Oh yeah. This week was all kinds of fun. Sure, despite climaxing at the most fantastic comics-comics Comic Book Convention, I didn't read a single issue (however, I did start Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian and it's crazy good) and I only consumed a handful of flicks, but I had an absolute blast during the last leg of my Reverse Coen Brothers marathon and the Big Screen Double feature I did on Wednesday was incredibly enjoyable. Something that's been quite the challenge during this disappointing Summer season.
TV OF THE WEEK!
Walking Dead - Season 2: Yeeeeaaaaaaaaah. So, I like Walking Dead. But I like it only okay. However, I plowed through the second season in just a couple of days. I really like Andrew Lincoln. And Jon Bernthal turns Shane into an interesting and even (sometimes) likable character which never had a chance to occur in the book. But the female characters are terrible. With the exception of Maggie, all the women on this show are weak, hysterical, wishy-washy, and just plain boring. Lori! Just die already! Andrea, lay off the tough macho suicidal blather. And then there's Dale. Pathetic, hopeless, self-rightous ass. It's not complete garbage. I find myself compelled each episode to see what happens next, but it just is not as fun as it should be on the re-watch. And it's nowhere near as brutal or as shocking with the plot twists as Kirkman's far superior comic book. Which reminds me, I really want to restart the comic from the beginning--suffer Kirkman's character torture. But don't worry, I'm still really curious to see AMC's Michone & The Governor next season but I'm going in a cautious observer.
MOVIES OF THE WEEK!
Miller's Crossing: "When I've raised hell you'll know it." My favorite Coen Brothers film. My favorite gangster film. And my fourth favorite film of all time. Miller's Crossing is a crushingly somber story of a man who doesn't want to chase his hat, but does so anyway. Gabriel Byrne is a cold, calculating mob enforcer struggling to navigate the violent mob war between the Tommy Gun artistry of Albert Finney and the ethically obsessed Jon Polito. And it's not just simply endlessly-quotable like every other Coen Brothers flick, it's deliciously pornographically obsessed with hard heavy jazzy gangland language and the result is an aural landscape similar to the purple prose of HBO's Deadwood. Watch out for the high hat, listen for the rumpus, and beware the gory hate of J.E. Freeman's The Dane. It should also be noted that this is the last collaboration with cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld; he may not be as painterly as future collaborator Roger Deakins, but man, he perfectly captures that Rashomon forest and those handsome men in hats.
Premium Rush: "The Whole City Hates You!" A seemingly nostalgic update of the totally radical bicycle movies of the 1980s like Quicksilver, Rad, BMX Bandits, and Breaking Away with the added hipster zen philosophy of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. "The Bike Wants To Go Fast." "Brakes Are Death." Premium Rush is a silly, quick 90 minutes in which JGL uses his slow-motion cycler vision to navigate the myriad paths to inevitable New York City road kill. Michael Shannon is the corrupt Detective Monday, gnashing his way through the bike messenger pest problem so clearly overrunning the city. Probably not the film 2012 is going to be remembered for, but Premium Rush still has a chance to go down as a cult classic thanks to its ridiculous earnest and Free Tibet, Anti-China mcguffin.
Lawless: Three violent bootlegger brothers ignite a moonshine war in Prohibition era Virginia when the youngest takes inspiration from Gary Oldman's tommy gunner and the Chicago Way gets greedy for that Southern money. Shia LaBeouf takes some serious bloody beatings before taking the reigns from his lawless kin, and it only took a couple of gurgling smackdowns before I accepted him as the protagonist. Really appreciated how, with the exception of Shia & Jessica Chastain, everyone in the cast (including all the hideous extras) seemed ripped from the Dick Tracy freakshow comic strip. Tom Hardy continues his trend of grunting, wide shouldered brutes and Guy Pearce looks like a demon fled from hell with his eyebrow sneers and black gel hair. Both actors are hilarious when they're not being complete grotesques, and the film might suffer a little from their scene stealing. Lawless (hate that title) is full of brutality and death, but it's fun with the family and it never gets as dark as it probably should. But I'm still waiting for director John Hillcoat & writer Nick Cave to equal the brilliant horror of their Australian Western, The Proposition. Lawless is not quite there fellas.
Raising Arizona: Technically the first Coen Brothers film I ever saw. I was about 8 or 9. My cousin Chris was a fan. But I didn't get it. Now, at 33 and a die hard Coen Brothers obsessive, I love this weirdo, surrealist Romantic Comedy. The maniac method of Nicolas Cage is perfectly suited for the horrifyingly potent weeping of Holly Hunter. Then there's that haunting yodeling score, the birth of John Goodman's endless screaming, Sam Raimi's Ram-O-Cam dog chase, and the demonic biker bounty hunter. Raising Arizona is classic Coen, odd & adorable.
The Slammin' Salmon: Another solid entry from the Broken Lizard comedy troupe; it falls somewhere between Club Dread and Beerfest, but nowhere near as fantastic as Super Troopers. The boys are all excellent, especially Erik Stolhanske's uber-tanned Guy and Jay Chandrasekhar's aptly named Nuts. But the real star of the show is Michael Clarke Duncan. His foul-mouthed, quick tempered Rope-a-dope entrepreneur is bodily shakingly hilarious, and just when I thought I could catch a breath he spurts another ridiculously aggressive "WHATEVER MOTHER FUCKER!" The gentle giant might always be remembered for his supernatural turn in The Green Mile, but it's his Cleon Salmon that sits at the top of his performances. Plus, you've got Dick Lobo himself, Lance Henriksen grinning all over the place.
