Friday, January 13, 2017

Jack Davis

My familiarity with the work of Jack Davis is predominantly MAD-related. Here is a typical example -- a Davis/Alfred E. "suit" for the MAD Card Game:
More here.
He produced a wide array of readily recognisable album covers and movie posters as well, almost always employing the inimitable "Jack Davis" caricature mode.
"It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" and...
... but of course.
Prior to MAD Davis was already tight with publisher Bill Gaines thanks to an extended tenure with E.C. Comics. He did the art for a number of Tales From The Crypt, as well as various E.C. "War" titles. It's the latter that have my attention.
More examples to be had over here. They're worth a closer look. To my eye, for all the fineness of the rendering -- including an unusually forceful use of extreme black-and-white contrast -- they have troubles with a certain inertness, as well as proportionality. Good work, in other words -- but Davis' real genius was caricature, where proportionality was deliberately elastic and he could shine like no other (save his co-partner-in-crime Mort Drucker, another gargantuan talent in Gaines' usual gang of idiots).

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Car

The aspirational vehicles of my youth were largely fantasy constructs, George Barris' "Batmobile" being the prime example.
Or "Bat Car," if you'd rather.
As a Trudeau kid in the (Nixon-Carter) '70s, I devoured library books devoted to "future cars," in which Barris' Batmobile usually earned a mention (and photo), primarily for its atomic batteries and rocket propulsion. Factually speaking, there was nothing even remotely futuristic about the car itself. Barris built it in '65, using a gas-guzzling concept model (the Lincoln Futura) from ten years earlier.
A little polyfilla, a little paint...
Perusing these heavy-on-photos, light-on-text books, I did not realise just how much Barris' aesthetic modality provided the stock template for the publisher's speculations. And Barris in turn was just riffing off a modality set out by Detroit in the 1950s -- the Cadillac Cyclone! the GM Firebird! the Ford X2000! --  hastily abandoned in the wake of Ralph Nader and the OPEC crisis. The future I beheld was already nothing but "a shining artefact of the past," to borrow from Leonard Cohen.

Great lines, though.
Cadillac Cyclone, 1959 (hate to get rear-ended by that!)
GM Firebird II, 1956. Again, note the lack of bumpers.
Ford X2000, 1958. Potential impact points again at the fore.
Among these aspirational models, my favourite of the bunch, Gene Winfield's "Spy Car," was introduced to TV viewers via The Man From U.N.C.L.E. the same year as Barris' Batmobile.
A star is born!
Rather than retrofitting a model from the past, however, Winfield created the star car from whole cloth -- or rather plastic.
Winfield, far right, introducing Robert Vaughn to the new star of the show
(note pained expression/sadistic smile).
The AMT Piranha was a nearly all-plastic vehicle -- even the frame was made of fibreglass (the motor, drive-train and chassis were another matter). This gave the show designers unparalleled flexibility to develop a car for their purposes. Mock features included flame-throwers, machine guns, rocket launchers (note the "barrel" in the open gull-wing door), laser beams, a radar screen, a parachute and "various hidden interior devices."
Or, if all else fails, open door and fire revolver.
Precious few of these features made it to the show's "bible," however, so writers never capitalised on the new "character."

To make matters worse, the car came to the show with a personality all its own, which the actors disliked right from the git-go. To begin with, one could lower oneself into the car with relative dignity, but there was no graceful way to climb out of it (a difficulty particularly critical for female cast members).
"I'll give you six reasons why I'm not getting in!"
Head-room was enough of a problem that the designers eventually "bubbled" the plexi-glass door-windows to accommodate the (frankly diminutive) statures of the show's stars, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum. Worst of all, it proved to be a temperamental lemon -- McCallum says anyone looking for the car was told to simply follow the trail of oil.

Stephanie Powers, demonstrating a woman's preferred seating option.

Another lovely woman pointedly NOT inside the car.
Still, it's television, a medium with which we are so familiar, we no longer conflate projected artifice with the disappointing dross that truly sets it alight. In my mind, the U.N.C.L.E. car remains an objet de désir -- worthy of reverential contemplation, but something I should never get my hands on.

