Wednesday, August 21, 2019
Sunday, August 18, 2019
Friday, August 16, 2019
Wednesday, August 14, 2019
Wednesday, August 7, 2019
Saturday, August 3, 2019
Thursday, August 1, 2019
The Tearoom of Despair is going into low-content mode for the next month, mainly because we're going to have a bloody baby in the next couple of weeks. This means I'm just going to be posting scenes from my 31 favourite TV shows of all time (not the best, just my favourites, and they're all British or American, because that's all I've ever really watched), and leaving it at that, but normal service should resume in September. Unless the newcomer has something to say about it...
Tuesday, July 30, 2019
One of the truly great pleasures in my life is introducing the lovely wife to something awesome - something she might have been aware of in some small way, but knew almost nothing about. It's a constant surprise to see what she gets into, and what she rejects as dull or stupid.
Even so, I really didn't expect her to dig Vincent Price so much.
We've been watching the Edgar Allen Poe adaptions that Roger Corman did decades ago, some of them for the first time, and the wife has become enamored with Price, and the way he owns the screen. We live in an age of understated acting, where most performers try to rein things in to keep them believable and realistic, but Price had a magnificent mugging presence on screen, and his line deliveries could be devastatingly droll, bitterly biting and incredibly over-the-top, all at the same time.
These movies were made 60 years ago, but his performances in each of them is always sumptious, especially when he usually suffers some dark fate at the end of them. The wife was only 10-years-old when Price passed away, but his presence is reaching across from beyond the grave, and still as surprising and enticing as ever.
Monday, July 29, 2019
Carlos Ezquerra is rightly remembered for his chunky, scratchy iconography, but during a lifetime of war and science fiction comics, he also proved to be an incredible action artist. His heroes were always standing tall against various villainous scum, and springing into action with guns blazing.
One tiny thing he had in his artistic arsenal can be seen in the above scans - he would have one character firing a gun,into the next panel, where you would see it impact. But it was never a straight line across the panel gutter, it would always come in on an angle, or cut out the distance between the two, or zoom in on the unfortunate target.
And it was always so clear and easy to follow, and there was never any confusion about what was going on. Doing this kind of thing can be delicate work, but Carlos always had an eye for that kind of detail, and always made it awesome, while looking so effortless.
Sunday, July 28, 2019
I was absolutely fucking delighted that most of the artists at a recent independent comic artist convention were doing work that wasn't for me. Comics are for everybody, no matter what you're into, and there should be something for everyone.
But some of it was very definitely in my wheelhouse - Dylan Horrocks was there selling some lovely original artwork, and Michel Mulipoa had plenty of his excellent wrestling comics on offer - and I spent most of the time at the convention looking at the artwork from the immensely talented Jason Hong.
I'd never seen his stuff before, but it was stunning. Some of his work looked like he could be drawing for Mad Magazine in 1962 - and I can't think of higher praise - with weird humour, fine figure-work and bug-eyed caricature smashing into something truly unique. He didn't have anything published to sell at the convention - he was making his money with some lovely portrait work - but he had plenty of crazy shit in a folder to look at, and it totally blew my mine.
These are some of my favourites below, but check out his Instagram for more here. It's just fabulous work.
Saturday, July 27, 2019
I haven't been able to follow the grand mega-continuities of the Marvel and DC universes for some time now, and I am constantly unsure whether characters are even dead or alive in current continuity, or where all the various versions of the same people came from.
That's fine, I've discovered in recent years that there really is a limit to how much of this pointless trivia I can get in my head, and I've been able to let the idea of keeping track of a grand mega-saga go. Life's too short.
But now I can't even follow a lot of the individual books, something that was brought painfully home recently by my inability to comprehend the latest versions of the big team books put out by the Big Two. Even when things have been getting chaotic in the wider universes, there has always been a main Avengers or Justice League comic to read, and they've usually been relatively easy to follow. But the latest iterations from writers Jason Aaron and Scott Snyder have just left me baffled.
They are still comics produced by skilled creators, with moments and dialogue that are witty and exciting and intriguing, and a lot of their artistic collaborators contribute work that is dynamic and energetic, but threads are left dangling for other series to pick up; characters come and go without any indication of what universe they even come from; and they're both so threaded into the larger picture that they're losing their own individual brush strokes, where the interesting stuff happens in these types of comics.
They're also focused on giant 50-issue arcs, so nothing gets resolved for literally, and it's all set-up. I had similar problems reading Jonathan Hickman's Avengers run and never got to that resolution, lost in endless wheel-spinning. But that seems to be the pattern that everybody is now following.
These thing do gather a sizable audience who seem to be willing to do the necessary homework, but I don't have the time, money or inclination to do all that. Comics about the world's greatest superheroes shouldn't be this hard.
Friday, July 26, 2019
When choosing a film to watch, I often go for trash over art, and always feel shitty about it. Of course I knew First Reformed would be a far more rewarding experience, and was obviously going to be a smarter and deeper film, but I still watched the new Predator film first recently. Even though I'd already seen it once, and even though I knew it was total rubbish, it was predator over priest.
This is nothing new. In the days when I'd get a week's supply of movies from the video store, it was always the slick Hollywood bullshit or gross horror film that I would put in the VCR first, even though the absolute classic I'd watch last would always, always have more of an impact, and stick in the mind for far, far longer.
I thought I would have learned by now, but no, I'm still a shitty movie fan. When choosing films to watch this past week, I kept putting off First Reformed, and watching things like The Predator (which wasn't as bad as I recalled from seeing it at the cinema, except for those bits that were even worse than I remembered). What the fuck is wrong with me?
