Monday, September 3, 2012

Brad's Week In Dork! (8/26/12-9/1/12)

My Coen Brothers Marathon started off strong, but once I got my hands on Boardwalk Empire everything ground to a halt.  I took two days to devour that show and it felt like the perfect lead into Miller's Crossing which will start off my next Week In Dork.  Part of me is disappointed that I didn't complete the marathon, but the other part is also excited to have stretched it out over three weeks.  I have no doubt in my mind now that my favorite director in cinema is The Coen Brothers.  Their films are strange cocktails of humor and horror.  I watch something like Fargo and I'm struck by its sad, pathetic characters as well as Marge, the eternal optimist confused by the horrors committed by her misguided neighbors.  And I'm in awe of the laughs it steals from shower curtains and woodchippers.  Wonderful, demented stuff.


Masters of the Universe:  Okay, I know what you're thinking--this is a crap film that totally gets the He-Man mythos wrong...but who cares about the He-Man mythos? Not me. Just sit back and enjoy the absolute sillyness. Oscar nominee Frank Langella as Skeletor! The Dolph as He-Man! Has there ever been a better match up?!?!?! And Courteney Cox at her horrible best! Sure, the kid in me is still disappointed that Billy Barty's Gwildor is just a lameass version of Orko (shut up haters!) and Eternia gets the shaft for cheapie 1980s backlots, but once you embrace the ridiculousness, Masters of the Universe is a craptastic wannabe franchise gem.

O Brothers, Where Art Thou?:  "It's a fool who looks for logic in the chambers of his own heart." In this Homeric odyssey, George Clooney's Dapper Dan motormouth leads a couple of chain gang dolts across the South, defending his honor as a husband against seductress sirens, a frog crushing Cyclops, the Ku Klux Klan, and a mirror eyed Devil. Steeped in the very best of the Coen Brothers' visual style (& DP partner Roger Deakins), O Brother Where Art Thou is a musical epic that firmly established Clooney as a bonafide star.

Terror Is A Man:  I don't know if terror is a man or a cat man, but I do know that this movie is boooooooring. A sorry adaptation of The Island of Dr. Moreau, the only thing really noteworthy about this flick is its attempt at William Castle-like showmanship with its turnaway bell & raw surgical meat splicing...and according to the excellent documentary Machete Maidens Unleashed, Terror is a Man was the birth of the Philippines exploitation movement. Cool. Sure. But such notes not a good movie make, and when all is said and done this is just a snoozefest with a couple of bright Cat Mummy moments.

The Big Lebowski:  "Yer not dealing with morons here." Yep. I'm sure of it. The Big Lebowski is the perfect companion film to The Coen's A Serious Man. Bot films feature a frustrated lead battling the stupidity of outside forces but where Michael Stuhlbarg's physics professor succumbs to their horrors, The Dude abides cuz he simply understands that sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you. Strikes and gutters, man. Jeff Bridges's The Dude is the Great American Protagonist who finds himself stuck in the mirk of noir all on account of a rug. Millionaires, Bunnies, Porno Kingpins - none were prepared for his impenetrable zen cool.

Fargo:  At once hilarious and depressing, Fargo is the movie that introduced me to the demented genius of the Coen Brothers as well as a lot of other film geeks out there. William H Macy, at his most utterly pathetic, hires crooks Steve Buscemi (he's funny lookin' in a general sorta way) and Peter Stormare ("Pancakes House") to kidnap his wife so he can pay off some serious debts with his father-in-law's ransom money. Blood spills rather quickly and Frances McDormand's pregnant midwestern police chief connects the rather obvious dots. Absolutely brilliant performances from all the players, and I would argue that all four have yet to top the work done in Fargo (well, Buscemi might have peaked on Boardwalk Empire but that could also be my HBO high talking). And, again, you can't celebrate the Coens without acknowledge the magnificence of cinematographer Roger Deakins and composer Carter Burwell - they paint this film in sadness.

The Hudsucker Proxy:  "But I got big ideas." Whether we knew it or not, The Coen's had been building towards this It's A Wonderful Life screwball comedy in each of their previous four films. It just took their partnership with Crimewave's Sam Raimi to push them over the edge of nudge-nudge and into the WINK-WINK. And for the most part it works, but for me their outside meta eye keeps the emotion distant and I never quite connect with either the success or the worries of Tim Robbins' bumbling Hudsucker president. The film never crests beyond its homage, it never transforms into A Coen Brothers Film. The Hudsucker Proxy is a lot like the mimicry of Intolerable Cruelty: I recognize the cleverness and the craft on display and acknowledge it with a smile, but the film never excites me the way a Big Lebowski or even Burn After Reading does. Still, damn sharp writing.

