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A feast in a time of plague.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Those paying attention may have noticed that I'm not writing columns these days. (Though given the lack of outcry, I guess that perhaps no one has noticed). In any case, I don't feel much like writing these days which is now likely to apply to my blog too for a couple weeks at least. I may update or I may not. But if there's nothing, now you know why.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

It hasn't been because of the recent spate of comic book movies, but for whatever reason my inveterate love of the comics medium has resurfaced again this year. As a kid long ago I read a ton of books grabbed from the racks, being mostly a Make Mine Marvel Silver Age boy but also liking DC's the Flash as well as Carl Barks' Donald Duck/Uncle Scrooge and Harvey Comics stuff like Richie Rich and Dot Polka when I was real small. (Though Barks is worth reading no matter your age--he's one of the true masters to ever work in the form). I was also heavy into the Warren Magazines scene once I got a little older, loving their mags like Creepy and Eerie. (Movie aside: this publisher was also responsible for the great Famous Monsters of Filmland).


In later years, though I kept reading mainstream material like the Chris Claremont/John Byrne Xmen run and the Frank Miller Daredevil (in which the Elektra character was a lissome killer and not a piece of equine cardboard) I branched out into more underground material mainly through Last Gasp Press' Weirdo, Art Spiegelman's Raw and Kitchen Sink reprints. (This latter outfit was also helpful in introducing me to another of the all time greats, Will Eisner, with their Spirit re-pressings). Along the way I also discovered alternative material like that done by the Hernandez Brothers et al and got a little more worldly by discovering foreigners such as Hugo Pratt and Herge. I also took my first tentative steps into Japanese manga when items like Rumiko Takahashi's Maison Ikkoku began to appear on the shelves, a mere foreshadowing of their future weight in the American marketplace.


For a long while though, my attention to the medium has been sort of wobbly. I've been known to deride the form as the world's most expensive art, given the immense prices you can pay for just a few minutes of entertainment. Sure, I'd go through phases where I fervently read whatever I'd just discovered being published by Drawn and Quarterly, Fantagraphics or Vertigo though I don't remember much from there beyond Grant Morrison's Invisibles) or whatever cool minicomic was suggested to me by Tom Devlin (of the late and much lamented Highwater Books) at my local comics emporium. (I'll always have him to thank for John Porcellino and Brian Ralph). But for the most part my attention tended to wander away from the sequential art scene, the occasional foray notwithstanding.


But of late, I find myself back in the comics shop a fair bit as well as perusing daily The Comics Reporter, Comics212, Comic Book Galaxy and the Fantagraphics blog. I think I'll also re-up on a long discontinued sub to the Comics Journal (aside: Dirk Deppey's excellent editorial on the American comics industry's disdain for the young female reader in the TCJ's all-Manga issue is a must read for anyone who cares about the art), since you can never have too much blathering criticism.


If there's one thing I've found in this personal comic book renaissance, though, it's that this is sure a vibrant marketplace of ideas. The industry operates on the fringes of the entertainment world for the most part and has always been a bit of a backwater--which is both its blessing and its curse. (There are your big licenses, sure, but beyond that this is mostly smalltime stuff). But you might not know it by the market now--from all the amazing reprints (Fantagraphics' Complete Peanuts and Dennis the Menace, Vertical's Buddha, Dark Horse's Little Lulu books, the just released in black and white Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 4 with perhaps the greatest Lee/Kirby story arc ever, the D + Q Frank King book etc etc) to the great new work being published by so many outfits, it's clear that the art is in pretty healthy shape. There's just huge amounts of promising things still to come this year: the Quitely/Morrison All Star Superman, Naoki Uraswawa's Monster, Yoshihiru Tatsumi's Push Man and Other Stories, Ted Naifeh's Polly and the Pirates, MOME, Night Fisher by R. Kikuo Johnson et al. Not to mention new stuff from Picturebox, Ponent Mon, Red Ink and Pantheon and the like. And that Fantagraphics "Ignatz" series sure looks promising. In any case, there's lots on the shelves these days, which is just great for someone getting back into the swing of the medium. It's costing me money, but I'm enjoying it--plus, since matinees themselves run a cool $7.25 'round here, those $9.99 manga books are starting to look like a pretty good deal.