Endnotes:

This guy bought one -- a dream come true! -- until he took it for a spin.

The AMT model is back on hobby store shelves. There is even an U.N.C.L.E. modkit. I considered buying -- but the vicarious thrill of this unboxing was enough to dissuade.

"Be photographed with Bat Car!" Fifty cents from 1966 would be roughly $3.75 today. A similar shill was parked to fleece the rubes at Toronto's FanExpo last summer -- $20 for the privilege. Another "dream" deferred, thank you.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

"Philip K. Dick is dead, alas..."

I've been returning to the work of PKD with increasing frequency of late -- a reflex that was put into play about five years ago. Most tributes to the man are of the "Wow, so prescient" variety -- not at all my take on the matter. I'd say that he, like William Gibson, grew better at recognizing just how deeply cultivated a group consciousness could be by (largely malign) influences most people could not be bothered to find names for. An adroit excavator of the ur-consciousness beneath his particular present, in other words.

The other, more common approach to Dick is to borrow his individual consciousness experiments for other, particular narrative purposes. With a little care this can net some very entertaining results (Blade Runner, The Adjustment Bureau, Total Recall do a respectable job of this exercise). More often than not, if someone heralds the arrival of "our next Philip K. Dick" this is what they're signalling.

What our "next Philip K. Dicks" are usually missing, to this reader's eyes, is his profound and dangerous capacity for empathy. I recently re-read The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, and I was struck anew by how deeply invested the author was in his characters and their choices and fates. The jaded eyes of youth, fresh from their tutorials in mimetic theory, will read differently and with their mouths (or thumbs) loudly assert otherwise. "This isn't NECESSARILY Dick we are reading/hearing here. After all, ya rube, the narrator for Transmigration is a woman."

Knock yerself out, kid. I'm here to tell you Philip K. Dick was a woman when he wrote that, and you can go fly yer pomo freak flag somewhere else.

Mind you, it's not a matter I'll duel to the death over, either. I am neither the most broadly nor deeply versed PKD reader on the web. I've read the Ubik trilogy that followed, however, as well as the bulk of his thesis. Looking back on Transmigration, and what followed, I'd say it is fairly safe for even a casual reader like myself to assert that Dick took his characters' fates personally. Whatever happened to them directly affected him -- perhaps directly affected all of humanity. He couldn't not care. He couldn't stop writing.

As I say, that is a dangerous level of empathy. Say what you will about the vertigo inducing quality of Dick's meddling with the grammar of cosmic narrative, the greater peril lay in his grokking the shared need behind our most common and desperate impulses. It is what sets him apart from his acolytes. It is what I look for when I read them, it is inevitably why they disappoint, and it is why I always return again to him.
"They're queuing up,just like he wrote!"

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Exit Music, 2016

Because what else were you going to do tonight?
 Some videos from albums/concerts that moved me this year, beginning with . . .

The Rolling Stones: Some advice? Don't watch any of the videos from the new album. This one especially manages to break all the good faith that was established in the studio. I couldn't make it past the first 60 seconds. Old men with way too much money tend to spend it in the most predictable way, don't they? The following video isn't too bad, but I still encourage streaming the album above watching some desperate attempt to re-animate the glory of 80s MTV:



The Devil Makes Three: Now this is a video that kicks ass! Made for a pittance, naturally. From the woefully unsung Redemption & Ruin, one of my favourite albums of '16.



Meshuggah: still giving me the shivers.



Devin Townsend Project: somehow coming up with the attendant yang to Meshuggah's yin. Not my favourite track from the new album (I'm partial to this one) but still very good.



Clutch: received the most play on my infernal device this year, due in no small part to their most recent album already being a year old -- but also because their comic book concerns and garage band racket hits the sweet spot buried in my id. Psychic warfare is real -- you better believe it, brother.



Happy 2017, dear reader.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Dear Pen-Pal...

