Thursday, January 29, 2015

Heavenly Body of the Week: Battleworld

Just last week, the fine folks over at Marvel Comics held a press conference to announce that the Marvel Universe would be ending this Summer. That's right. The Marvel Universe is ending, all revolving around a new mass crossover event called Secret Wars. What will become of the Marvel Universe after it is destroyed, is anybody's guess. No one actually expects the Marvel Universe to end. No one actually expects the likes of Captain America, Spider-Man, and The Hulk to just not be there anymore. Something will definitely rise to take its place. Perhaps a whole new universe, perhaps just some significant changes to the already existing one, perhaps a complete reboot. Who knows. What we do know is that an entire planet, called Battleworld, will be created for the event. And it's gonna be a doozy.

Actually, the idea of the Secret Wars, and the existence of Battleworld, is not something new. Waaay back in 1984, Marvel published a limited series of the same name. It involved several superheroes, and some villains too, all transported to another planet, in order to do battle for the amusement of an entity known as the Beyonder. This original series, one of my all-time favourite Marvel events, was not an all-encompassing game changer like this new event is expected to be, but it was the place where Peter Parker found his alien symbiote black suit that would one day become Venom. That's right. Now we just have to wait to see what becomes of the Marvel Universe post-Battleworld.

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

Monday, January 26, 2015

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 Obama. For that matter, one could probably exclude such Presidents as Eisenhower, McKinley, and Van Buren, 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 today, 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.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Alphabet Game: Me, Myself, & Eye Edition

Hello, and welcome to The Alphabet Game, where I take a look at 26 different things in one common category. This edition is all about me! Have fun.

A is for Anxiety - I've always been an anxious kinda guy. As a kid, I was always worried about how much time I had to play, before having to come back in side. As an adult, I have always been anxious about the things I was doing. Sort of an OCD-inspired kinda anxiety. For a while, about a decade and a half back, I even took Zoloft in order to counteract it. These days I just let the anxiety fly, and in turn, my freak flag, and all that kinda thang. I guess I'm doing okay. 

B is for Brain Tumor Comix - Back in 1989, I created a comic book universe. It was called Smiley-Face Land, and it was a world populated by smiley-face superheroes and villains. Granted, these were blatant rip-offs of Marvel and DC characters. From Cap'n Smiley-Face to Dr. Oddball to The Porcupine, these characters were part of my new comic book universe, all done under the banner of my comic book company, Brain Tumor Comix. In more recent days, Brain Tumor Comix has been the publisher of some of the best web comics of the last few years. Such iconic work as Famous People Attend a Cocktail Party and Naked Batman and the most iconic of 'em all, the famed La-La & Lu-Lu. Granted, as I float through life, changing all the time, some things fall to the wayside, and my cartooning has done just that. There has not been a new La-La & Lu-Lu in Gods know how long. But even so, Brain Tumor Comix, or BTC, is sticking around for the long haul. Maybe again someday.

C is for Class of '85 - So yeah, I graduated in 1985. The name of the school was Cumberland Valley, and we had a graduating class of about 600 or so. So yeah, it was a relatively big school. Biggest in the area. I can't say I was very fond of my high school days. Sure, I had friends, and sure, I pretty much got along with all the various cliques, but overall, I wasn't a big fan. My 30 year reunion is coming up in the Fall. I have not attended any of my past reunions, and don't see myself going to this one either. I don't really associate with anyone from school anymore, other than here and there on Facebook, so why should I even bother. It's not that I suddenly began disliking my high school chums and associates,but I am just really really really bad at keeping in touch with friends. This is probably why I do not have many old friends, but that is another story. Let's move on for now, but not to worry, my high school days will pop back up throughout this list.

D is for Doodlebug - How could I make a list of all things me, and not include the love of my life, my lovely wife, Amy!? I couldn't, so here she is. Oh yeah, and I call her Doodlebug, by the by. It's my pet name for her. She claims it means silly pest, but I truly mean it in the most endearing manner possible. I was married a coupla times before, but it wasn't until I met Amy that I actually wanted to get married. The others were just warm-ups for lucky number three. Oh, did I mention that we were married just one month after we met, and will have been together 17 years in March? Yup! She's my little Doodlebug, and I love her. Okay now, enough of the schmarmy lovey-dovey stuff, let's move on to something else.

E is for Experimental Forest - Actually, about a year after Amy and I were married (13 months after we met), we began publication of a small poetry magazine called Experimental Forest, whose name I had come up with after seeing a sign on a trip out west. The first issue was published in July of 1999, and it would run for nine issues, through November of 2001. The magazine (you know, back when there were still such things - the internet was a relatively young 'un back in these days) was the place to find not only the place to find all the best poets of Central Pa (back when such people still existed), but also a place to find poets and artists from around the world. Granted, Experimental Forest never became a sensation (we never lost money, but we never really made all that much either - not that such a thing really matters), but it was fun while it lasted.

F is for Fuck, My Favourite Word - I suppose if you are one of those who are easily offended, one of those who are easily offended by a simple a thing as a word, then I should probably say spoiler alert (Danger Will Robinson, Danger!) or something along those lines. Actually, I probably should have said that a few sentences ago. But what do I care? It's quite ridiculous to get offended by a word - at least by this word. This word is the best. It can mean a good time or a bad time. It can be used to describe the good, the bad, AND the ugly. It can be used as a noun, an adjective, an adverb, and a verb. It can be a call to arms of sorts, or it can be a quickly spewed insult. This is a great word. A versatile word. A brilliant word. The best fucking word in the whole fucking world. Fuck yeah! Get offended by that, bitches!

G is for Gary Gygax - A good way to see if someone is a nerd or a geek or whatever you want to call us, or at least to see if they/we are a nerd/geek who grew up in the 1980's, is to drop the name Gary Gygax, and wait for the aforementioned nerds/geeks to tell us just who the hell this guy is. Yup. For those who are not of the nerd/geek (would that be a neek or a gerd, perhaps?) persuasion, Gary Gygax is the creator of Dungeons & Dragons. That's right! And I was one hell of a dungeon master back in the day. Hoo Hah!!

H is for Hobo - When I was but a wee child, we had an Irish Setter named Princess. Princess was the family dog. A few years after princess passed on, my dad came home with a Beagle-mix puppy he had found alongside the road. we named this wayward mutt, Hobo. Hobo was the first pet I would call my own. I was about eleven or so. Hobo was my best bud throughout my high school days. I really miss that guy. These days, I have a new puppy. Her name is Marcy Proust and she is a Chihuahua, Jack Russell, Pug mix (a Jack PugaWOWWOW!!). She is my new best bud. Nine pounds of bad ass puppy dog! And I love her. I will always fondly remember Hobo, though. My first best bud.

I is for Instigator - So, as I was finishing up this list, I had just the Letter I to finish on up. I asked my wife and friend, who were sitting in the next room, "Hey, what should I put for the letter I, to describe myself?" Well, after words such as Irritating, Idiotic, and Inane came from the other room (thanx ladies), I decided to go with Irritating. I mean, come on, it does describe me rather accurately, but then a bit later I heard the word Instigator bellowed from the aforementioned other room. Now I like that one. I do enjoy instigating things. I asked my lovely wife, half jokingly of course, just what makes me an instigator. Her reply was for me to look at my Facebook page. Yup. She's kinda right. Now howzabout we discuss some politics? Perhaps religion? Your choice.