R. kikuo Johnson's next one

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Here's a couple items via horror blog Dark, But Shining: Lion's Gate purchases a small film library with a horror component and you can download Plan 9 from Outer Space from the Internet Archive. What will they think of next?


One of the theaters in my area is responding to the box office downturn by attempting an upgrade to the cinema experience. Good luck with that.


Somewhat exciting remake news from Monster Zero as word comes through of a Japanese do-over of Nippon chinbotsu aka Submersion of Japan. Adding to the anticipation is the inclusion of Kou Shibasaki, who you'd know better had she been in Kill Bill like she was supposed to be. (If you've seen Battle Royale--and if you haven't, why not?--this is the actress who plays Mitsuko Souma in that gem). I'd just like the original flick to get a domestic release, myself, so maybe this'll help.


Cartoon Brew has the scoop on the extras for the third volume in the Looney Tune Golden Collection series, and they look pretty great. Full cartoon lineup is available at this link.

chuck amuck

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Have I mentioned how much I like The Go! Team's debut album Thunder, Lightning, Strike? This one needs a domestic release--I can't believe it hasn't gotten one by this point.


Aint It Cool has a nice recap of Fantasia Fest by the guy from Cine-east.


At an appearance at a small retrospective of her films sponsored by the Asia Society, actress Maggie Cheung speaks about her desire to return to comedy. In other Asian actress news, the wonderful Zhou Xun gets the lead role in the next Feng Xiaogang film.


I've found all of Media Blasters' DVD releases of the old Toho monster films to be excellent thus far, and it looks like Dogora the Space Monster keeps the quality train rolling.


Animated News provides a summary of the news from the San Diego Comic-con as it relates to the world of film. The Washington Post adds in even more coverage of this angle for the mainstream media, though if you want a look from the world of the books themselves, check out the Comics Reporter. All sorts of tidbits there, including references to stuff that I'll read: Mort Grim, Ivan Brunetti's Hee and YOTSUBA&! the new book by Kiyohiko Azuma who's best known for Azumanga Daioh.

Exasperation!

Monday, July 18, 2005

No time today to do much but point out this post at the econ blog Marginal Revolution delineating some points in the "what's wrong with the box office" trope. I'm not sure about that Hollywood is Detroit analogy some are kicking around, but there's little doubt the industry is in bit of a strange place these days theatrically. Of course now that the box office has been ok for two weekends in a row it's probably time for some blathering industry blowback about how everything is fine, nothing to see here, pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.


Saturday, July 16, 2005

More completely off topic stuff from the world of design: browsing the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards leads to the landscape work of Kathryn Gustafson, a partner in the UK firm Gustafson-Porter as well as the US based Gustafson Guthrie Nichol. Probably most famous for her design of the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain (a space whose disposition has not been without controversy and which some believe has now been marred by a redesign made necessary by some flawed choices and the crowds who inundated the place), she has recently been hired for some work in Washington DC. Gustafson also just grabbed an award from the ALSA for the Kreielsheimer Promenade in Seattle, and other nice work includes Lurie Garden in Chicago, the National Botanic Garden of Wales and Amsterdam's Culture Park Westergasfabriek. As a native Bostonian, I very much look forward to seeing what she'll do with the Museum of Fine Arts add on (in conjunction with architectural superstar Norman Foster, who she also worked with for the Great Glass House) as well as her North End Park for the Mass Turnpike Authority.


L'Oreal FactoryNational Botanic Garden of WalesArthur Ross Terrace


But I digress. Back in the world of film, the excellent blog Drawn! points the way towards Imaginary Forces, a company whose name you don't know but whose work you have seen.