When I was a kid I envied Charlie Brown. He had a pen-pal he wrote to, and I assumed (probably incorrectly) that this pen-pal of his wrote back.
I wrote letters as well, hoping to establish that pen-pal bond. Cousins in Germany, second-cousins-once-removed in Saskatchewan, cabin mates from summer camp, etc. There was a kid in British Columbia, the son of my mother's college room-mate, who came back with some considered epistles, but otherwise the pattern was established early and it never altered. I wrote once, twice -- three times, if desperate enough -- and eventually settled for the fact that my words had disappeared into a vacuum of utter silence.

The pattern continued when I forayed into the field of "Pro Writer" in the Self-Addressed-Stamped-Envelope era of "submission." Rejection slips were fine, the ones with encouraging comments added were appreciated if not cherished. But I'd say upwards of 65% of what I sent out just disappeared.

So when blogging became a thing, and I received my first comment from someone I didn't know, my response was quite naturally one of fear. They seemed engaged, even appreciative, but . . . I didn't KNOW them! When was the other shoe going to drop?

I got over it, needless to say. Then came the stretch during peak blogging when the comments thread was more fun than the post that generated it.

Finally, Pen-Pals!!

Then Zuckerberg's Beast slouched in, along with a few other also-rans, and blogging became . . . Not a ghost town, exactly, but something akin to rural villages tenaciously committed to a particular, but changing, model of community.

That's all fine. I established the habit of throwing out words, and so it shall be until for one reason or another I can no longer do it.

But I was struck, recently, by how fond I have grown of people I've never met except through this thing-we-call-blog. No need to name names -- if you've ever left a comment, you've added joy to my life. Now most of us are slumming with each other behind the blue-and-white velvet rope. Is it too much to say I love you? I don't see why it should be.

I care, dammit. I care that you're happy. "Happy" comes and goes, of course -- there are times nobody in their right mind should be happy, and brother, does this ever strike me as just such a time. But I care that you are engaged, that you love and are loved, that there is some measure of joy imparted to you through what you do and who you, in turn, care for. You cared enough to engage with me and these various outpourings of varying quality -- and for that you get, in return, a reciprocal degree of care that's just this side of creepy.

Happy New Year, in other words. Merry Christmas, if you can dig it. Live long and prosper -- that those you encounter may also.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Somewhere there is a coherent version of this particular story, and I suspect it's on the cutting-room floor.
"I'm pretty sure I saw my character go this way..."
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story isn't a mess, exactly -- the plot moves from a to b to c in a fashion anyone can follow. But the central characters, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), don't appear to be motivated by anything fiercer than a plodding sense of moral confusion brought on by a case of post-traumatic Star-Wars-disorder.

Lucas is said to have given the film a qualified thumbs-up, and the flick does indeed contain elements that hearken directly to the sort of thing the Old Man joneses over. Roshomon, The Guns of Navarone, The Dirty Dozen and other flashes of cinema's now-distant past are pulled out of the cannister and given a digital gloss (along with two characters -- Tarkin and Young Leia -- vanished to the sands of time (attempting an actual resurrection would have been the less jarring option)).

And more often than not, what works best in the movie are those easily identifiable influences. The two most compelling characters are a blind Jedi priest and his burly, skeptical sidekick.
"I'm envisioning ... a bottle episode!"
Which brings us back to the half-baked Erso and Andor. The script occasionally hints that they've both got a more storied past than their current iterations would suggest, which leads me to suspect Disney's re-shoot orders were focused almost exclusively on Jones' and Luna's characters and interaction.

It's possible the original Erso and Andor were a staggeringly unsympathetic hash -- a vengeance-obsessed harridan paired with a cold-blooded guerrilla terrorist, perhaps. I doubt we'll ever know, since The Rodent's NDAs are the tightest and most punitive on this side of the planet. But it makes for enjoyable speculation in those stretches where the emotional content is entirely MIA.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Hypernormalisation

I haven't seen this yet -- it could be absolute rubbish. But it's generating some interesting conversations in the usual digital backwaters, so I am bookmarking it here. At some point when I have two hours for the task I'll give it a closer look. I might even comment.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Surprises in Music: 2017 Edition

(In Charlie Brown Teacher Voice):

Blah blah blah . . . Devin Townsend . . . new album, concert . . . blah blah . . . Clutch . . . blah . . . Meshuggah . . .