J is for Jobs, Jobs, Oh So Many Jobs - Let's see. I have probably had at least 50 jobs in my 30+ years of adult employment. Among these are a warehouse stockboy at Hechinger (my first job at 16), a manager at Flakey's Pizza, working the deli counter at Giant Foods (and sometimes the bakery as well), a slew of book stores (Encore, Walden, Borders, B. Dalton), an even bigger slew of restaurants (Scotts' Grille, Molly Brannigan's Irish Pub, The G-Man, Zephyr's Express, even a Bob's Big Boy for a few months), running Midtown Cinema with my lovely wife for 4 1/2 years (my personal record for staying at one job), a ton of one or two day temp jobs (one I left at lunch on the first day, due to hating the place), working the overnight shift at a Book of the Month Club warehouse, doing other overnite work at various convenience stores (7-11, Turkey Hill, Uni-Mart), a few fast food outlets (Rax, Subway, and McDonald's - the latter of which lasted just 3 days), a drug mule for the cartel (just seeing if you are still paying attention), pizza delivery for Pizza Hut, auto parts delivery for NAPA (a job where I lied about being able to drive stick, instead learning very quickly on my first day), stock monkey for the oh so wonderful people at Sears & Roebuck (yeah, that was sarcasm), usher, projectionist, & manager at Eric Twin Theatres (back when we still switched reels on the projectors), sandwich artist, and eventually manager at Subway, a coffee shop even (it was actually called Cafe Latte!?), and a few other random retail outlets (Toys 'r Us, Whitcomb Appliances, Sherwin Williams, Penn United Restaurant Supply). Oh so many jobs. If only they would pay me good money to write write write.

K is for The Krofft Supershow - Back in my wee childhood, one of my favourtie things to watch on TV was the Krofft Supershow, and all the shows that came along with it. From the minds of Sid & Marty Krofft, came a slew of drug-influenced (the Krofft's were teetotalers, but their writing staff were college age hippies and beatniks) children's programming. H.R. Pufnstuf, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, Lidsville (the kook-kook-kookiest!), Dr. Shrinker, Elektra Woman & Dyna Girl, Land of the Freakin' Lost, The Far Out Space Nuts, and The Bugaloos, to name but a few. It was a grand time to be a kid. And now I have the Pufnstuf theme song in my head. It's a good thing.

L is for Llamas! - Once upon a time, when I was but seventeen years of age, I was driving myself to school one morning. My goal would always be to see just how fast I could get there, through those curvy country roads. I grew up in a suburban neighbourhood, but between me and my school, was a lot of country roads. So I would see just how fast my 1978 Gran Torino (yeah, that's right - and this was 1984) could get me back and forth from school. Come on, I was just a stupid seventeen year old kid. Anyway, one of these turns was particularly sharp, and my stupid seventeen year old self spun out of control and slammed into the fence of a Llama farm. well, the Llamas standing near the crash site, made some strange Llama-esque squeal, and ran off to the other side of the field. There was nary any damage done to the car, and nothing to the pretty sturdy fence, so I moved on, and left those poor llamas alone. I swear I would see them run, each and every time I came around that turn. Post Stress Disorder, perhaps?

M is for Moosehead & Mad Dog - Back when I was a teenager, before I could legally drink and all, my friends and I would, of course, still manage to drink. Our alcohol of choice in these days was, of course, the cheap stuff. That was what gave us a taste for Canada's Moosehead beer and that oh so wonderful of wine-ish drinks, Mad Dog 20/20. Yeah, baby! Those were the days.

N is for NBS - So back in 1980, at the tender age of 13, I created my own television network. It was the National Broadcasting System, or NBS. I had a complete primetime line-up, and even a daytime soap opera. Synopsis', cast lists, ratings, and even reviews. These were all kept in little notebooks. Cut to just last year, and NBS was reborn right here at All Things Kevyn. It acts as an alt-reality TV history kinda thang. All the details can be found on my index page, under the TV section. Yeah, I'm a nerd. What's it to ya!?

O is for The Oscars - As anyone who knows me can attest, I am a film lover. A true blue cinephile, if you will. I also happen to have a love for awards shows. Yeah, they really don't mean anything in the grand scheme of art or cinema or what have you, but I love 'em nonetheless. So, this all means I am a fan of the Oscars. I've always watched 'em, and I've always done the whole predictions thang, as well.I remember when I first started at this now defunct bookstore called Encore Books (see the Letter J), and the music department manager was holding what was an annual contest for customers. It was called Beat Bert (his name was Bert...still is) and customers could play against Bert at guessing the Oscars. Apparently Bert always won. Well, this year (1998, or actually 1999, for the year of 1998), I beat Bert. Granted, as an employee I was ineligible, but the fact still remains - I beat Bert. So now, every year since then, Bert and I compete against each other. Sometimes I win, sometimes he does. Sometimes we even tie. My lovely wife (see the Letter D) also plays along, and sometimes (once!) she beat us both. Yeah! And speaking of my lovely wife and the Oscars, we have held an Oscar party every year we have been together. For a period of a few years, this party was held at the arthouse cinema we once ran together, but now it is back at home. Granted, these days it may just a handful of friends, but the Oscar watching still endures. This year, there has been some complaining about the whiteness of the Oscars, but that is not going to stop me from enjoying them. The sexism and racism has always been a part of Hollywood. It's really no different now. Yes, it should be, but...but I digress. My predictions will be coming up right here the day before the Oscars. I usually get between 17 and 19 correct (out of 24). This year, as with every year, I am going for that elusive 20 correct. We'll see. I'm sure I'll still beat Bert, though.

P is for Pez! Pez! Pez! - Anyone who has been to my home, has seen the Pez. We are closing in on 2500 of the little guys, as I write this. Yeah, that's right - 2500. Actually, 2,491, to be exact. Oh, and about 300 or so other Pez related items. Yeah. That's how we roll around our place. The collection started innocently enough with the eight dispensers my lovely wife brought into our marriage. It took just under seventeen years to amass these 2,491 Pez Dispensers, and 300+ other Pezzy items. Our collection has been featured in several different mags and online news sites. There have been Pez conventions (yeah, baby!) and flea market hunts galore. It really is a sight to see. So come on over, and check it out. We might start charging admission though. Ha!

Q is for Quentin Tarantino - If one were to ask me who my favourite current director happens to be, and as a die hard cinephile, I do actually get asked that quite a bit, one is going to get the answer of Quentin Tarantino. Yeah, I love me some PTA and some WKW, but QT is the man in my universe. Sure, he's a love him or hate him kinda taste, but that just makes me love him all that more. Pulp Fiction and Inglorious Basterds are two of the best films of modern times. Both are Masterpieces, and that is a word I do not wish to overuse, so it is reserved for only the truly great films. And we haven't even mentioned Reservoir Dogs, Jackie Brown, Death Proof, Django Unchained or the Kill Bill's yet. Huzzah to QT!