My only excuse is that I could half-arse The Predator, and watch it while reading a magazine or following the cricket scores, but First Reformed is a Schrader film, and demanded full attention and an unbroken viewing.
And holy shit, of course First Reformed is amazing, once I got to it. It's got all the certainties of a priest movie - the main character is going through a crisis of faith, and somebody wants to screw him - but goes off in gorgeously unexpected directions, especially once the barbed wire comes out. That's worth a hundred spine-rippings, and hopefully I'll remember this next time.
Thursday, July 25, 2019
I'm still tearing through a big box of Groo comics that I got under the Sergio Clause a few weeks back, and it's still as hilarious and stupid as ever, and it's taking me forever to get through them all, because there is so much detail to look at.
Look at that panel above from one random issue - click for a full-sized view - which takes up two-thirds of a page, and has an insane amount of detail going on, for one dopey gag about the nonchalance of a dog dreaming of a heroic fantasy. Each member of the crowd is clearly seen, with no tricks of perspective, no fading out into the distance, or convenient blurring. You can see all their faces without any cheating.
There are dozens and dozens and dozens of Groo comics that are just as packed, proving that the Sergio Clause isn't just an artistic necessity, it's bloody good value for money.
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
Both of the Hernandez brothers were punk renegades in their youth, and have reached the same age of nostalgia and introspection, so it's no wonder they have both had stories with old characters getting together for an old school punk show, catching up on characters, some of whom we haven't seen in decades.
But while Jamie stretched out that reunion over multiple issues (and years) of Love and Rockets - and the pitch-perfect one-page epilogue at the start of the recent #7 shows that things aren't entirely settled for Maggie yet - Gilberto blasts his own path, as always.
The latest issue features Beto shooting out of the gate with his own reunion of characters, touching on similar points of age and time, but also ending things with more finality than his brother - one storyline that has run for years and years, symbolising a toxic partnership that nobody can end, comes to a dramatic full stop.
In his few pages of the latest issue, Beto still gets in loads of dopey gags, goes off on a tangent about the real-life consequences of reviewing things, and still finds time for a mega-dump of music love, before wrapping this later chapter up with that definitive ending. He's not messing about.
Love and Rockets comics are always the best comics, and the contrast between the work produced by the two brothers is part of that endless appeal. They might start from the same place, but the journey is always different, and they're always making something new and unusual. They might be getting as old and creaky as some of their favourite characters, but Los Bros Hernandez are as vital as ever.
Tuesday, July 23, 2019
Alan Moore has spent most of his long and fascinating comic career trying to portray himself as a grumpy old git, but he's never really been able to hide the fact that he is a shameless and hopeless romantic at heart.
It was there in the relationship between Alec and Abby in Swamp Thing (everyone copied the horror and the everything-you-know-is-wrong, but forgot about the cuddling), and in the general good nature of Tom Strong and his family. And it's still there, at the end of all things, in the final issue of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Moore has his priorities right, in this final comic script from the writer. He's still mercilessly taking the piss out of everything, (including - especially - his own work), and it's just as funny as ever - the way he disposes of the Bond problem is callously hilarious. And he's not bothered by the way the world is literally eaten alive by its own fictions, because the survivors can still find love in all the darkness. It doesn't last forever - Mina gets two moments of romantic glory with two completely different people - but this was never a story that would ever have a proper happy ever after.
You can play spot the reference with the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen as much as you want, but that wasn't what I came for, and it wasn't what I got. All I wanted was some love in all the chaos, and it's still there, even at the very end.
Monday, July 22, 2019
Once again, it is an indisputable fact that the very best pop music is always made by young women who just don't give a fuuuuuuuuuck.
Sunday, July 21, 2019
I've been working on mega-early shifts for the past couple of months, which has been pretty fucking rough sometimes, but whoever it was at one of the local radio stations who was regularly programming Freebird to play at 4.30am as I was driving in to the office is an absolute fucking legend, and made everything just a little bit better.
I swear I painfully smashed my hand half a dozen times against the steering wheel doing air drumming while stuck at the lights. Totally worth it.
Saturday, July 20, 2019
Friday, July 19, 2019
I was 9-years-old when my Dad yelled out the window, telling me to stop playing around with my action figures in the garden, and come in and watch this new music video, because it was the funniest fucking thing he'd ever seen in his life, and he wanted me to join in the fun.
That's the kind of Dad my Dad was.
Thursday, July 18, 2019
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Monday, July 15, 2019
I'll be lucky if the New Zealand cricket team ever come as close to winning the World Cup as they did in the early hours of this morning, (they literally couldn't come any closer without winning the damn thing), and they were kinda robbed by the bullshit boundary rule. But even if it ended with a bit of a wet fart of a decision, that was the best goddamn game of cricket I've ever seen in my life.
Who needs sleep anyway? Black Caps for life.
Sunday, July 14, 2019
Look, I'm not saying the lovely wife is going to give birth to our first child during a screening the new Tarantino film, but it is getting released a day before the due date, so I'm just saying there is a chance.
And that it would also be very on-brand for our relationship.
Stay on target, kid.
Saturday, July 13, 2019
Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained are fucking brilliant, but the Hatefiul Eight is my late Tarantino of choice.
Partly it's because it's the one that returns to the Reservoir Dogs formula of stranding a bunch of excellent character actors in a confined and sweaty place, where extreme violence is literally possible at any moment, then letting them loose on some chewy dialogue.
But it's also because I get to see it at the NZ premiere, and the man himself is there to introduce his new movie to a whole buncha new folks. He's beyond perfect, bounding into the auditorium in a ratty shirt and wild hair, rabbiting on at a million miles a second about bullshit, and just so fucking chuffed that he's getting to show it a whole bunch of new people.