The surprises this year were . . . subtle.

After my last Devin Townsend encounter I considered retiring altogether from concert going, for at least those involving mosh pits. And yet summer rolled around, and there I stood, ears buffered with sound filters while the rest of my aging bod endured the usual tribal abuse. When the ticket vendor bots notified me of Dev's forthcoming show, I was prepared to steer clear as originally planned. Instead I consulted the seating arrangement to see if, indeed, there was any seating to be had at the venue. In fact a solo seat at the balcony rail beckoned. I clicked "buy tickets" and off I went.
Selfie of DTP drummer Ryan van Poederooyen and Yours Truly.
I wound up having fun, in no small part because I was seated at comfortable remove from the frothing mob. Devin and the lads seemed to be enjoying themselves as well, a highly contagious condition. I thought I could see how this might become a habit for guys my age. I could also see how it might not, given how the long-haired older fellow beside me was prone to taking shallow naps against my shoulder when he wasn't hiccuping Purple Kush.

Yes, it was fun, but I could say goodbye. This was it.

Then the bots emailed with news of Meshuggah's forthcoming concert.

For the last eight or so years I've learned to expect their name to come up in interviews with performers from strikingly different backgrounds: classical, jazz, ballet, Gregorian Chant -- when asked who they enjoy listening to during off-hours, if the interviewee begins with, "Actually, my tastes are a bit of a dog's breakfast . . . " you know it will be followed up with ". . . along with [Respected Elder Statesman In The Field] I also like Meshuggah."

Meshuggah has pride of place in my Wall of Plastic, but I'd never been to a show. Was it worth the hassle? I drove downtown to consult the friend who introduced me to them. "I've got your back, man," he said. "He have to go."

What that band does on plastic should not be possible live on stage. And yet, here was the proof.

Exits to the right and left of scary heads
It was, of course, a punishing affair. One reveller was pulled unconscious from the pit. Another staggered out to shoehorn himself beside me against the wall near the exit. He spent 15 minutes struggling to get his shit together before finally conceding defeat and sprinting for the door.

When the amps were silenced and the house lights back on, I was surprised by how overwhelmingly happy -- even joyous -- the vibe was. The mob shuffled past the stage en route to the exit, and drummer Tomas Haake strode to the edge to hand out the setlist and toss a few drumsticks to passersby. I was within a few feet of the man. I thought if everyone had been behaving the way they were five minutes ago, a massive brawl would break out over possession of those pieces of wood. But no. It was catch as catch can, and people were content.

As was I. I gave my friend a big hug, and then we shook hands and announced our mutual retirement from the concert scene.

Until next time.

Musical Endnote:

I just bought my very first Rolling Stones album.


In high school, when asked the Beatles/Stones question I reluctantly sided with the Stones. Their catalogue had more outright rock songs than the Beatles, and was still expanding. In 1991 I bought this box set of singles from their London years. I put what I wanted on a 90 minute tape, then took the set with me on my next visit to the used CD shop. I've still got that tape. It's probably playable, too, given how rarely I listened to it. Between radio and commercials and lulls between hockey periods my ears have been dully over-saturated with Stones' licks.

But this new album's alright -- in fact, it's a gas! No, seriously. It's just these old-timers setting themselves to doing what they did as kids, and applying all the tricks they've learned in the past 50-plus years. It's a happy racket, filled with surprises. Including, of all people, Charlie Watts. I've generally considered him little more than a nattily-dressed metronome for the band, but now I'm using words like "texture" and "character" to describe what he does with these guys on this album. There isn't a single song I'd turf from the list, either -- another first in my experience of the Stones.