R is for The Rocky Horror Picture Show - Once upon a time, back in the Spring of 1986, when I was but a mere lad of 18, my best friend Bill, took me to a midnight screening of something called The Rocky Horror Picture Show. This started an obsession of sorts, as both Bill and I, along with a series of brand new friends and cohorts, began acting out the film in front of the midnight audiences. Yeah, we became the Rocky Horror cast at the Capital City Mall UA Theatres. For those virgins in the audience (that was an inside Rocky joke, btw), the cult known as Rocky Horror began back in 1978, when a group of fans decided to get up in front of the screen and begin to act it out, and mock it, and such. But I'm sure you already knew that. Anyway, I was part of the cast during the Summer and Fall of '86, and then again, with a completely different group of ne'er do wells, throughout 1992. I have seen the film around a 1000 times. My main character was Riff, but at one time or another, I played every character, and yes, in full costume, aka full drag. My favourite to play was Columbia, because I got to wear a gold glittery jacket and top hat, and had a rockin' dance number. And yes, there may also be pictures.

S is for Sonny & Cher - Back when I was a very wee lad (I was just five) my parents took me to a local(ish) county fair, called the York Fair. We got to see the musical act that was playing that day. That act was a duo known as Sonny & Cher. Yup, that's right. Freakin' Sonny & Cher. Granted, I kinda only remember this through being told I was there, and not necessarily actually remembering the show, but hey...whatevs. I saw Sonny & Cher, and that's all that counts dammit!

T is for TV Kid - I may have had an obsession of sorts when I was a kid. It was called TV. Just check out the Letters K and N. Now remember that this was the 1970's and 1980's, back before there were 1000+ channels, and a slew of online programs, and the like. We had three networks, and that was it. Yeah, the 1980's brought in cable and things like MTV and HBO and all that, but basically, as a kid, we had three networks, and that was that. Hell, these networks even went off the air between twoish and sixish in the morning. But trust me, I was still obsessed. I even kept a running daily log of the ratings, based on what my family and friends had watched the night before. Shows like Welcome Back Kotter, Three's Company, The Six Million Dollar Man, Star Trek, The Love Boat, Dallas, Dynasty, The Partridge Family, et cetera and so on and whatever. Of course, I am still a bit obsessed, but that's probably not news to any of my regular readers.

U is for Uncle Meat Pants - A few years back, a news item appeared in the local papers and news sites. It was about a seventy-ish year old man, who had been arrested at Wal-Mart, for trying to smuggle meat out of the his pants. Yeah, well that man was my great uncle. This guy has always been a slimeball. I've never liked him. He went to prison for a while. That time it was for being some big wig coke dealer. But that isn't even why I dislike the guy. He's just a slimy creature, and when I read of how he attempted to sneak meat out in his pants, well, let's just say I wasn't surprised. At least my grandmother, his big sister, did not live to see her baby brother transformed into Uncle Meat Pants. My aunt got a bit worried when she realized that this was the guy who brought the meat to family cook-outs. Yup. That's Uncle Meat Pants.

V is for Vice Principal - I wasn't necessarily a bad kid, but I did enjoy skipping school. Sometimes I would skip the whole day. Other times, just a class or two, here and there. I wasn't going out to smoke or drink or anything like that. Those vices came post high school. No, I was just skipping to skip. School bored me, and I didn't want to be there anymore. So, I chose to be elsewhere. Coincidentally, this was also around the time that my mother began to be on a first name basis with our esteemed vice principal, Mr. Krobak, or Bob, as my mom would call him. Yeah, good times.

W is for Williams Grove Park - When people ask me where I grew up, I invariably tell them that I grew up in an amusement park. Most believe this to be a joke, and wait for me to laugh and tell them the truth, but ya know what? It is the truth. Until I was ten years old, I grew up in Williams Grove Amusement Park. It was a tiny little park (just one roller coaster, and an old rickety one at that) in the outskirts of Central Pa. Adjacent to said park were about twenty houses (all on one island, set between two creeks) where many of the park workers lived. Both my grandfather and grandmother were amongst those workers. So yeah, this is where I grew up, having relatively free reign of all the rides and the arcade and food stands. Yeah, it was a good place to be a kid. Sadly, Williams Grove has been closed for more than a decade now, and now sits there, weeds growing up over the abandoned rides. A ghost town of a place. But back in the day, it was surely the place to be.

X is for X-Men #98 - It was early January, 1976. I would have been eight years old at the time. Eight and a half to be a bit more exact. I was at the grocery store with my mom, and came across this comic book on the comic spinner rack, near the registers. Yeah, I said comic spinner rack, and this was back in the day when they still sold comic books in the grocery store. Anyhoo, this was a comic book that I wanted. Sure, I had read comics prior to this, but most of those involved Uncle Scrooge or Richie Rich or Hot Stuff, the little devil. I was eight and a half now, and it was time to move on to superheroes. So, I begged my mom to buy this comic book for me, and me being kind of a spoiled brat (and the fact that it only cost a quarter back then), she bought me the dang thing. What my mother probably did not know at the time, was that she was starting something of an obsession. Yup.

Y is for the Letter Y - Contrary to popular belief, or whatever kind of belief you, um..believe in, I was not born with the name of Kevyn. Yeah, my birth name was close, but no cigar, as they (sorta) say. My birth name was Kevin, Kevin Micahel Knox, but when I was in my early twenties, I decided to switch out the I for a Y, and became Kevyn Michael Knox. It was around the same time my friend Jim changed his name to Jym. These days my official, legal, on-the-social-secrurity-card name is Kevyn Michael Knox. It's Celtic. So there ya have it. Y is the word. Um, I mean Y is the letter. Yeah, the letter.

Z is for Zooey - Last, but certainly not least, here is where I talk about my #1 Zoo-Dogg, the inscrutable Hong Kong Zooey. For those of you who do not know - and just why the hell do you not know - Zooey is my cat. Well, one of many cats residing in the household of my lovely wife and I. His full name is Zooey Francis Glass, as my wife named him after one of her favourite (and mine too) literary characters. If you are asking just who Zooey Francis Glass is, then you should probably go away right now. Zooey, who is well into his cat teens (much older for you and me), has been dead several times. He has had to endure multiple doctor visits, and painful I.V.-ing, throughout the years, but he's still here, and still the coolest darn cat you'd ever want to meet. Sometimes I think he may outlive both my wife and I. So there ya go. Z is for Zooey!