Asahi Shinbun takes a look at the world of Japanese film stars of the furry kind.


The always helpful (and utterly unsafe for work) Fleshbot notes the immensely valuable reference work (*cough*) The Encyclopedia of Lesbian Movie Scenes.


Director Takashi Shimizu to helm a promising sounding sci fi film called Parasyte that is based on Hitoshi Iwaaki's manga with the same title. The comics movies just keep coming--though it seems this one may have been kicked around for some time now.

I hope this scene makes the film version

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Please forgive David. He knows not what he does when he claims the Dawn of the Dead remake is somehow better than Romero's original classic which is one of the best American films of the 1970's. Remember, this is a guy who thinks Babe Ruth wasn't all that.


I miss ol' MHVF being a lively place where people posted tons of stuff a lot this week, as there don't appear to be any of the reports from Fantasia Festival that used to appear there. (I'm also still wondering why they've never posted the Best of 2004 poll that I spent an hour filling out a ballot for way back in January, but inquiring about that pretty much only resulted in my being asked to move along and find some other site to post at...they even closed the thread about its non posting on the boards there so no one would do anything unseemly like ask why the results never got compiled and published. What a bringdown for a once great site). In any case, at least there's still Twitch to report from the front and chime in on some of the offerings therein.


Jennifer Connelly says that Dark Water is not a horror movie. (Maybe she's right, from the looks of the tepid box office). Do you think that she feels the same way about Creepers?


I've seen Ghostbusters a few times, but I sure never noticed this!


This much I know: I would far rather watch a show titled "Mongolian Cow Sour Yogurt Super Girl" then one called "American Idol". But that's just me. (Hat tip to Kaiju Shakedown.)


So am I the only one who thinks that the X3 news just gets worse and worse? As someone who thought X2 was the most entertaining popcorn movie of the whole last raft of superhero films, I think the trend here looks right poor.


A more promising comic book item is the news that Josh Olson will adapt Naoki Urasawa's Monster for the big screen.

Pssssst. Manga is in, pass it on

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

I'm home sick today, but let's not let that get in the way of my pointing out a couple of stories on Tsui Hark's Seven Swords via the indispensable Hong Kong Entertainment News in Review.


Crime author Evan Hunter--aka Ed Mcbain--recently passed away. The police procedural author had a long association with the movies, including working on the screenplay of Hitchcock's The Birds.


Also leaving this mortal coil of late is the pioneering Eddie Smith, co-founder of the Black Stuntmen's Association.


Bloody Disgusting has reviews of stuff playing at Montreal's Fantasia Fest. I'm close to buying the import DVD for Shutter, myself.

Let's see, I'll just wander around this dark lab. What could happen?

Saturday, July 09, 2005

It's time for the ol' what's Hyde watching/hearing/reading/obsessed about post. Hell, it's Saturday morning and there ain't really decent cartoons on at this time anymore, so what else is there to do?


Current reading: Curfew by Phil Rickman, a right solid piece of Welsh horror. More summer fiction on request from the library: Deep in the Darkness by Michael Laimo, Deep Blue by David Niall Wilson, and The Manor by Scott Nicholson. I've also just asked for a recent Booker prize shortlist item by David Mitchell called Cloud Atlas that I think looks really fascinating. This one probably goes right to the front of the pack when it comes in.


Other recent purchases in the comic art vein: Blue Spring by Taiyo Matsumoto, Planetes by Makoto Yukimura, the Street Angel trade paperback and Scott Pilgrim Volume 1. (The astute among you may notice I'm essentially a full year behind in my comic purchases as this is all 2004 stuff. Ah, well.) In addition, I picked up Drawn and Quarterly's brilliant new collection of Gasoline Alley strips by the great Frank King.