Mick and Keef haven't cause to be the least bit concerned with my absence from their stadium shows. And for my part, witnessing their jittery Bear Band Jamboree has absolutely no appeal. But if these guys were to tour doing strictly this shtick?

I could envision coming out of retirement.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Oliver Jones

Montreal's Oliver Jones recently announced, not a "retirement," but a slow-down.


I heard this bit on CBC's Q, and wondered, "Does the man have a Christmas album by any chance?" Yes, indeed he does. I love it -- maybe you will also. Seek it out in the usual places, or go directly to the artist's site.

Friday, December 09, 2016

The Year In YouTube

Although I still regard the internet as chiefly yet another reading resource, this year I clocked in record amounts of time on YouTube. I wasn't on the prowl for anything particularly colourful or edgy -- mostly I was hoping to pick up a few skills I'm sadly lacking in, especially with regards to guitar. Consequently I've spent the equivalent of days (and counting) watching these two chuckleheads:


Korg's Miku pedal was not a piece of tech I splurged on, I hasten to add. But for viewers who couldn't be arsed about electric guitars, amps and related ephemera, this probably rates as the most entertaining (and brief) video in Anderton's expanding catalogue.

It's tempting to link to a bunch of videos that helped me assemble gear and improve technique, but the exploration of any given passion is a bottomless rabbit-hole best reserved for people of like minds -- and I do not want to presume. (OK, just one -- here's an amp I bought, thanks to this guy's straight-forward demonstration of its strengths and qualities).

While I'm at it, though, thanks to YouTube and Joel's generous heads-up I tucked into this lecture about the Münster Rebellion (it's three hours long, so you might want to bookmark it).

Mm -- "lecture" is a little dry, actually. Dan Carlin is apparently a radio personality who has transitioned into an entertaining history buff. His delivery aims to "engage," and alas for me I find it has quite the opposite effect. I say "alas" because it is evident that Carlin and his researchers go to great lengths to assemble and synthesize some very complicated episodes from our distant past -- and the corporate misbehaviour of Jan van Leiden and his hapless followers is nothing if not complicated.

Complicated, if familiar. If you're a Mennonite you doubtless know about the Münster Rebellion -- two weeks were devoted to its study in my high school. It is largely considered the genesis of the Mennonites, because our namesake lost a brother in the mêlée, and consequently hammered out the pacifist doctrine that his beleaguered flock have (with occasional exceptions) adhered to for the last 500 years.

Two weeks of study -- seems a reasonable precaution for a roomful of kids not far removed from the ages and passions of this particular rebellion. I wouldn't mind if this became a familiar chapter in everyone's common history, so Dan Carlin gets another link from me. Take and read -- or listen, as the case may be.

"Dirk, hold up! The gaol has wifi!"

Friday, December 02, 2016

Does Everything Have To Be So Darn Complicated?

Some links that have me cogitating, this week.

First, the meat and potatoes -- or fleisch un leedschocke, to resort to tribal vernacular . . .

Sunday dinner will be served at 2:30, three hours after the praedjer's final "amen!"

. . . my former neighbor Miriam Toews has a piece in Granta in which she meditates on violence and other abominable secrets that permeate our humble Kleine. My view towards Miriam's writing tends to be rather jaundiced -- she often reads like she's got scores to settle, and she's packin' heat! -- but I think this piece is quite good. She gives elegant expression to her sense of mission as well as her perceived place in the pantheon of Canucklehead Mennonite Literati -- Rudy Wiebe lit the torch, basically, and she's running with it (along with all the rest of 'em, who aren't making the pages of Granta).

Other Matters:

Peak TV: "Westworld" cannot outsmart the internet! Westworld is one of a handful of new shows that sound terrifically promising, but I've held off watching so much as a single episode. The reason: why should I commit myself to an unspecified number of hours of television, only to court the very real possibility of Walking Dead-levels of viewer disappointment? Nope, Battlestar Galactica cured me of such folly. Now I wait for a series to conclude, either by design or by cancellation, before I watch so much as a single minute.