He's so enthused the movie starts half an hour late. Nobody minds.
Friday, July 12, 2019
Death Proof is the only Tarantino film I can't get to see at the cinema. We're travelling the world on an extended honeymoon when it comes out, and by the time we get to America, it's vanished from the local screens after a short run.
Instead, we watch it on pay TV in a shady Washington DC hotel room, across the road from a Wendy's burger shack that I was convinced I was going to get shot at. It's video nastiness makes it entirely suitable for watching on TV at midnight in a foreign city, especially when paired with the adorably slimy Planet Terror.
But the weirdest thing about Death Proof is that after six months of travelling around the world, Zoe Bell's Kiwi accent is incredibly jarring and wonderfully familiar. Those flat vowels, that 'I don't give a rat's arse, mate' vibe is just the ticket for our travel-weary heads.
After that, we watch the first episode of the Flight of the Conchords TV show. We were in the seat of power in America, but we might as well have been back in West Auckland.
Thursday, July 11, 2019
After his six-year break, there was no hesitation or second guessing from Tarantino, and the director unleashed his Kill Bill saga. The break did him good, and he's so self-assured in his epic tale of the Bride's roaring rampage of revenge, and so eager to show off, and comes out with two films that are incredibly vibrant and utterly idiosyncratic, even as he plunges into film history for endless homages.
It's obviously Tarantino's break-up movie, it's not even sub-text, it's just text. But volume two is also one of the very first movies I ever see with the lovely wife, when we're both in journo school and before we've even hooked up, so I think I missed the point of the film a bit.
Fifteen years later, we're still going to the movies together, and I think Kill Bill v2 is the most romantic film in history.
Wednesday, July 10, 2019
After the blinding double-punch of his Tarantino's first few movies, Jackie Brown was so understated, it was more shocking than a dozen Mexican stand-offs. It's such a mature film, and looked like a movie made by an 80-year-old who didn't give a fuck anymore. Sweet monochromatic suits were out, polo shirts and pastel pants were in, and even the mighty Samuel L Jackson can't make those Kangol hats look so fucking dated.
It's not just that the characters are older, but that the director doesn't care about that the cool factor anymore. He still offers it up in several key sequences, but also sets the major setpiece in a local mall that looks exactly like your local mall, boringly familiar.
The high-octane injection into cinema of his first two features means a lot of people weren't ready for that, and there was a small backlash. Nothing outright nasty, but more of a shrug.
It took him six years to make another film and that might not be that long, but after three deadset masterpieces in five years, the lack of Quentin was noticeable.
Luckily for everybody, he wasn't done yet.
Tuesday, July 9, 2019
I saw Pulp Fiction twice with my mate Anthony on opening day, and a hundred times since, and I'm still finding new hidden depths in Tarantino's movie.
It took me years to realise that Mia and Vincent hadn't won the twist contest trophy, and that they'd stolen it. I missed the vital clue on the radio that made it clear they'd absconded with the prize, but got there in the end.
And I still only just realised recently that there hadn't been any kind of injustice. For half of my life I always thought they'd rightfully taken the trophy, because they so obviously deserved to win the trophy, so somebody must have cheated them.
But that wasn't it al all. They hadn't won the twist contest because they were bloody awful.
Of course they're awful - they're throwing goofy moves and are completely out of time with the music - something that should have been obvious right from the start, when the very first footage of the movie I ever saw was on a late night TV news show, showing background footage of them filming that scene to completely different music.
They're just so cool, and un-selfconscious and into it, and the camera fucking loves them and gets right in, swirling around their gyrations. From an objective point of view, from a distance, they must look laughingly bad.
This is a good metaphor for all of Tarantino's films - they might be dopey and incredibly dorky sometimes, but they're so cool it doesn't matter.
Monday, July 8, 2019
Me and my mates are all 18 or 19 when we watch Reservoir Dogs on a Saturday afternoon in early 1993, in a movie theatre that will be torn down after the Christchurch earthquakes, and it blows our fucking minds out the back of the cinema.
We've never seen anything like this before. It's slick and smart and super fucking cool and has high-level film dork credentials. We know that he has named his production company after a Godard film, but we'd only seen Alphaville, so all those cinematic tricks and games, and the story within a story within a story within a story, and the sheer fucking style and life of the thing were all new to us.
We go home and make a spoof version called Catchment Puppies on the Walker family's camcorder, and make special round trips that take hundreds of kilometres to go to the ubiquitous midnight screenings over the next year. We went to any movie with a connection to the director, and sometimes that paid off and you got something brilliant like True Romance, and sometimes it didn't, and you got Destiny on the Radio. And sometimes you get something like From Dusk Till Dawn and some drunk bastard's confusion over the film's tone is the best experience you can have at the movies.
There is barely an internet at the time, so we share articles that we find in monster magazines, and record late night news items about Tarantino and his crew tearing up the scene at Cannes. But that just helped fuel everything, and set us all up for Quentin Taratino's long and fascinating film career. All that brilliance might not match the raw excitement of that Saturday afternoon in 1993, but what ever could?
Sunday, July 7, 2019
And now it's 2019 and after decades of listening to The Wall and watching the movie, and buying the CDs at least five times because my ones keep getting bloody nicked, I finally get to see The Wall on stage, when Roger Waters brings the show to town.
And it's a jaw-dropping spectacle - the stagecraft that was so impressive on the original tour is augmented by some stunning projection technology. When the wall is built, the ligts and lasers projected on the surface give new depth to the image, breaking through the surface and highlighting showing the political rot we're all dealing with.