Blood Simple: "The world is full of complainers." The first film from Joel & Ethan Coen is a nostalgic noir layered in the demented humor we would come to demand from their later films, but Blood Simple has a feverish nightmare quality not found in their other works. As characters react to unseen forces and the comedy of errors builds to climactic horror you feel trapped in the fog of cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld's slow dollies and smokey lighting. Frances McDormand & John Getz are perfectly fine as the untrusting love birds, but it's M Emmet Walsh's monstrous Texan and Dan Hedaya's dribbling cuckold that scar the audience--their villainy is deliciously ripe and the terror they bring upon the couple is hilarious for those troubled members in the crowd.
So, now having completed my run of The Coens, what film comes out on top? I struggled with the below list, ranking their films from best to worst. But "worst" is a silly word to throw around with The Coens. Their only film I could classify as bad is #15, Intolerable Cruelty. And it's not a complete suckfest. It's just a tremendous disappointment when comparing it to the others. And #s 1-14 are pretty freaking fantastic; depending on my mood I could rearrange #s 5-14 in any manner of ways. Sometimes I might be feeling more the noir light show of Blood Simple and on another day I might be celebrating the comic biblical horror of A Serious Man.
The top spots however, I don't see changing any time soon. Miller's Crossing remains one of my all time favorite films. It's lyrical gangster poetry with not-so-subtle splashes of weirdo humor, but it's definitely not a comedy and it's definitely not just a film about men who wear hats. The Big Lebowski is an epic Raymond Chandler tale twisted through the slacker wisdom of The Dude. Surreal and just damn funny. No Country For Old Men shot to the top this month. I remember liking it in the theater and on my first blu ray rewatch, but now, gosh--I love it so much. It's the one film that really stands out from the other Coen Brother flicks. There are slight touches that remind you just who is behind the camera, but for the most part it plays devoid of that outsider humor. It's a brutal beast of a film that grabs you by the throat, squeezes, chokes you to the point of utter despair and then tosses your gasping body to the curb. No easy answer...in fact, no answers at all. Barton Fink. It's the ultimate Coen film. A celebration of The Torture in Writing. The Mind might be a uniform worth wearing, but its a snooty bastard ready to put you through all kinds of Hollywood Hell.
1. Miller's Crossing
2. The Big Lebowski
3. No Country For Old Men
4. Barton Fink
5. The Man Who Wasn't There
6. True Grit
8. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
9. A Serious Man
10. Burn After Reading
11. The Ladykillers
12. Blood Simple
13. Raising Arizona
14. The Hudsucker Proxy
15. Intolerable Cruelty
DORK FIELD TRIP OF THE WEEK!
Baltimore Comic Con 2012: Ended the week at the Baltimore Convention Center for the 13th Annual Comic Con. I've stated this elsewhere, but it bears repeating, the Baltimore Comic Con is the best Con for genuine comic book fans. San Diego is a paradise of general pop culture but you'd be kidding yourself if you didn't recognize the Hollywood industry takeover. The various Wizard World events across the country (like the Philly show I attended earlier in the year) suffer from a similar celebrity infection. Don't get me wrong, I love those shows - they're heaven on earth for movie hounds - but if what you want are the funny books than you go to Baltimore to sate that hunger.
Sure, there are some panels you can attend. We sat in on both the New 52 DC panel with Dan Didio and Tom Brevoort's Marvel NOW panel, but both of the big two companies really didn't bring anything new to the table and even Marvel's slideshow was just a bunch of old info they revealed a few weeks back at Toronto's Fan Expo. Hopefully one day Baltimore will make more of a splash on the news sites and force the companies to take notice of the fans, but as is right now, Baltimore Comic Con is mainly just a massive warehouse where you can buy toys & comics as well as get a few books signed by your favorite creators.
What that means is that you have to bring some serious cash to enjoy the full experience. Comic Dealers from all over the East Coast bring their goods - Selling forgotten trader paperbacks for five bucks as well as the good stuff at 50%. I bought more books this year than I have at any other convention. I went DC crazy - snagging Grant Morrison's JLA run as well as his Seven Soldiers of Victory hardcovers. I found his first two Animal Man trades, Darwyn Cooke's Batman: Ego, and I even purchased (at dirt cheap prices) Kevin Smith's latest Batman books. The only toys I bought were a few Hot Wheels - the Arkham Asylum Batmobile, The A Team van, and K.I.T.T.
I've never seen the con floor so crowded. The only problem this posed was that since we dragged our asses a little getting down there both days, I was unable to score all the signatures I would have liked. The line for Garth Ennis (of Preacher fame) was gargantuan. I stood in it for a little bit, but then panicked as I was a afraid I wasn't going to get time for the Scott Snyder/Greg Capullo session. I jumped over to them and got my Court of Owls book autographed by both writer & artist as well as The Black Mirror signed by Snyder and Francesco Francavilla. From Francavilla I also got his latest Chiaroscuro sketchbook and the artist was kind enough to doodle a Black Beetle in the back of the book. Very cool.
Now taking all that comic lusting into account, Baltimore seemed more crowded with Cosplayers than it ever has been before. The Sunday Costume Contest brought in more people than both the DC & Marvel panels combined - a sight I find fascinating and a little bit of a bummer. I'm not hating on the Cosplay. I've grown to love the creative displays of affection for these comic book icons but I also find it strange that the content of the medium seems to be less important than the craft of these creations. In some ways this is just an extension of the art obsession of the 90s. But I don't know...maybe I'm just being and old man a-hole.
All in all, it was another great con. And it's probably going to be the last one for the year. My wallet just can't handle it anymore. Gonna have to bail on a few of these upcoming horror shows....well, we'll see. These things are a serious addiction. Coming together with the Dork Community - it's a rush. We live in a wonderful time for pop culture love. People get it now. An obsession with He Man is not uncommon. In fact, there are a few folks out there who love it harder than you possibly could. And that's just awesome.