Exception: The Americans -- and only because they promise to wrap it up in Season 5.

No wait, there are other exceptions. I borrowed from the library the first season of Agents of SHIELD. The family watched three or four episodes and decided we didn't need to be underwhelmed any further. Which got me wondering: what happened to Joss Whedon? Firefly was insanely punchy -- every episode a tutorial in lean, mean story-telling. When did he become so reliant on the long, gassy story-arc?

Doubts niggled, so I queued up Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It only took the first two episodes of season 1 to realize the long, gassy story-arc is Whedon's preferred canvass -- even ardent fans recommend newcomers skip straight to season 3. Would a project like Buffy stand a chance in today's TV market?

Peak TV Satire: "In reality, our prolonged love affair with cracking wise wasn’t a tonic that shook people out of their apathy — it was a symptom of it."

So what does Canucklehead Poindexter Charles Taylor make of it all?

Related: God, I miss Richard Rorty.

Let's bring it back to the Mennonites (cos that's what this is all about): the same day I read Miriam's essay, I heard this radio doc ("Exiled in Canada: a sex offender finds refuge with Mennonites" -- hey, look at you, CBC!) whilst running errands. As I mulled over this particular story, I thought of Miriam's magnum opus, A Complicated Kindness, and wondered, "What acts of kindness are uncomplicated?" Not many. "Greater love hath no man," and all that -- possibly the most complicated act of kindness to go on sacred record, triggering some powerfully complicated chapters in history (including). If it's a lack of complication you're after, it's best to stick to the baser emotions in the palette of human experience: fear, anger, a sense of grievance. The rest of us in search of the fabled third way are fated to parse through manifold complications -- until our final trip to church, toes-up.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Gimme

It's been a nutty week, so I'm asking for a gimme. Here is a collection of 21-year-old infantryman Victor Lundy's sketches from WWII -- enjoy.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sharon Jones

The album cover for 100 Days, 100 Nights (2007) was my first exposure to Sharon Jones.


I had yet to hear a note of her singing or the Dap-Kings' playing, but even so: what was there not to love about this album? A gorgeous woman in a retro-frame that called to mind the soul and funk legends of yore -- the material within was either going to be a failed pose (in which case, thanks for the eye-candy) or a triumphal delivery on its promise.

The album delivered, and how. Listening to the music prompted further meditation on the cover. How old was this woman? I'd never dare to guess, her performance made the task too formidable. Her voice suggested experience beyond the merely mortal, even as the energy behind it was the very essence of youthful vitality.

Jones and the Kings got better with every album. The shows were another reality altogether. People who went to see her were glad they did. A consummately generous performer, gone at 60.

Too generous to be chasing after crowns -- Aretha may be the undisputed Queen of Soul, but Sharon Jones was surely its most spectacular ambassador. You know where to find her stuff. Give it a spin, won't you?

Friday, November 18, 2016

We Stand On Guard: The Ugly Canadians

My first thought when I heard about We Stand On Guard (story by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Steve Skroce and Matt Hollingsworth) was: "We've got John Milius' Red (White & Blue) Dawn for Canucks -- finally!"

Also: Wolverines are pussies.
My first thought once I'd finished was, "Yikes -- does the world really need this right now?"

We used to be friends...
Vaughan's story is high-concept at its highest: the United States of America finally invades Canada for its abundant freshwater resources. Small cells of anti-American resistance fighters still exist, but they are few and far between and vastly outnumbered and outgunned.

Enter: the villains.
The characters are quick studies, all animated by understandable motivation(s). The story zips along, once you start you don't stop until it's finished. And when it's finished, it is finished -- my pet peeve with comic writers is their pecuniary devotion to sequels and the like. Not so here -- the well was deep, but now it's dry.

The art is top drawer. Skroce and Hollingsworth obviously revere Geoff Darrow, but where Darrow would never leave a frame until persuaded there was absolutely no room for any whitespace S&H judiciously ease back on the hyper-articulation.

Maybe this isn't the best example...