And it all kicks off with the sturm und drang of the opening numnber, with a thundering soundscape and lights and dry ice and fireworks and explosions and I'm still getting over all that, when a bloody plane flies into the side of the stage at the climax of the song.
I never got to see the trippy light show they would put on in the UFO club back in the day, but I did get to see a song end with a plane crash.
Pink Floyd forever.
Saturday, July 6, 2019
You can't admit to liking Pink Floyd when you go through the obligatory obnoxious punk phase on your musical journey - they're the enemy and must be destroyed - and I deny the love for their music for years and years afterwards. The Division Bell helps, and sounds like corporate unreality.
It takes me a long time to get over myself and be comfortable with the idea that you can like the Television Personalities and Pink Floyd just as much as each other. There are no rules here, other than those that you impose on yourself, and there is no contradiction in loving both punk and prog rock.
And it's worked out, in a way, because now the albums are still surprising and fresh, while intimately familiar. And it's given me a greater appreciation for cover versions of Floyd classics, whether it's the Flaming Lips doing all of Dark Side of the Moon, or The Mummers finding new depths of despair in Nobody Home.
I'll never like Pink Floyd as much as I did when I was 15, but I won't ever deny them again either.
Friday, July 5, 2019
I'd been to The Dark Side of the Moon,and seen the Animals rise up, and even suffered The Final Cut, but Wish You Were Here is the last classic Pink Floyd album I buy as a teenager. I put it off until last, because it only had four songs on it, and when you're paying $22 for every tape on sale down the local service station, you need better value for money than that. Shine on, motherfucker.
I can't believe I survived my teenage years, I was so fucking dumb.
Thursday, July 4, 2019
Beyond The Wall, it takes me a long time to get into the early Pink Floyd, and when I finally get a taste of it in the Relics compilation album, it's really not what I expected.
Julia Dreams and See Emily Play are what you would expect from proto-Pink - slightly whimsical with hints of depth to come - and Interstellar Overdrive has a killer riff at the heart of some industrial length noodling that is familiar.
But I never saw the raw howling of The Nile Song, and was baffled by the whispers of Careful With That Axe, Eugene, and I don't know what the fuck to make of Bike.
So it's obviously Bike that I end up listening to the most. It's twee and silly and not serious at all, but is an infectious tune with a monster last verse, and in an age of sound collage work, the collage at the very end stand out.
Syd Barrett flared up so brightly and burned out just as fast, and got Pink Floyd up and running, until their sound eventually conquered the world, while he was back at his mum's flat. It took me a long time to really appreciate the things he was foinf fifty years ago, but I got there in the end.
Wednesday, July 3, 2019
The very first video tape I ever bought with my own money was a copy of Dawn of the Dead, but the first brand new one was The Wall movie, from the video shop at the front of the Stafford Mall in Timaru. It cost $35 in 1990 money, but it was worth it. I'd hired out the film a few times, but I needed my own copy, to fuel this adolescent obsession with Pink Floyd that just wasn't dying.
When I was a lot younger, when I had no idea what a Pink Floyd was, the movie had been playing in some weird movie theatre behind a restaurant down south in Dunedin, and I'd sat there with my chicken nuggets and chips, mesmerized by the freaky-ass poster in the lobby, and I couldn't even imagine what lay behind that screaming image.
Years later, and all I listened to was Pink Floyd, so of course I needed the movie, and was delighted to find so much of it was just as freaky as that young kid in the restaurant had hoped it was. The tunes are comfortably familiar, but the imagery was deeply upsetting: maggots and industrial mincers and death and seventies haircuts and faceless masks and death and Bob Hoskins and death.
I highly recommend this movie to all teenagers, everywhere. It might be just what you need.
Tuesday, July 2, 2019
It's Christmas, 1989, and all I wanted was the vinyl version of The Wall, because my casette copy of it was all I'd been listening to all year. We had the most ratshit family stereo with a dodgy turntable, but I wanted the record, for the Gerald Scarfe art, and for the lyrics - there were still some lines I couldn't quite grasp, no matter how many times I played them.
This was a sweet spot in time, when vinyl albums were terminally out of fashion, and you could find anything for super cheap, so it wasn't hard for Mum and Dad to find the record for me. I spent all day going over the album's lyric sheet, and even convinced the adults to let me play it at the family gathering we were at.
And my older cousin Mike was fucking chuffed, because he fucking loved The Wall, and after a few beers, he was singing along with all the songs, and belted out the best, loudest 'If you can't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding!' that echoed across at least three Christchurch suburbs on a quiet summer night, followed by an unholy cackle of glee.
Cousin Mike was a cool motherfucker, and he approved of my life choices, and that was almost as good as a Gilmour solo. He passed away just a few years after that, and I still miss him a lot, but I still hear that cackle every time I play the album.
Monday, July 1, 2019
The very first music cassette tape I have to call my own is A Momentary Lapse Of Reason, somewhere in the late eighties. My mates Shaun and Stephen had been raving about Pink Floyd for weeks and once they finally convinced me to give them a listen, it became the first music I really got into that felt like mine, even as it was given to me.
I was at that age where you almost feel obligated to find your musical tastes, and to get into bands and tunes, because that's what everybody else is doing, and then it all turns out to be far more rewarding than you ever thought, and there is no obligation to the obsession, because it's fierce and real.
I had no idea what to expect when Shaun gave me my own copy of the new Pink Floyd album, but was ready for anything when I put the cassette in the tape player that was attached to my alarm clock. I was aware of Pink Floyd as some kind of 'druggie' band who did that bitching song about needing no education. None of my family ever listened to them. My big sister was more Duran Duran, and Dad was more of a Hendrix man.