Barton Fink:  "LOOK UPON ME! I'LL SHOW YOU THE LIFE OF THE MIND!!!!!" Probably the most perfect Coen Brothers film. No, not my favorite. But if you want to experience the purest notion of their beautifully odd imagination than look no further. John Turturro is a Broadway darling playwright who ventures into the Hell that is Hollywood in search of meaning and money. There he finds John Mahoney's drunk demon writer, John Goodman's fiery insurance salesman, and a nightmare motel room dripping wet potent wallpaper. And it all has something to do with the beach and a hefty brown box. Madness. By the climax you'll be scratching your head, trolling the internet for answers, and ultimately confused for life. Not only will you not forget Barton Fink, you'll think of it often. A great film to revisit.  But maybe not if you're a wannabe writer.  Not VF.


Boardwalk Empire Season 2:  Man.  The first season was rough.  It was good.  But brutal.  And that was nothing.  The second season of HBO's prohibition gangster drama strips away as much of the good and cheery qualities of its characters as possible.  Sure, some of these guys are charismatic.  Steve Buscemi can make anyone lovable, but his puppet master Nucky Thompson is a duplicitous asshole and by the final episode you'll see him for the true scum that he is.  And love it.  These are James Ellroy-like monster protagonists.  Michael Shannon's G-Men descends deeper into his own personal hell and I'm not sure where they can take the character in the third season.  Frankly, I have no idea where any of these plot lines are going to end up.  Season 2's climax felt like a series climax.  It's over. But, nope, we got more horror coming.


Rasl - Books 1 & 2:  I've been avoiding this book for a couple of years now.  Jeff Smith's Bone is one of the greatest comic book series ever written.  It's an epic that mixes Lord of the Rings style fantasy with Walt Disney sensibilities.  And it's absolutely beautiful.  So when I heard that Smith's next saga was going to be an adult sci-fi adventure involving dimension hopping, art theft, lizard men, and Native American folklore I was more than a bit skeptical.  Not to mention the fact that it has taken Smith two years to produce 15 issues and this book probably won't be completed until 2025.  And this is still just a taste of the series and Smith's really the only person who knows where this story is going, but I'm definitely along for the ride.  I love the folklore/science mix, and the callbacks to Tesla, Einstein, WWI, & WWII is just historical gravy that I love to sop.  And Smith is an amazing cartoonist and no one does black & white like him.

The Sixth Gun #24:  All right, I'm all caught up on singles!  Becky & Drake make their way to Fort Treadwell but run across a nasty blizzard and giant Winter Wolves.  Just when you think The Sixth Gun can't get any weirder-gulp-Game of Thrones ain't got nothing on these beasties.  Plus, General Hume's zombie corpse screams maggots and threats of his family line.  Just a fun really weird western.

BPRD Hell on Earth -The Return of the Master #1:  A mysterious dark figure arrives in Scotland.  Fennix joins with the BPRD in Colorodo.  The Zinco Corporation prepares for the next wave of Hell on Earth terror.  And the Russian Director Nichayko continues to taunt the bottled vampire girl in his office.  It's all set up as Mike Mignola & John Arcudi build to the 100th issue in the series; there appears to be no hope for the world and I seriously appreciate how unrelenting this book has become.

Winter Soldier #9:  Ed Brubaker has announced his exit from this book and the Marvel Universe in general, and he can't leave fast enough as far as I'm concerned.  I love the man.  His Fatale is still the best damn book on the stands.  But he's lost his feeling for the super hero books and reading Winter Soldier is sad and painful.  Brubaker's Cap was once a glorious thing but reading it now is depressing.  It's not awful.  But it's also just not very good.  I've been reading his arc for years and I'm going to see it through but once he's off so am I.


Patton Oswalt at the Arlington Cinema 'n' Drafthouse:  On Saturday night The Wife, our friend Lindsey, and myself drove out to Arlington to see Oswalt on stage at the Cinema 'n' Drafhouse.  This was my first time at this venue and it did not disappoint.  Definitely dug the rolling cushion chairs, the John Wayne BBQ burgers, and the general do-it-yourself atmosphere.  We weren't in the front row, but we had some pretty good seats off to the side with a great line on Patton.  He started his bit off with some ok "I Don't Want To Be Morbidly Obese" jokes but quickly segued into that geek humor we've all come to crave.  But my favorite moment of the show was when he did the crowd work.  It's so cool to see him pull conversation from the audience and incorporate it into his bit.  And the fans eat it up, especially all the local boy flavor Oswalt peppered into his comedy.  Every time he mentioned Sterling or Fuck Loudon County Snow Days the crowd hollered with glee.  Me included.


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