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

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Heavenly Body of the Week: The Pink Planet: or GJ 504b

"All of her lovers / All talk of her notes / And the flowers / That they never sent / And wasn't she easy / Isn't she / Pretty in pink" - Psychedelic Furs

At first glance, the planet appears covered in a dark shade of pink. The reason for this strange colouring is that the planet is still glowing from the heat of its formation, thus causing the uncommon planetary hue. At least that is what NASA says. But beyond its peculiar magenta coloring, this particular world has scientists reconsidering how planets and solar systems form. Although the Pink Planet is about the same size as Jupiter, it is much farther from its parent star than many astronomers believe is possible for such a huge planet, but yet there it is, in all its pink glory. Pretty sexy, if ya ask me.
That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My 20 Fave TV Shows of 2014

So here we are at the end of another calendar year (yeah, I know, I'm late - sue me), and time for another list of the best of said calendar year. This time though, I will not just be looking back at the best that cinema had to offer in 2014 (as I did in 2013, 2012, 2011, and back and back and back) but, as the title clearly states, the best that television had to offer in 2014 - something I have never done before, or at least never done publicly. So, with that being said, here is my take on the state of TV in the year 2014. The 20 best TV shows of the year. Let's get this countdown going. Oh, but before we get to that, let us break down the numbers here. As has been the case for several years now, network television seems to be dying in the water. Of my 20 choices here, only three are network shows. and even one of them is finishing off their final season this coming year, on a non-network platform. For the best in TV, the place to be this year (as again, like for several years now), is away from the tired programming of network television. Along with those 3 aforementioned network shows, my list contains 2 HBO shows, 1 Showtime, 2 AMC shows, 4 from Netflix, 1 on Amazon Prime, 1 from BBC America, 1 from A&E, and in a surprising twist (even for me), 5 shows from FX. Yup, FX leads the pack. As for a few runners-up, howzabout these shows, listed in no particular order whatsoever (and including more network shows than the list proper does): Boardwalk Empire (HBO). Louie (FX), Veep (HBO), Masters of Sex (Showtime), Jane the Virgin (CW), Silicon Valley (HBO), Modern Family (ABC), Rick & Morty (Adult Swim), Trophy Wife (ABC, who wrongfully cancelled it back in June), & The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon (NBC). There is also The Blacklist on NBC, but that is more James Spader than the show as a whole. Anyhoo, let's get on with things. Here is my countdown, with a pair of special mentions. Have at it!

Special Mention: Breaking Bad (AMC) - Yeah, yeah, I know, the final episode of Breaking Bad was waaay back in September of 2013, and therefore has no damn right to be on any sort of Best of 2014 list. No right whatsoever! But guess what? I'm including the bitch anyway! You see, I'm kind of a late-comer to the world of Walter White and the gang. The show ran for five seasons on AMC, but I didn't watch even a single episode until just this past Summer, where I binge-watched the whole kit-and-kaboodle. I know, I know, blasphemy. But hey, this late-to-the-game thing really makes Breaking Bad seem like a show that did run in the past calendar year, and so, with that in mind, I just had to slip it in here somewhere. So here it is. Now let's get on with the countdown proper, shall we?

Special Mention: The Best 7 Minutes of TV in 2014 (Comedy Central) - These seven minutes took place on one of the final episodes of The Colbert Report, as Stephen Colbert's show is suddenly hijacked by none other than the President of the United States. POTUS comes on and performs a pitch perfect portrayal of Colbert's The Word segment. Granted, as with any president, but especially with this one, President Obama, has his detractors, but I have never been one of them. This just makes his seven minute segment on The Colbert Report all the more funny, and dare I say, all the more genius. I'm sure POTUS did not actually write his segment, but he probably had a part in it, and he delivers it oh so well. But enough of these special mentions. Let's get on with the countdown.

20. The Killing (Netflix) - Based on a Danish TV series, The Killing first aired on AMC back in 2011, but was eventually picked up by Netflix for a third season of original episodes in 2013. The show is moody and brooding, and as anyone who knows me can attest, I love me some moody, brooding shit. It is a crime drama with a twisted sensibility. The show is similar, at least in mood, to the UK series, Broadchurch, which attempted a rather lackluster US remake called Gracepoint this past year, and in turn, influenced by Twin Peaks, again, at least in mood. This final season, consisting of just six episodes, wrapped up the series for good, and it will be missed.

19. Archer (FX) - This animated series just began its sixth season on FX, but it is its fifth season that we are here to discuss and praise today. This said fifth season actually had a change of pace, and setting from its first four. After the rise of the terrorist organization known as ISIS, the producers of Archer decided it was probably a good time as any to disband the show's spy organization known as, you guessed it, ISIS. The characters of the show then went their own ways, and became drug dealers. Taking a turn toward a satire on Miami Vice, jokingly calling itself Archer Vice, the show still kept its meta humour and sardonic pop culture-obsessed wit.

18. Derek (Netflix) - Made for Channel 4 in the UK, this Ricky Gervais creation made its US debut on Netflix in 2013. Its final season (or its final series, as is the term used for British programs) took place in 2014, with a final hour long special just last month. Gervais has said that the Derek character is the first time he's ever felt like he was acting, and not just doing some version of himself. As is par for the course on Britcoms, Derek is quite a dry witted show, and of course, as is also par the course, Gervais is heee-larious in the title role of the socially awkward retirement home care worker. Heee-larious.

17. Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox) - Yes, the new crop of sit-coms from the 2013-14 season had some high points. CBS's Mom, ABC's Trophy Wife (a show that due to bad scheduling, ended up not being renewed for a second season), and NBC's midseason replacement, About A Boy, are all three worthy of recognition. But it was FOX's Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the best comedy to show up on TV since Modern Family premiered six seasons ago, that takes the proverbial cake. One wouldn't normally think a cop show starring Andy Samberg would be all that great, but damn if it ain't. And hey, it's a network show too. Imagine that.

16. House of Cards (Netflix) - No one plays ruthless bastard better than Kevin Spacey, and that ability is smack dab front and freakin' center in this Netflix series. Playing a central figure/player in Washington politics (a no spoiler policy stops me from saying how high a player) Spacey wraps this series around his clenched fist. There is great acting throughout (Robin Wright is especially fantastic) but it is Spacey's ruthless bastard portrayal that makes the show fly as high as it does.

15. Sons of Anarchy (FX) - After seven seasons, FX's biker gang adaptation of Hamlet, has come to a final curtain call. This is a show I came to rather late (just this past year, finally) but as they say, better late than never. The show revolves around a gang of gun-running (amongst other sources of income) biker gang in California, and as I alluded to earlier, is a modern day adaptation of Hamlet. This is another one of those quality shows (The Walking Dead, Bates Motel, Orphan Black) that never got any real awards show love, but it damn well should have.

14. Transparent (Amazon Prime) - Now that TV is expanding beyond the idea of TV, with original programming on outlets such as Netflix and Hulu,Amazon has thrown their proverbial hat in the ole ring. Their first attempt is a pretty good one too. Transparent is a single camera situation comedy about a transgender father of three, who finally comes out to his now grown-up kids. Jeffrey Tambor, who is pretty much great in everything, plays the title character here, and once again, he is beyond great. Tambor's ability to garner both humour and pathos from any given situation, is front and center on display here. The show just won Golden Globes for Comedy and Actor. granted, this show has not been seen by that many, due to its run on the pay service of Amazon Prime, but the Globes should help to get people watching this, not only endearing and funny show, but an important show as well.

13. Penny Dreadful (Showtime) - Blending together everything from classic film and literary monsters, German Expressionism, and Steampunk aesthetics, and with a little bit of Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen tossed in for good measure, Penny Dreadful is a delightful piece of Grand Guignol, I mean TV making. Oh, and on top of all this, we get Eva Green too. What more could one ask for?