But the sounds that came out of that tiny little speaker on the alarm clock were like nothing I'd ever heard before, sparse and hollow and rich and echoing, something modern and glistening, and I didn't stop listening to it. I never stopped listening.
Until Shaun gave me The Wall the next week, and that became everything.
Sunday, June 30, 2019
Fuck Monopoly and Scrabble and Operation and all that, the only board game I wanted to play as a kid was I Vant To Bite Your Finger. It took about five minutes and was dependent on random luck, but you got to stick your finger in a vampire's mouth and hope he didn't bite down. If he did, it would leave a red mark on your finger.
When I say it out loud like that, it sounds dumb, but it could get damn stressful. Nobody wanted a bloody finger.
Saturday, June 29, 2019
When I'm 14 and watching UHF, I laughed so hard at Weird Al's Rambo pisstake, especially the bit where the bad guy is shooting at him while he slowly gets his bow and arrow out, and then it pulls back to show they're centimetres apart. I laughed so hard I think I died, and everything that has happened since is just a dying dream of a 14-year-old boy who's seen the funniest thing he will ever see. Everything since is the delusions of an adolescent mind in one last burst of fake reality.
Sorry about the mess.
Friday, June 28, 2019
My Grandad died 35 years ago, but I still have three pieces of chunky wood that he crafted into something for me. One of them is a big, blue toy car that I always thought of as a gangster's car, another is a lockable two-litre silver box that has always been home to my action figures.
And the third is a brown wooden box that has a faded patch on the front where there used to be a sticker that came free with the British Crisis comic book (it said 'STICK IT'). It also used to have a lid, but that vanished over the years too.
It's also the perfect size for two piles of American comic books. It's about 10cm deep, so I can get about 100 in there, and I've always put my very favourite comics in there.
For the past two decades, that's mainly been a lot of Grant Morrison comics, especially The Invisibles. I need to keep them safe, because I spent too much time reading them on the beach, drunk as fuck, and they're beaten to hell by saltwater and sentimentality. They've lived in Grandad's box since the 90s.
I still love the Morrison, like all good people, but maybe it's time for some re-evaluation as to what my favourite comics are, and which deserve a place in that box of awesome. Flex Mentallo is probably staying in there, but I haven't cracked open those Invisibles for a while. Maybe it's time to work out what's really important.
All of Grandad's boxes and toys are still sturdy and in excellent shape. They could use a bit of paint, but they're solid as hell. I hope that he would like that I still put my favourite things inside them.
Thursday, June 27, 2019
The other day, I was in one of the last places in town to sell DVDs, and sitting there on the shelf, like it wasn't no thing, in between copies of Salem's Lot and San Andreas, was Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, the Pier Paolo Pasolini masterpiece based on the funtime writings of the Marquis de Sade.
It was genuinely a bit shocking to see it there, because it was straight-up banned from screening in New Zealand for more than 20 years - I went to the first screening after the ban lifting ages ago, and that showing still feels like a nightmare, in all the best ways. And there it was, in the local mall shop.
I thought about grabbing the copy and taking it home for myself, but knew I'd never be watching it again. It really is a powerful, breath-taking movie, especially that detached finale, but I don't think I ever need to see it again, to be honest.
Besides, I do like the idea of somebody finding it in the shop and giving it a go without knowing anything about it - it only cost $5, what's the harm? Watching Salo without knowing what you're in for. That would be an experience I couldn't deny anybody.
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Somewhere out there in the grim and optimistic post-War age, notorious gossip hound Kenneth Anger is taking a break from the satanism and puts some snappy pop music on the soundtrack over his underground art movie, and it works like gangbusters, influencing Scorsese in his use of music, who goes on to influence nearly every other filmmaker in the world. Anger's films are full of half-naked motorcyclists and full-frontal magickal rituals and aren't for everybody, but his ear for a good tune takes over the world.
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
I used to dream I could fly, like Superman or Zenith, and could soar over the clouds. Sometimes I had real trouble just hovering a few feet off the ground, and sometimes I'd take high to the sky.
I don't really dream of that anymore, but I do often have dreams where I'm Speedball, falling down to earth, and then bouncing off the ground like a hyper-rubber ball, leaping off tall shit and rebounding around city streets, ricocheting through the urban landscape.
I don't know what my brain is trying to tell me here - Freud thought flying was a metaphor for sex, but he thought everything was a metaphor for sex, so bouncing probably means I need to masturbate more often or something.
It's fucking fun, whatever it means. Speedball had the best power.
Monday, June 24, 2019
I made a few hundred bucks by offloading some generally average comic books at a market day over the weekend, and then totally undid all my good work by buying a bloody big box of Groo comics.
They were stunningly cheap, and included issues going back to the earliest Pacific days. but the lovely wife rightfully pointed out that I'd completely missed the point of going to this thing to get rid of some comics. I had to activate the Sergio Clause - of course I was going there to thin out the collection and make some room in our rapidly shrinking house-space, and of course I wasn't going to add to the pile, unless there were a bunch of Sergio Aragones comics, because everyone needs more Sergio Aragones comics in their life.
Luckily, my pal Nik was there and was able to confirm that the Sergio Clause is a real thing, so I think I got away with it this time.
Sunday, June 23, 2019
Saturday, June 22, 2019
Friday, June 21, 2019
I used to think Shayne Carter was the coolest motherfucker alive when I saw him around in Dunedin in the mid-90s, scowling into a southerly wind on George Street, blasting his guitar in solo gigs at the Empire, or bitching with Roy at Records Records. I had just left home and never had the guts to go up and tell him how much I loved the Straitjacket Fits, but he looked like he had it going on.
