Monday, February 24, 2014
Brad's Week in Dork! (2/16/14-2/22/14)
Slow week. No real reason. Just taking it easy. Gotta recharge my batteries every now and again. The Academy Awards are right around the corner - I've seen more nominations this year than any other, but there are still a few crucial films I need to hit up before March 2nd (I'm looking at you Frozen). So far I've avoided the documentary shorts & a couple of foreign films. Gotta correct that...next week. Honestly though, the stuff I'm most excited about these days are comic books. Not satisfied with the completion of Grant Morrison's Supergods (look, it's beautiful madness, but I want more history less peyote), I blitzed through the audiobook of Sean Howe's Marvel Comics The Untold Story.
Just days before I turned the last page, Marvel unleashed the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer...90% of which we saw at last year's Comic Con, but it was still enough to get be jazzed about all things Cosmic and Raccoon. I ran to my local comic shop, but they were already sold out of the source material. All my coworkers are gaga for Groot, and I'm starting to hope that the world is ready for the murderous furball. Doctor Strange is right around the corner, then...Black Panther? And yet DC is still floundering with their properties. Marvel is spanking Warner Brothers. I love it.
The Darjeeling Limited: A month out from Wes Anderson's new film, The Wife & I are still chugging along his filmography. When originally released, The Darjeeling Limited was met with lackluster enthusiasm from fans and a tepid critical reception. Looking back at my own Top Ten Lists of the last several years, I was pleased to see that Darjeeling ranked as my favorite film of 2007. My opinion has not changed. As an only child myself, I've always been fascinated with sibling relationships, and even if I don't quite understand the battle for paternal love, I am charmed by how this brotherly war passive aggressively erupts in every one of their actions. Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman may not at all resemble each other physically, but they expertly inhabit one another's mannerisms. It really is a thrilling performance trilogy, and as they reach their destination and lives are lost and narrative gaps are filled, I find myself emotionally strained in a way that no other Anderson film has managed. Is it my favorite Wes Anderson? No. I gotta go Life Aquatic, Tenenbaums, or Fox, but Darjeeling is close behind.
Marked Woman: Bette Davis is a carefree mobster's moll who catches the attention of Humphrey Bogart's District Attorney after her sister is stolen of the streets. Despite the formation of the Hays Code in 1930, an uncredited Michael Curtiz (Casablanca!!!) still manages to deliver plenty of scandalous behavior from this sordid ripped-from-the-headlines tale. These goons are some real beasts, and Bette Davis takes a helluva scary beating behind closed doors. Bogart is a bit dry, but that's okay because this is Davis's show and she rocks the woman wronged role. Maybe not as iconic as some similar films of this era, Marked Woman is a hidden Hollywood gem.
Saga of the Swamp Thing Volume 2 by Alan Moore: After months and months of pestering, I finally caved to Matt's demands and dove into this classic series. The first trade took some time getting off it's feet, but by the end I was hooked to the plight of The Green. In volume 2, Swamp Thing continues to explore what it means to be a Plant with delusions of Manhood, and Moore takes his saga deeper down the rabbit hole of comic book legacy. My favorite moment from this entry, is when the original Len Wein & Bernie Wrightson stories are used as a gateway into a biblical origin of the House of Mystery. As Mystery & Secrets collide, I was hooting & hollering to myself. This is weird, wild stuff. Is this genius? Nope. At least not yet. But I'm starting to get that tingle that I am certainly reading something special - the hype is earned. The goal is to crank out a volume a week. Alan Moore is too dang dense to blitz through. Besides, I want to savor this gothic dread.
Game of Thrones - Season 3: I am not the world's biggest Game of Thrones fan. I've never read the books, and I'm not planning to either. However, every time one of these DVD sets comes out, I stop whatever I'm doing and concentrate on nothing else until the discs have been devoured. It's TV crack. Smoke it up! I don't love every bitty plot point. I am not too keen on the Jon Snow story - in fact, I find his whiney fumblings around the lust of a wildling to be utterly annoying. The Mother of Dragons is spending too much damn time wandering the desert. It's time to get into the action lady! But then you have the sad, honorable, and patriarchally tortured Tyrion Lannister. The hell that is Kings Landing owns this show. If you have a good bone in your body, George RR Martin will crush you. The good die young here folks, and only villains reap reward. Last year, all I heard was "Red Wedding, Red Wedding, Red Wedding" from every coworker, friend, and Entertainment Weekly spoiler headline. So I thought I knew what I was getting into with the third season climax. But damn...I was not at all prepared for the depths of viciousness Martin had in store. The Red Wedding might be one of the single most wonderfully hateful acts of fiction I've ever experienced. Just wow. Who to root for? Hard to answer that question in this blood soaked world.