12. Bates Motel (A&E) - This show doesn't ever get much attention when it comes to awards (Vera Farmiga has been robbed of her rightful Emmy!) but it damn well should. Based ever so loosely on Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (same characters but very different at the same time), with its small Northwestern town creepiness, it owes more of a debt to David Lynch's Twin Peaks - and that is just alright with this guy.

11. Fargo (FX) - At first, I thought the idea of adapting Fargo for television was a bad idea, even if the Coen Brothers were still involved, if only as producers. I figured they could not pull off what the Coens had done back in 1996. Boy was I wrong. Taking merely the name, and cold climate of the film, this TV adaptation, lasting 10 episodes, revolves around a small Minnesota town, and the characters of a meek insurance salesman, a small town deputy, an big(ish) city cop, and a hired killer. The latter is played by Billy Bob Thornton, in a role that makes me wish he was my best friend. Seriously, this assertion probably makes me seem a bit messed up in the head, but I'm sticking with it. Anyhoo, Fargo will be back with a second season, revolving around a different mystery and a different cast of characters.

10. Orange is the New Black (Netflix) - This was one of Netflix's first attempts at original programming, and one of the best. Actually, not one of Netflix's best, but THE best from Netflix. Part comedy, part drama (so split that it wavers on just which category it belongs in at awards shows), this women in prison show is a fun fun fun ensemble piece. What a great slew of fun fun fun characters, as well. And now season three is on its way. Should be another fun fun fun time, indeed.

9. Hannibal (NBC) - One of the few network shows on my list, Hannibal takes a different look at the characters from Thomas Harris' Red Dragon, and what a show. Sort of like the aforementioned Bates Motel, this show slants a different take on the iconic characters, and especially on that ever so infamous titular cannibal, played brilliantly by Mads Mikkelsen. Perhaps this is a good sign that maybe network programming isn't as dead as we all thought. Then again, it could just be a beautifully twisted fluke. Yeah, I'm going for the latter.

8. American Horror Story: Freak Show (FX) - We are currently just finishing up season four of this FX anthology series, and it's been a freakin' hoot. A freak show hoot, if you will. Each season of this show revolves around a different creepy scenario, often using many of the same actors, but in different roles. Well, mostly different roles. In my opinion, this season has been the best yet. It is sort of like if Douglas Sirk had remade Tod Browning's Freaks. Yup. How's that for a descriptive? I know I'm loving it. Jessica Lange and Sarah Paulson are especially wonderful. They say two heads are better than one. Trust me, if you watch the show, that last line was heee-larious.

7. Game of Thrones (HBO) - Magic, dragons, beheadings, and Peter 'Freakin' Dinklage. What more do you need to make a great show? Seriously, what else? There have been more than your usual backlash and complaints about Game of Thrones. Calling it too violent or misogynistic, the show certainly has its detractors and haters (haters always be hatin'), but I love the so-called ultra-violence. I love the dragons, and the dragon mothers. I love how dangerous it is to attend a wedding. I love it all.

6. Community (NBC) - Meta humour has always kinda been my thang, so when Community came around back in 2009, with its ultra meta take on pop culture (some might say annoyingly so - damn haters!) and its deconstruction of the situation comedy, I was quite taken. In fact, I can see myself in the show, in the form of Abed, the most meta of all the meta, and the most self-aware of the bunch. One can imagine me doing Troy and Abed's secret handshake right about now. Yup. 2014 ended up being the final season of the show on NBC. But not to worry true believers, for the show is not going away quite yet. Later this year, Community will return for their sixth, and most likely final season. And it will all be on Yahoo Screen, as they attempt to compete with Netflix and Hulu. I can't wait. Cool cool cool.

5. True Detective (HBO) - A new style of television programming these days is the anthology mini-series. Both Fargo and American Horror Story (seen earlier in our countdown) fall into this realm, as does HBO's True Detective. Here we get the story of a murder investigation, taking place over a seventeen year period. The performances of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are wonderful, but it is the mood, the intensity of the show, made palpable by director Cary Fukunaga, that makes this such a great and powerful work. Later this year, True Detective will return with a brand new story and a brand new cast. Let's see if season two makes our list next year.

4. The Americans (FX) - Yet another FX show. This one revolves around a Soviet couple in the early 1980's, who have infiltrated US society, via middle class suburbia, and must live a lie in  order to serve their country. The show is as much about family as it is cold war politics, and it is in this juxtaposition that the show shines. What is more powerful, love of country or love of each other, and love of family? This is the question. An intense show, indeed, with more than mere espionage going for it, and it returns next week for season three. Woot woot!

3. Mad Men (AMC) - Mad Men will end its run this coming Spring, and it's been one hell of a run. When the show debuted back in 2007, it was one of the first TV shows that seemed like more of a movie theatre experience than what we have always thought of TV being. Don Draper, as played by Jon Hamm, is one of the sharpest characters on TV, and the show is one of the sharpest written shows around. But then, I suppose you already figured I thought such a thing, especially considering the show rests at number three on my countdown. But seriously, this show has been one of the finest shows of the past decade, and this final season has kept the quality of the show as high as it has ever been. It'll be sad to finally see it go.

2. Orphan Black (BBC America) - This is a show about clones. There are many clones. A dozen have been revealed so far, and most of these are played by Tatiana Maslany, in what is one of the (or several of the, as it were) finest performances in recent TV history, maybe in all of TV history. A performance that has been shamefully overlooked by almost every awards branch. Maslany's multiple portrayals in this intense, thrilling drama, is the highlight of a show already filled with great writing and production values. I know I can't wait for season three, coming in April.

1. The Walking Dead (AMC) - I suppose this shouldn't come as much of a surprise to any of my regular readers. Maybe the Emmy's don't give the show its due, but I am dammit! Beyond just mere zombie apocalypse fare, this show, based on Robert Kirkman's long running comic book series over at Image Comics, is less about the walking dead, and more about the survivors. In fact, technically speaking, it is not the dead (the term zombie is never used!) who are the title characters, but the survivors who are the true walking dead. Smartly written, with socio-political and philosophical undertones, The Walking Dead is actually the only show that I consider must see television. All the other shows I like, including of course, the other shows on this list, I find the time to watch on demand or in a binge-watching Netflix night, but The Walking Dead, is that one show I must watch on Sunday night at 9pm. Granted, season two is my personal fave of the show's five (so far) seasons, but the second half of season four and first half of season five (the 2014-aired eligible episodes for this list) are still some of the best TV on, um...on TV. End of story. Huzzah!