I've been reading his new biography about his relationship with music, the people it has brought him into contact with and the places he's traveled to for performances, and it's fucking excellent. Carter's sly wit is everywhere, and it's constantly laugh-out-loud funny, from his recollections of getting into drunken feuds with other musicians to the brilliant revelation of what his favourite record was when he was 10.
But he has also shown that so much of that cool aloofness was a defensive front, and he was just as much a mess as any of us, especially after the tragic death of his best mate in a dumb train accident. Even as he's out there trying to conquer the world with his shredding guitar licks, he's miserable and worried that everything he does is not worth the effort.
I can't speak for how he feels about his work, but Carter has created some incandescently great music with the Fits and the Doublehappys and Dimmer, and he's left behind a legacy in NZ music that is unmatched. To find out that he's just as screwed up as anybody else doesn't tarnish that at all, it makes his riffs soar even higher, to know he's finding his own way out of that misery.
I just wish I had bothered to tell him how much his work meant to me all those years ago. He might just have sneered at me, but the coolest of us could still always use a kind word or two.
Thursday, June 20, 2019
Mainstream superheroes are trapped in never-ending cycles of reboot and rebirth, so there is always something appealing about an actual ending, when somebody tries to put their last word on a character, especially if they've been working on them for a while. The desire for a full stop - the last, definitive story, an epilogue to all that has come before - is strong, even as the next issue of Batman comes out next month.
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have created a butt-tonne of Batman comics in the past few years, and have said just about all they have to say with the character, but they're getting in one last shot with the current Last Knight On Earth story.
And after one issue, they've already nailed one of the best things about this type of story, and are throwing everything into the mix. There are goofy puns, super-science and existential dread. The story starts on the mean streets of Gotham, gets in some classic Batman-in-the-asylum stuff, has Alfred making one last plea and a Joker in a bowl, before Bats even gets his suit on and heads out into a dark, dusty future.
It's not really doing anything new, but is happily divorced from the main continuity, which has become so polluted. And it's as gorgeous as anything else Capullo has done with the character, which sparkles beneath the neon colors that have worked so well on his Bat-comics ,giving life to the end of the world.
And, best of all, it has nothing to lose, and anything could happen from here. There have been dozens of 'proper endings' to the Batman saga, but there is always room for one more.
Wednesday, June 19, 2019
When I'm drifting off to sleep at night, I always think about the stories I would like to tell one day, and the way I'd tell them, and how I'd always be trying to capture something honest and exciting.
And the image that always, always pops up in my head, for no goddamn reason I can ever figure, is Big Arnold grabbing Jamie Lee Curtis' hand as the limo she's in goes off the bridge at high speed in True Lies.
It's like that's all I ever want to see, ever.
Tuesday, June 18, 2019
There were 24 minutes of advertisements before a movie at my local cinema recently. The film was close to three hours long, and adding nearly half an hour was a bit fucking much.
It's particularly galling when it costs so damn much to go the movies in the first place - it's becoming a real luxury - and you're such a captive audience that you can't get away. You can skip past the endless Grammerly ads on Youtube, or go and make a cup of tea while broadcast TV tries to sell you shit, but in the cinema, you're stuck in your seat and just have to put up with it.
At the very least, they could have cut out the two ads telling me to buy really fast cars, and then they wouldn't have had to have the two road safety ads telling me to slow down. They all cancelled each other out, so what's the fucking point?
Monday, June 17, 2019
As uncool as it always sounds, Vertigo comics really did change everything for me. I was 17 when they launched and absolute primed for stylish, pretentious and fucking weird comics, and Vertigo certainly provided all of that, and more.
I was getting at least one Vertigo comic every month for the first 10 years of the imprint, although I've only bought the odd one-shot for years now. They've still been putting out a lot of quality comics, but few of them really appeal that much to me, probably because I haven't been 17 in a long, long time now.
There have been many attempts to give the line a push, and I always hoped more of their comics would catch on, although they never really did. The entire imprint never really got over its Sandman fetish, and while it had plenty of big hits like Preacher and 100 Bullets and Fables and Y The Last Man to keep things ticking over, Sandman always hung over it and there have been countless attempts to recapture that magic, including one in the past year.
Now there is a lot of chatter that Vertigo may soon be shut down by its corporate overlords, who only see the bottom line, and can't understand why they don't own so many of the properties they publish. It would be sad to see it go, not just because of my own personal history down Vertigo way, but for all those other stylish, pretentious and fucking weird 17-year-olds, who might need stories that make them feel less alone in this cold, cruel world. It always worked for me.
Sunday, June 16, 2019
Most comic readers have favourite writers and artists, and follow them from title to title, because they know seeing a certain creator involved is a guarantee of certain quality.
Most people don't follow inkers as much. There has always some fine embellishers in the industry - including Wally Wood, who brought polish; Terry Austin, who bought shine; and Kyle Baker, who made everybody look like Kyle Baker (which a very good thing).
But in the 1990s there was another inker whose name was always worth following, and that was the great Dick Giordano. It wasn't because of his actual artwork, which was always super solid and reliable, but because the man had definite taste, and if he thought a comic was worth inking, it was worth reading.
Dick G was a company man to the end, and an editor who had a profound impact on mainstream comics. But he always kept one hand on his brush, and he would frequently pop up as the inker on various Batman projects, or on James Robin's Starman book, or inking up Steve Yeowell's work on The Invisibles.
None of these assignments had much in common, other than they were published by DC, but seeing Giornado's name meant it was usually worthwhile, because he thought it was worthwhile. He passed away in 2010, but I'll always trust his taste.