Things in the movie and music world are a bit light currently. I did just buy Michel Legrand's soundtrack to Young Girls of Rochefort and the Indiavision Cd, but then I got snarled at by the SO as she had already bought the latter for me as an upcoming birthday present after reading about it in this space. Oops. So no other new music for a bit. Did watch the Ringo Starr directed T Rex flick Born to Boogie recently but beyond that I haven't viewed squat for movies for a while. (The depths of my slump are so great I haven't even seen the new Romero zombie movie. Yikes.) I did muster up the gumption to watch the Leonard Nimoy episode of Columbo last night, what with the release of season 3 coming up in a month or so. Beyond that it's mostly come home, throw on the OLN feed of the Tour de France and leave it at that.


Beyond all this media, the major thing I've been seeking out on the web of late is more stuff inspired by perusing the previously mentioned 2005 RIBA Awards. I mean, who wouldn't want to live in a house like the one in Clonakilty designed by Niall Mclauglin Architects. (Hell, I'd settle for the low cost housing of theirs which seems really nice.) I also like the looks of Wheatfield Courtyard, the artist's studio by Sanei Hopkins Architects, the Millau Viaduct and Sarah Wigglesworth Architects' Mossbrook School Classroom of the Future. I'd also love to know a little more about the award winning Brazilian entry Slice House, but given the state of my Portuguese I'm not having much luck. One final resource in the new building mode that I've stumbled over just now that's worth a last mention here are the AR awards for Emerging Architecture, which appears to have all kinds of interesting new structures being built the world over. Like the wooden tower at the Helsinki Zoo and so many more. Hmm, maybe it's time to do some more research...

this is the only way to fly

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Given the state of my movie watching--zero theatrical viewings in 2005, just asked Greencine to suspend my account, giant pile of unwatched DVD's--I've started to think I'm approaching getting burnt out on watching movies. Strange days for someone who generally watches hundreds of movies every year--but let's not let that stop the blogging. There's still lots to read about.


Such as the newest issue of Firecracker, which is chock-a-block full of Asian movie goodness.


In these dark days of not watching flicks I've actually been doing some outside reading (both analog and digital), including long perusal of the RIBA Awards. After poking through all the cool winners I went and looked at the only local selection, the Genzyme Center also a winner of an AIA/COTE Green Project Award. I also decided that I would happily live at the James Robertson House built by Dawson Brown Architecture. (There's a writeup on this amazing place in the July/August issue of Dwell Magazine, if you're intrigued). I sort of like a good bit of the new style modernism--though I dunno if any of these new places are as cool as the Vandamm House in North by Northwest.


Check out the cool ass pics from the upcoming Korean martial arts flick the Duellist that are up over at Filmacco. Looks promising.


I can't for the life of me find the recent post at Twitch, but I swear that I read about a newish horror movie starring Bae Doo Na, perhaps directed by Bong Joon Ho? I miss the old days when my brain actually retained information...

Who needs an excuse?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Well, I've been away and paying no attention at all to the world of movies. Though I did manage to find this primer on go-go boots that includes a lengthy set of references to films that feature them. (Hat tip to Fleshbot).


The story of supermodel turned bounty hunter Domino Harvey--subject of an upcoming flick starring Keira Knightley--takes a strange turn as the daughter of film actor Laurence Harvey is found dead in the bathtub in her West Hollywood home.


Somehow in my many web travels I had never stumbled over Shaolin Chamber, an absolutely invaluable site for martial arts movie stuff. Great Shaw Brothers coverage, especially the Linn Haynes buying guide to Celestial releases.


Most of the focus for the upcoming King Kong remake quite rightly centers on Peter Jackson's film, but reading over the recaps of e3 last night made me realize the videogame is in good hands as well with Michel Ancel in charge. I still think more people should have bought Beyond Good and Evil.


If I wasn't already drowning in DVD's that I don't have time to watch, I'd be a lot more thrilled with the nonstop announcements from Noshame Films on all the great Italian flicks they're putting forth. Me, I'm most excited about Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key--you can never, ever have too much Edwige Fenech.

Never.  Ever.

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