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

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Film Review: Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice

Every few years a new Paul Thomas Anderson film comes around. It is a great time in a cinephile's life. I know, I for one, get a giddy feeling in my gutty works as the day of release creeps closer and closer and closer. There are not many directors in this modern day and age of Hollywood who can get me, to put it bluntly, all hot and bothered, as a certain Paul Thomas Anderson can. In fact that number is pretty much at two, with PTA being joined by QT, aka Quentin Tarantino. Maybe to a lesser degree, I could include the likes of David Fincher, David Lynch, Michael Mann, J.J. Abrams, and the Brothers' Coen. At one time Marty Scorsese was on that list too, but nowadays... anyway, I digress. We're here to talk about the new film from the giddy gutty works inducing American auteur, Paul Thomas Anderson. I'm guessing you have already figured out that I kinda love this film. No surprise really, huh? Yeah, like I said, I tend to get all hot and bothered at each and every new PTA to come down the so-called pike. But enough about me and my cinephiliac predilections, let's talk Inherent Vice.

The film, Anderson's seventh as director, is based on Thomas Pynchon's 2009 neo-noir novel of the same name. Appropriately so, Anderson's film is highly inspired by the film noir movement of the 1940's, just as Pynchon's book is influenced by the writings of Raymond Chandler, a man who had his fair share of noir-inspired films of that aforementioned movement. The story, as is in perfect juxtaposition with both Chandler and film noir in general, is a highly convoluted tale of mystery and intrigue and sex and violence, never much amounting to anything in narrative terms, but is still a stunning piece of work throughout. You see, noir doesn't necessarily need to make any sort of narrative sense. Well, at least not complete sense. There still needs to be a story and character development, and all that, but in the case of noir, all these parts do not necessarily need to add up to any sort of coherent whole. One of the greatest of all noir films, 1946's The Big Sleep, a film based on a Chandler novel, and one of the biggest influences on both Pynchon and Anderson here, is a great example of such unneeded narrative sense. An old Hollywood story (though possibly an apocryphal one) tells of how when Howard Hawks, Leigh Brackett, and William Faulkner were working on the screenplay of the film, they came across a murder in the book that they just could not figure out. They went over and over it again, but could never figure out who could have possibly killed this character. After a while, they decided to call up Chandler himself and ask him. Chandler too, had no idea who killed the guy. This is pretty much how noir works. Not everything has to make sense. All you need do is make a compelling film. This is exactly what Anderson does here. Who cares what is happening, as long as it happens creatively - which it does in spades. There is no need to try to explain the plot here (that's not really a critic's job, anyway), but instead just let the film wash over you as you watch it - which you should damn well do at your earliest convenience.

Along with the aforementioned noir classic, The Big Sleep, Inherent Vice can also include Kiss Me Deadly, The Long Goodbye, In A Lonely Place, and Chinatown in its long list of cinematic role models. Not that something like this is anything new to a filmmaker, nay, an auteur, such as Anderson. PTA has always been highly influenced by those directors and films that came before him, and with these influences in hand (Kubrick, Nick Ray, Hitchcock, Welles, Hawks, Godard, Scorsese, John Huston, Polanski, etc etc etc) he has created another grand film that is part homage and part brilliant original masterwork. Actually, this adaptation is a perfect fit as Anderson and Pynchon are quite similar in their respective takes on art, and the unique perspective they have on those who came before them. As this film is also a stoner comedy of sorts to go along with its glaring noirish paternity (how's that for a blend of genres!?), Anderson also cites the Cheech and Chong film, Up in Smoke, and the underground comic strip, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, as influences as well. Add to Anderson's unique auteuristic touch, the performance we get from star Joaquin Phoenix, in yet another brilliant PTA-directed role, along with an array of ensemble acting bon mots (Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Benicio del Toro, Martin Short, and newcomer Katherine Waterston, daughter of Sam Waterston), and we have yet another near masterpiece from one of the best damn directors, nay auteurs, working today. Huzzah! Much like his last film, The Master, or any of his films actually, this may not be a movie for the masses, but for the discerning cinephiles amongst us (and you know of whom I speak), Inherent Vice is a work of pure cinematic genius. Now I'm beginning to get that giddy feeling in my gutty works again, but it's bound to be a long two years or so wait for the next Paul Thomas Anderson film. I don't know if my insides can take it. That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Heavenly Body of the Week: Planet Mann

The Oscar nominations were announced yesterday, and in amongst those nominations was a film called Interstellar. It only received a handful of technical nods, after falling from its sure fire Best Picture buzz earlier in the awards season. Granted, I did not find the film all that great. In fact, I found it kind of silly and ridiculous. The one thing it did have going for it, was the visual aspect of things, which is why I have no qualms about its few tech nominations. Anyway, this particular heavenly body, the Planet Mann, named after the astronaut who discovered it, is one of three possible planets whereupon the human race can repopulate in the film. You know, Earthly environmental disaster scenario, and all that. Unfortunately, the Planet Man is an ice planet, and therefore not too habitable to that aforementioned human race. But hey, the movie kinda sucked (even it it was a Chris Nolan film), so perhaps the human race doesn't deserve to be saved. Wait, what? Yeah, that's probably a bit harsh. Anyway, enjoy the planet, and I'll see ya'll again next week with a brand new heavenly body.

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

Thursday, January 15, 2015

And the Oscar Nominations are Here...and an Oscar Poll too

So, here we are once again on Oscar Nomination Morning, and that means we have ourselves some Oscar nominations. Duh. Anyhoo, let's get on with just who and/or what were nominated today - and just how well I did in my predictions. And I did rather well, if you must know. Actually, I did about the same as I do every year. Missing just one in all categories, sans Supporting Actor, which I aced. This all gave me an 84% (36 out of 43) which is my normal run.

The eight films nominated for Best Picture are Boyhood, Birdman, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, Selma, Whiplash, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and the surprise one, American Sniper. I really had thought Eastwood's film had come around too late to get any traction, but apparently I was wrong. It is nice to see that all eight nominees are relatively small, mostly independent films. A strange thing here is that Selma has a Best Pic nomination without the expected nods for Director and Actor. In fact it has only one other nomination (Best Song) to go with its BP nod. Another strange thing is that in the director category, we have Bennett Miller getting nominated for Foxcatcher, without a Best Picture nomination. Wait, what? This means that the Academy deigned to nominate The Theory of Everything, Selma, Whiplash, and American Sniper for Best Picture, but deemed their respective directors unworthy of inclusion, and had to reach out to a non-nominated film to get their fifth nominee. I am pretty sure this is the first time something like that has happened since Oscar upped the BP category from five to "somewhere between five and ten." Yeah, I don't like that change in the category anyway, and it should go back to the proper five, but I digress.

So the most nominations went to Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel, with nine a piece, though I still think Boyhood (w/ six noms) is the one to beat come Oscar Night. There was one (somewhat) surprise, as Laura Dern was nominated for Wild. I didn't predict this one, but I did list her here as a wild card possibility. Anyhoo, there ya have it. American Sniper (and Bradley Cooper, receiving his third consecutive Best Actor nomination) kinda surprises, Laura Dern is in (her nomination announcement brought the most cheers from the press corps), Bennett Miller is a better director than his film would apparently indicate, Meryl Streep grabs her nineteenth Oscar nomination (kinda greedy, if ya ask me), Inherent Vice is actually up for two awards (Screenplay and Costumes - woo hoo!), The Lego Movie is snubbed, but its song is not (only some things are awesome), the rather surprising exclusion of Selma's creative forces, making this the first all white slate of acting nominees since the 1995 awards, will surely have people up in arms throughout the day, and all this means, in order to see all the nominees, which I like to do every year, I'm going to have to sit down and watch that dreadfully boring looking movie, The Judge. Thanks a lot Duvall! I thought I had successfully avoided that one. But once again, I digress.