Marvel Comics - The Untold Story by Sean Howe: "The heroic journeys are forever denied an end." In this golden age of comic book to silver screen adaptation everyone seems to love the Cameomeister Stan Lee. Sean Howe's tell-all style approach to the rise, fall, & rise again of Marvel Comics certainly sets its sights on Smiling Stan. Yep, it's disheartening to read interviews & radio excerpts in which Lee dismisses the medium of comics as a lesser art form to novels and movies. The book paints a picture of a man who settled into comics because that's what would have him. Is Stan Lee the godfather of spandex? Or is he simply the benefactor of opportune nepotism, sneaking his way into cousin Martin Goodman's magazine distributor? The debate surrounding creator rights is nothing new, and I only have so much sympathy when we're talking royalties in Work-For-Hire art. You signed a contract, Marvel owns your ass. But lets give credit where credit is due. And it is genuinely upsetting to discover that Stan Lee sued Marvel for 10 million dollars after decades of dismissing similar claims from Jack Kirby & Steve Ditko. This is nothing new for comicbook fanboys; the bitter contempt from his co-creator contemporaries tarnished Stan Lee's shine long ago. The man is his greatest creation. Sean Howe spends plenty of time (maybe too much) taking the icon down a peg or two. My favorite bits are the ones exploring the financial reasoning behind some of our favorite Event Storylines, and the cashgrab desperation driving Marvel to LA LA Land. A not so inevitable success when you look at blockbuster flops like Howard the Duck or limp direct-to-video releases like Dolph Lundgren's Punisher. Marvel once touted itself as the four-color Disney, and it's a trip to see Walt's Kingdom gobble them up, but how long will the mass audience be appeased by Robert Downey Jr's Avengers? Bubbles always burst. At the very least, Marvel Comics The Untold Story, got me aching for both my own back issues and those not acquired yet. I seriously need Steve Gerber's rage fueled Destroyer Duck - so much deliciously not-so-hidden Marvel Hate!
Avengers - Earth's Mightiest Heroes Season 1: The first season takes its time assembling Earth's Mightiest Heroes, using 11 half hour episodes to fully form the roster. Once gathered, this Saturday Morning Cartoon goes completely bonkers for comic book continuity, borrowing everything from Brian Michael Bendis' New Avengers run to classic arcs like The Kang Dynasty. The Avengers battle Hydra, Ultron, Enchantress, Klaw, and The Purple Man....yes, THE PURPLE MAN!! Nerd nirvana here. Sure, some of the voice cast is cloying with Tony Stark in particular grating the nerves with his Robert Downey Jr impersonation, but the show hits more than it misses. And with a second season promising even longer story arcs in the form of the Skrulls Secret Invasion and Galactus, Devour of Worlds - I am hooked. No more picking away at this series, all must be consumed.
The Price of Gold: I don't care much about the Olympics these days. I haven't watched a single one in well over a decade. But in 1994 our family household was overwhelmed with the competition...I'm guessing every family home was that way back then. Thanks to the bizarre figure skating rivalry story between poor white trash Tonya Harding and ice princess Nancy Kerrigan...and a kneecap hit that spun the media into True Crime bliss. Part of ESPN's 30 for 30, The Price of Gold attempts to dissect the fervor around the events, but never quite elevates itself beyond a talking heads documentary. It's certainly interesting to hear what Tonya has to say, and I appreciate Nancy Kerrigan's refusal to participate, but The Price of Gold is little more than a "Remember When." A footnote for those families that fell victim to the circus, but I don't think a modern audience would find this hour plus doc terribly satisfying. If anything, this just reaffirms my belief in the utter failure of contemporary TMZ journalism. Anchorman 2 got it right.