Naturally, the American invaders are a hateful, entitled bunch. And when the story begins the Canadian resistance fighters are sympathetic, by virtue of their being evident victims. But by story's end it is apparent that they, also, are hate-full. The wry, belittling generalisations we Canucks currently make of our Yankee neighbours and their quirks and foibles are given just the slightest of tweaks to express unfettered, seething contempt. It all amounts to a nihilistic thrill-ride, which has limited emotional cache for this particular reader.

But is it ART?

Shortly before 9/11 Art Spiegelman lamented that the advent of the "graphic novel" had removed some of the tawdry, trashy element to comics-making that he used to revel in. Post-9/11 Spiegelman followed that observation with a bit of agit-prop that, I thought, was a little too elevated to really penetrate the nervous system.

"Elevation" is certainly not a characteristic of We Stand On Guard -- in many ways, particularly in its framing of our shared humanity, this extended pamphlet expresses a rubbishy glee akin to the leaflets of Jack Chick.

Purgatory ain't for heroes -- but Hell is!
To which I say, hey, if agit-prop is your thing, the worst we could do is go ahead and call it "art."

Given current events, the social media platforms I take part in anxiously press me with Maya Angelou's words, "Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one yet." Closer to (my) home we have the late Leonard Cohen: "Love's the only engine of survival."

Whether or not we "need" agit-prop, it seems the world in its current state is keen to produce it.

Just remember: what he said.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Doctor Strange

"...take away seven, carry the two..."
Two observations made during the car-ride home:

1) "That was the best 3D movie I've ever seen!"

I agree. I thought of others that have qualified, in their day -- Mad Max, Para-Norman, Tron, Polar Express, that James Cameron Ayahuasca movie, etc. Most are competently framed movies with occasional scenes of 3D virtuosity. This was a movie of nearly constant 3D virtuosity, with some moments that fell back to mere competency.

2) "That was the best Marvel movie yet!"

I had to mull that over, before finally agreeing with it. The hitch was, it's the best Marvel movie largely because of the 3D razzle-dazzle. Anyone who sees it in 2D or on the home-screen will likely be underwhelmed. Immersed in 3D, the viewer is more in tune with what the good Doctor is experiencing. Non-immersed viewers will be quicker to notice the usual Marvel deficiencies.

Rachel McAdams does a terrific job of a role that was probably the emotional lynch-pin of the script she signed off on, but became something lesser during shooting. Tilda Swinton . . . if she's ever dropped the ball on a film, I've yet to see it. Similarly, Chiwetel Ejiofor. As for Benedict Cumberbatch . . .

. . . who assigned him the American accent? If he opted for it himself, I can understand -- it's catnip for British actors, just like "the" British accent is for American actors.
Voice coach: "NOT 'terrr-ibly' but 'TED-ah-blee!'"
My favourite on-screen Brits are the ones who never lose -- not completely -- the accent, no matter who they're playing. Anthony Hopkins is stellar at this -- he can be Richard Nixon for nearly four hours, and we ignore the British inflections because this man is taking on the persona of another. It's actually less distracting if he keeps a little Brit-tonation. Jeremy Irons, Bob Hoskins -- one eulogy for Hoskins elicited my hoots and howls by praising his ability to put on an American accent. He had impressive means of persuading you he was a particular character, but burying his native Cockney inflections with a phony accent was not among them.

Anyway, Cumberbatch's "American" accent was flat enough to bring back painful reminders of my former Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. Perhaps Strange was among the brains that drained south of 49 when he took office? Regardless, if Strange were to "acquire" a British accent for the next movie, I would not protest.

Where Doctor Strange succeeds spectacularly, however, is with its introduction of the Meta-verse -- the Marvel Plot-Randomizer that allows the characters and storylines to be reborn every few years. In the hands of Marvel Inc. it's a clever money-making ploy. As represented in this movie, it's surprisingly awe-inspiring.

Go see it -- in 3D. That is all.

For Yahmdallah Bjornickerford. RIP, TLD -- another blog bites the dust. Happy trails, amigo!