And that brings us to the Oscar Poll. This will be the fourth year that I have held an Oscar Poll on my blog. All ya have to do is go to said poll, which can be found, oh so conveniently, near the top of this very blog's sidebar (seriously, you cannot miss it), and make your pick for the Oscar. And remember, this poll is not for the film you think will win, but for the film you think is the best (of the nominees). So go get your vote on, kids! The Oscar Poll will end one minute before Midnight, on Thursday night, February 19th, and the results of said poll will be posted right here on this very blog, sometime on Friday, February 20th. After this. on Saturday, February 21st, I will be posting my final Oscar predictions before the big night on Sunday, February 22nd. So there!

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web. And remember to vote in the Oscar Poll, and while you're at it, why not tell everyone you know to get their respective votes on as well.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

My Final Set-in-Solid-Rock Oscar Nomination Predictions

Welcome back kids! Here we are on another Oscar nominations eve, so, without further ado, here are my final, and as the post's title says, set-in-solid-rock, Oscar nomination predictions. Have at 'em. Oh, and I have listed them in order of probability within each category.

Best Picture
(Oscar rules state anywhere between 5 and 10 nominees)
1. Boyhood
2. Birdman
3. The Imitation Game
4. The Theory of Everything
5. The Grand Budapest Hotel
6. Selma
7. Whiplash

Personally, I think there are going to be seven nominees this year, but just in case I'm wrong, here are a few more choices.

8. Foxcatcher
9. Nightcrawler
10. Gone Girl

Other Possibilities: American Sniper or Into the Woods could sneak in. The former is on the upswing and the latter on the downswing, Oscar buzz-wise that is. Heck, perhaps even Unbroken, which has really been on the downswing as of late, still has a prayer. Perhaps not. As for any other film...yeah, I don't see any other films making this list. A Most Violent Year? Mr. Turner? Interstellar? No, no, and hell no. It would be nice to see PTA's Inherent Vice sneak in here (as I had predicted in my Early Bird Predictions a few months back) but let's face facts, that ain't a-happenin'. In the end, I'm going to go with those top seven, but wild cards like Foxcatcher and Nightcrawler could get things done. As for the eventual winner? It's looking more and more (especially after its Golden Globe win a few nights ago) like Boyhood is taking this thing, but if it has any challenger, I could see Selma rising up. 

Best Director
1. Richard Linklater for Boyhood
2. Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman
3. Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel
4. Ava DuVemay for Selma
5. Morten Tyldum for The Imitation Game

Sixth Man Award: James Marsh for The Theory of Everything
Wild Card Choice: Damien Chazelle for Whiplash

The first two are definite locks, while numbers three and four are looking pretty solid as well. Meanwhile, that coveted fifth spot is pretty much a two way race between Tyldum and Marsh. Obviously, I am giving the slight edge to the former. If Oscar really wants to throw a curveball, they could nominate the virtually unknown Chazelle, not that DuVemay or Tyldum are exactly household names. As for Oscar history, if DuVemay does get a nomination, she will not only be just the fifth woman to be nominated in the category, but the first ever African American woman to receive the nod. And yes, other than Inarritu, none of these so far mentioned possibilities have ever been nominated for the award, though both Anderson and Linklater have been nominated for the Screenplay award. Anyhoo, some other possibilities include David Fincher, Clint Eastwood, Mike Leigh, Bennett Miller, and even Angelina Jolie, though her Oscar buzz has really dropped as of late. Really dropped. But let's face it kids, Richard Linklater is winning this award, and the others are just here to fill out the category. And yes, I am more than alright with that scenario.

Best Actor
1. Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything
2. Michael Keaton in Birdman
3. Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game
4. David Oyelowo in Selma
5. Steve Carell in Foxcatcher

Wild Cards: Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler and/or Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel

For several weeks now, it looked like these five were going to be the five nominees, but recently our two wild cards began getting some traction and grabbing some much needed Oscar buzz. This recent development though, does not bode well for Steve Carell's chances. But still, I am sticking to my guns, and sticking with Carell. I mean come on, Oscar loves when actors transform, and Carell definitely does a transformation in this villainous role. But enough of these seven possibilities, are there any others in this race? Why yes, there may very well be. The dark horse here is Bradley Cooper for American Sniper. It may be a bit too late in the game for Eastwood's film to garner any real traction in the Oscar race, but ya never know. An interesting note here is that if my five predicted choices get the call tomorrow morning, it will be an entire category of first time nominees. Of course if one of the wild cards sneak in, then that scenario is blown. As for the possible winner, even though I listed Redmayne first (he is the frontrunner after all), I think Michael Keaton, and his never nominated after a long career kind of vibe, may actually take home the gold in February.

Best Actress
1. Julianne Moore in Still Alice
2. Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything
3. Reese Witherspoon in Wild
4. Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl
5. Jennifer Aniston in Cake

Sixth Woman Award: Amy Adams in Big Eyes

This category really has just one lock, and that is Julianne Moore. The Oscar is hers to lose, as they say. As for the other four spots, it is a battle between five ladies. Any one of these five could get the inevitable snub. Now some say that Aniston really has no chance here, and that my sixth woman award choice is the more likely fifth spot, but hey, I'm not standing for any of that talk. I think there has to be a surprise nominee in one of the acting categories, so why the hell not our friend Jen? Up until her Globe win the other night, Amy Adams could have probably been the odd woman out, but who knows now. Yeah, all the Oscar ballots have long been turned in, but a Globe win still says something about something, right? Okay, probably not, especially in the "lower" Comedy category, She still could be the odd one out, and I'm kinda counting on that. No offense Amy, but it wasn't one of your strongest performances. Anyhoo, I'm sticking with my predicted five, though won't be disappointed if Amy gets the nod. Anyone else, you ask? Perhaps Marion Cotillard could surprise, or maybe even Emily Blunt, but don't count on it. This is a six woman race for sure.

Best Supporting Actor
1. J.K. Simmons in Whiplash
2. Edward Norton in Birdman
3. Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher
4. Ethan Hawke in Boyhood
5. Robert Duvall in The Judge

Wild Card: Josh Brolin in Inherent Vice

Okay, this looks to be a category that is pretty much locked in with these five actors. My choice for a wild card is merely just wishful thinking on my behalf. I don't really see such a thing happening, but Inherent Vice has to get nominated somewhere, right? No? Dammit! Again though, just like in the Director category, perhaps even moreso here, this is a one man race when it comes to the win in February. This is Simmons' Oscar, and everyone else is mere filler material. I suppose something can be said for the chances of Christolph Waltz. After all, he already has two of these damn things at home, but still, the film hasn't really caught on like some had hoped. And both his Oscar wins have come in films directed by his lucky charm, Quentin Tarantino. So, anyone else, maybe? Yup (sorta).  Maybe (maybe) if Selma hits big, Tom Wilkinson could sneak in, but that one is even less likely. But yeah, these are the five nominees. Let's face facts. Easy peazy, lemon squeezy.

