we call TV these days. It is surely going to take one hell of  a show in the second half of the year, to topple this one from atop my inevitable Best of 2017 list (I'm lookin' at you Stranger Things, season two).

To say I can't wait for the next episode (and all of the ones after that) is quite the understatement. I may just explode in the meantime, and this being a Lynchian mindset I am in right now, that may not just be figuratively speaking. But alas, the wait just makes the outcome all that much more satisfying. That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Monday, February 27, 2017

My Thoughts on Last Night's Oscars

If only the election ended in the same manner as last night's Oscars. For those of you not in the know (and if you are not in the know, why are you even reading this post about the Oscars?), at the end of last night's telecast, the wrong film was announced for Best Picture. Granted, the better film, at least in this critic's opinion, was deemed the winner, but what a blow for the poor schmucks who thought they won for about ninety seconds or so. Yup, after La La Land was named the winner, the stage manager and the folks from Price Waterhouse scrambled about, and finally revealed that Moonlight was the actual winner. A bunch of people are whining about La La Land losing (after winning Best Director, and five other awards, including a predictable but still idiotic choice for Best Actress), but what is done is done. The better film won. I just hope this puts to rest the ridiculous theory that Jack Palance said the wrong name when he gave the Oscar to Marisa Tomei.

And speaking of this fiasco. Everyone is blaming poor Warren Beatty. To his credit, when he opened the envelope and saw it read Emma Stone for La La Land (he was given the wrong envelope by the accounting firm), he questioned it and tried to get Faye Dunaway to look at it, but she thought he was just joking around, and proceeded to yelp out the name of the film on the card. But it was fixed rather quickly, and the producer of La La Land was gracious enough announce to everyone what had happened, and to hand over the Oscar to the folks from Moonlight. A rare class act in today's society. But hey, leave it to Bonnie & Clyde to cause a ruckus.

As for the rest of the show, we had the first Muslim person to win an acting award (congrats to Moonlight's deserving Mahershala Ali), the first black woman to win an Emmy, Tony, and Oscar for acting (way to go Viola Davis), and an undeserving bubble girl take home Best Actress (come on people, the weakest link of La La Land was Emma Stone!). We also got to see Casey Affleck take home Best Actor (which I predicted correctly). He already won almost every precursor award, until Denzel took home the SAG, an award that has translated to Oscar, every year since 2006. Many thought Denzel would take the award, especially with everyone yelping about alleged sexual assaults that were once thrown at Affleck, but which were never brought to fruition. There are still people today, whining all over the interwebs, about how they gave the Oscar to a sexual predator. Really? The whole innocent until proven guilty thing doesn't matter to ya'll? Oh well.

As for the rest of the rest of the show, Jimmy Kimmell was a great host, and his constant Matt Damon bashing was hilarious. He really missed an opportunity when the wrong film was announced, to blame that too, on Damon. We also got to see a surprised tourist group brought in for a comedy routine, only to be hijacked by one of the tourists (who is my new favourite person), who kept snapping pics, and even yanked Mahershala Ali's Oscar from his hands, and made the actor take  a selfie of the two of them with the Oscar. We also saw Kevin O'Connell, win his first Oscar, after losing twenty other times, and an Iranian director win Best Foreign Language Film, only to not be allowed in the country due to Trump's unconstitutional ban. All this, and candy falling from the sky too. Oh, and Ruth Negga in that red dress!

Oh, and my predictions. Oh well, I managed just 18 out of 24 (one off of my record), with my only major category miss, being (oddly enough) Best Picture. I do like that the Oscars can still surprise us a little bit, though. And, in the end, when all the confusion ended, we got ourselves the first film with a gay protagonist (Jon Voight's gay-for-pay male hustler in Midnight Cowboy, notwithstanding), to take home the Best Picture Oscar! Now that is progress! That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.