Saturday, June 15, 2019
There's a terrific bit in last year's Friedkin Uncut documentary, where the legendary director is talking about a scene he shot in The French Connection, and how somebody pointed out that the camera crew had accidentally been caught in the reflection of a car window, and that he was told they might have to shoot it again in some way that would avoid that reflection, and Billy Friedkin - who knows a thing or two about movies - said there was no need to redo it, because anybody who got hung up on how the faintest of reflections shattered their suspension of disbelief were not fully engaging with his movie, so who gives a shit about that?
If he tried to pull that today, Billy would undoubtedly be slammed as "lazy" and "incompetent", but he's still 100% right. If your enjoyment of the French Connection - including one of the objectively greatest car chases ever - is destroyed by a reflection, you're not really watching his movie, and he doesn't need to cater to you.
Friday, June 14, 2019
Thursday, June 13, 2019
Henry was always so square and decent, even when he played the most dastardly of villains, Peter looked like the kind of hippy that got into investment banking in the 1980s and now spends all day talking about how bad a capital gains tax is, and Jane never really focused all that wild energy.
Bridget was the best of them. She was genuinely luminous on screen, and drifted through movies like it was the easiest thing in the world. She had all the best attributes of the rest of her famous clan, but was sleeker, with a sharper edge - when she burned somebody with a harsh word, you could feel the heat.
She ruled the 90s, and hasn't made a film since 2002. You gotta respect that.
Wednesday, June 12, 2019
The wife and I had the incredible good fortune to see Sharon Van Etten play with her full band last week, and she was fucking transcendent. Most of the songs were from her most recent album, which added acres of synth to her gloriously sparse sound, and that was fine by us, especially when she would lift them to new heights with a committed vocal performance on stage.
She also had most excellent trousers.
Tuesday, June 11, 2019
There is something in us that craves closure, in both our lives and fictions. We know we never really get it, that it's a lie we tell ourselves so that we can start over again, and that real life is far too complex for that kind of triviality. We are all informed and shaped by our past, and putting nice big full stops on it isn't fooling anybody.
The Deadwood television series famously lacked any sense of closure, no matter how apt it was that the series ended with Al on his knees, cleaning up the blood of an innocent, and sneering at the idea of telling someone 'something pretty'. There was unfinished business, especially with the most public of promises that further movies were coming. Nobody thought it would take 13 years, but they got there in the end.
The new movie leaves plenty of plot threads dangling - it's unlikely the Leviathan Hearst will take the latest indignities without some form of murderous rebuke, and his kind ultimately win, with the capitalistic giants of the 20th century following in his footsteps. Deadwood was always the most optimistic series about the American Dream, showing how a bunch of freaks and malcontents create a civilization out of the mud and blood, but the tyrants who will rob them blind are also being born in their midst.
But there is some sense of closure, with old scores settled and grievances aired, and positions of love and loyalty made clear.
Hearst is rejected by the community he always felt above, stamped into the road by a mob led by Jane and the eternal Garret Dillahunt. (It is always an absolute pleasure to see that many, many people looked like Dillahunt in the old west, and they all had their own tragic backstories and destines). Seth is tempted to return to old ways, but stands with his family, as is right and proper, and Sol and Trixie get their own happy ending, and new starts. Even Jane and Joanie prop up each other enough for final declarations of support, and General Samuel Fields meets his maker with dignity and wisdom. And Al Swearengen, in a majestic and epic performance by McShane, gets in a last line that is even more graceful and cutting than the last time.
It was overwhelming to watch Deadwood again after all these years, to drop into that world. And while total closure can be an impossible dream, it is more than enough to visit with old friends again, and see how they are faring.The years have not been kind for some, and others are holding up surprisingly well. That's more than we can ever hope for.
Monday, June 10, 2019
It's very hard to ever really recommend James Ellroy books to anybody - they're full of the most reprehensible characters, doing the most awful things imaginable. Mass murder, racist killings, blackmail and general nastiness on an industrial scale, performed by people who never sleep and get by on massive amounts of Benzedrine and self-loathing.
This Storm, his new book, is no exception, and while that weird after-taste of Blood's A Rover crazy last act still lingers, this is vintage Ellroy. A few pages in and Doctor Hideo Ashida - a Japanese-American in LA around the days of Pearl Harbour, surviving on a delicate balance of extreme competence, good connections and absolute intensity - is performing field autopsies on more than a dozen of his countrymen on the beach where they were recently murdered and dumped, shutting up the local cracker cops when he splits open skulls to dig out the bullets without hesitation or fear.
And Dr Ashida's journey is just one of many in this sprawling text, bashing up against an amazing, charming and unobtainable redhead who starts the book by accidentally killing two kids, and the devil himself, Sergeant Dudley Smith, part of a huge cast of characters that range from low-lifes to real scumbags.
I still can't recommend this to anybody I know - the style and substance of Ellroy's books is always going to rub most people the wrong way - but this intensity of vision and execution can be addictive. I certainly always get my fix.
Sunday, June 9, 2019
I was at an independent comic artist convention last weekend, and it was fucking amazing - I walked around like a slack-jawed idiot, awed by the quality of the artwork being produced in this country. There were dozens of artists and the standard was sky high, there were so many beautiful mini-comics and prints and posters and clothing and figurines. And most of it was of absolutely no interest to me, with way too many pastel unicorns and wide-eyed elves on magical quests.