Best Supporting Actress
1. Patricia Arquette in Boyhood
2. Emma Stone in Birdman
3. Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year
4. Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game
5. Meryl Streep in Into the Woods

There is no sixth woman award in this one. No potential wild card or dark horse coming out of the woodwork. It is these five ladies and no one else. Seriously, no one. I mean it. No one else. Well...okay, perhaps there is someone else. Okay, let's admit it, Laura Dern could be that aforementioned wild card and/or dark horse nomination. Her performance in Wild has been gaining in buzz, and Hollywood does love her, so I suppose we shouldn't count her out. And hey, though La Streep is beloved as well, the chances of Into the Woods grabbing up any major award seems to have fallen to the wayside after it had been such a lock early on. Oh, and since I've already gone and admitted to there being a dark horse in the stable, I might as well go ahead and ad the possibility of either Rene Russo in Nightcrawler or Tilda Swinton in Snowpiercer grabbing a surprising (very surprising) nomination tomorrow morning. But let's not get carried away here. And anyway, just like in the adjacent male category, this will end up being a one woman race come February. Patricia Arquette is winning the Oscar. No need to even argue that fact. Again, the actual Oscar race comes down to a very predictable evening come February 22nd.

Best Original Screenplay
1. The Grand Budapest Hotel
2. Birdman
3. Boyhood
4. Nightcrawler
5. Selma

Best Adapted Screenplay
1. The Imitation Game
2. Whiplash
3. Gone Girl
4. The Theory of Everything
5. Inherent Vice

I think the first three in each of these categories are set, and maybe even the fourth in each is kinda locked in as well. That fifth nod though? Other Original possibilities include Mr. Turner, Foxcatcher, A Most Violent Year, Big Eyes, and even The Lego Movie. Other Adapted choices are Wild, American Sniper, Into the Woods, and Still Alice. Again, I may just be projecting my own desires in my pick of Inherent Vice (my favourite film of 2014) for Adapted Screenplay, but come on, it has to get at least one nomination, right? Right? Dammit! Anyway, these are my picks, and as I said earlier somewhere, I'm sticking with 'em!

Well, there ya go kids! Those are my nomination predictions, and I'm sticking with 'em! No need to get into all the other categories. These eight are enough for now. I'll be back tomorrow with all the nominees, as well as the results of how well I did in my predictions this year.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Best in Cinema: 2014

It's that time of year again. Time for my annual best of and/or favourites lists. This one is a bit late in coming to fruition (said tardiness is explained below) but here it finally is. So, without further ado, here are my choices for the Best Films of 2014. Have at 'em!

1. Inherent Vice - I like to get a list like this done sometime around New Year's Day, but this year I held off two weeks, in order to have the chance to see this film first. I mean, come on, it's not like a Paul Thomas Anderson film is going to be left off any top ten list of mine. Anyone who knows me, and/or knows my taste in cinema, damn well knows that. And yup, here it is...and in the top spot at that. Based on Thomas Pynchon's 2009 novel, Anderson has weaved together a brilliantly perverse neo noir. Taking on the influences of such films as Nick Ray's In A Lonely Place, Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye, and Howard Hawks' Big Sleep, the latter of which in turn, is based on the Raymond Chandler novel, the main literary influence on Pynchon's own writing. Anderson has also given Cheech and Chong and the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers comic strip as influence. Yeah, so this is another batshitcrazy work from the current master of batshitcrazy filmmaking.  

2. Boyhood - Richard Linklater has always been one of the more intriguing of American auteurs, and he has topped anything and everything he has done before, with Boyhood, his magnum opus. Twelve years in the making, being shot intermittently throughout all that time, Boyhood takes a look at Mason Evans, as played by Ellar Coltrane, in what seems like elapsed photography filmmaking. It actually is quite remarkable a cinematic feat, and in another year, a year without a Paul Thomas Anderson film, Linklater's film would be the top dog.

3. Birdman - Remember Michael Keaton? Yeah, me too. And now he's back...and playing basically a version of himself. Keaton's has been actor in the film is trying to make a comeback on Broadway, after decades of obscurity after giving up playing a famed superhero on screen. Yeah. Mexican auteur Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has given us another visually spectacular film. Oh, and Keaton, Edward Norton, and Emma Stone give it a good go as well.

4. Under the Skin - It's been nine years since Jonathan Glazer gave us the mesmerizing Birth, and now he is thankfully back in the director's chair once again. Coldly calculating and deftly intricate, this film, the story of an alien being, played by ScarJo herself, luring unsuspected horny men to their ultimate demise, is an ethereal piece of filmmaking, indeed.

5. The Babadook - This fascinating Aussie horror film does not rely on the typical jump scares of most modern genre works, instead opting for an old school building tension kind of thing. A building tension that eventually leads to a screamingly terrifying climax. And the performances of Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman are both rather spectacular. This is the way horror movies should look and feel. Bravo, indeed.

6. Only Lovers Left Alive - A vampire movie as only Jim Jarmusch could do it. Starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston as centuries old vampires (and no other two actors could be more suited to the job), Jarmusch's lush and moody film weaves around the narrow old alleyways of Tangiers and the dark decay of Detroit's dead streets, with a keen cinematic eye, his camera acting as a lurid voyeur into the nightly world of these beautifully love sick creatures. If The Babadook is how a monster movie should be made, then Only Lovers Left Alive is how a vampire film should be made.

7. Guardians of the Galaxy - I usually do not go all gaga over such blatant big office boffo movies like this top grosser of the year, but this one is different. Sure, I'm a comic book fan from waaay back, but even so, not many comic book movies end up making my top ten lists. Again, this time it's different. This old school, Indiana Jones-esque space romp is seriously a fun ass movie experience. I am Groot!

8. Nymphomaniac - Lars von Trier is definitely a love him or hate him kind of guy, and is also definitely an acquired taste (if one would even want a taste for LvT), and this two part 4+ hour film that more than just borders on pornography, is probably one many are not going to have a taste for, but hey, I quite liked the damn thing...and it has Shia Labeouf too. 

9. Snowpiercer - This Bong Joon-ho film (produced by Park Chan-wook) is yet another one of those dark dystopian dramas, but unlike the vast majority of the genre, this one is actually good. Very good, even. One might even say pretty darn great. Set in 2031, after the sudden onset of a second ice age (brought on when scientists tried to counteract the climate change problem), the film follows the few survivors of said second ice age, who all happen to live on the titular speeding train. Stark and quite harsh, as many Korean films are, this one also has Tilda Swinton. So there!

10. Edge of Tomorrow - Normally one would not expect to see a Tom Cruise vehicle on a top ten list of mine (though Minority Report was on my best of list from that year), but this sci-fi doo-dad, based on a Japanese comic book, and directed by Doug Limon, an actioner auteur if ever there was one, is surprisingly deft and gripping, and even rather humourous at times. Imagine that.

And here be some runners-up, in no particular order: Maleficent, Chef, Top Five, Begin Again, Love is Strange, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Night Moves, Frank. and Nightcrawler.