Which is bloody fantastic, as far as I'm concerned. As a forty-something year old white dude, there is too much art that feels like it is being made just for me, and all that stuff I'm not interested in brings some real diversity and colour to the comics medium and industry, which is badly needed and greatly appreciated. Bring it all on, and the stuff the kids like absolutely should be completely baffling to me, because it's theirs, not mine.
That's how I feel with modern Spider-Man comics. I haven't bought a regular issue of Spider-Man since the 20th century, and while I still roughly follow his adventures through the collections at the local library, and watch the movies, we swung our separate way a long time ago.
That's okay. The best Spider-Man is the Spider-Man who existed when you are 9-years-old, and that's a long time ago for me. While a character like Batman is eternal, I got off the tired wheel of Spidey's endless 'power and responsibility' trip a long time ago, and leave him for the kids who still adore his wisecracks and the way he hurtles through the New York sky.
Spider-Man was there for me when I needed him, but he there is for somebody else now. I just got to get out of the way and let everybody else have their fun.
Saturday, June 8, 2019
The last Spider-Man comic I ever regularly bought wasn't even a real American one. It was a British reprint comic in the mid-90s, and it was enormously satisfying and value for money.
The Spidey adventures had been split between several different titles for years, and it was impossible to keep track of them all when I never lived anywhere near a comic shop. I'd spent years getting a third of storylines, and making do with that.
But The Exploits of Spider-Man reprinted recent Amazing, Spectacular and Web comics, while also fitting in some more Ditko, Spider-Man 2099 and... well... Motormouth. Not every one can be a winner.
Each issue was dense with Spidey action, with the art splashed across a larger magazine size, while keeping the colouring that so many other similar reprints lacked. Each issue offered up dozens and dozens of pages of spider-action, and I could actually follow storylines as they were intended to be read, instead of piecemeal over years. And there was a free poster in every issue, at one stage featuring classic Marvel covers that hung on my walls for years after I stopped getting the comic.
Spider-Man is always better in huge chunks of comics. Even with the Motormouth.
Friday, June 7, 2019
There was a moment there, just before Todd McFarlane came in and took things in wriggly new directions, when the Spider-Man comics got a bit weird and creepy and smelly.
With DC getting a lot of mileage by piling complexity onto Batman, Marvel made a few stabs at the idea in the late 1980s, with a couple of moody graphic novels, and storylines in the main comic book that were a radical departure from the straightforward superheroics of the past decade.
It wasn't just the Kraven's Last Hunt storyline, which was dripping in dank atmosphere and existential tension, it was things like the slow drugged nightmare of Ann Nocenti's Life In The Mad Dog Ward, with ethereal art by Cindy Martin.
These comics ran in the regular Amazing Spider-Man, and were probably a bit too upsetting for the traditional Spidey fan. McFarlane's art was just a couple of months away, and would be more to the kids' liking.
You can still do just about any kind of story with Spider-Man, and many have over the years. There have been comics like Tangled Webs, which gave creators such as Rucka, Risso, Cooke, Bone, McKeever and Mahfood free reign. Kaare Andrews made good ol' Pete Parker a sour cancer-machine in one comic, while Bagge took Peter all the way down Objectivism Street.
But these are always special projects now, usually outside the main continuity. For a while there, the future of the character was really looking at how fucking creepy a man with spider powers could be, but he always goes back to swinging in the light.
Thursday, June 6, 2019
Years and years after Bendis slotted him into the Avengers, I still don't buy Spider-Man as a member of the team. He's always there to help out - he was the one who cracked the the soul gem and released Adam Warlock to sentence Thanos to his first un-life during one of the great Avengers battles - but he's a solo guy through and through.
Spider-Man should always be doing his own thing, and not getting tied down into team dynamics, he's too fucking busy just trying to pay the rent to deal with that stuff. And while he skirts around the edges of many teams over the years - ever since he tried to get in on the FF action in Amazing Spider-Man #1 - he's got his own neighbourhood to take of.
There is nothing wrong with being a solo artist instead of a band. Some acts just work better this way. Spider-Man is always down for the team-up, but let him do his own thing.
Wednesday, June 5, 2019
I used to own hundreds and hundreds of Spider-Man comics and now I have about 30. The ones that are left are, unsurprisingly, the ones that came out when I was a little kid.
I remember how groovy Spider-Man was, when he had wide-ranging adventures in glorious primary colours, and those are the only Spider-Man comics I still want. There have been many fine Spidey comics since, but none that I've ever felt I had to hold onto, not like the 70s version.
Poor Gwen dies so the Green Goblin has to go too, Denny O’Neill and Frank Miller do a Spider-Man/Dr Strange team-up that is still creepy and awfully funny, the regular comics have some Captain Britain, Man Thing, Fantastic Four and Punisher action with terrific Byrne and Andru art, and the classic Saturday Night Live cast being really, really silly.
I'm in the middle of another purge, and the Spider-Man comics from this era that I still have aren't going anywhere. I could never give these away. They're all I ever want in Spider-Man.
Tuesday, June 4, 2019
It's been homaged and ripped off more than a dozen times and it never gets old: Spider-Man is trapped beneath a huge piece of machinery, while waters pours down, and he just needs to get the hell up.
It keeps coming back over and over again because it is so incredibly effective. It's the periodical moment where Spidey gives in to weakness for just a split second, before rallying to lift the world off his shoulders, and go and punch the fuckin' Vulture or somebody. It happens reasonably often, as the always-observant Douglas Wolk has noted.
But nothing beats the original Ditko version. Not just because it's so superbly paced, and not just because it's a rare buff-as-heck Spider-Man from the artist. It's the water.
The waterisn't just dripping down on Peter Parker's head, it's flowing with weight and volume, pooling on his head and cascading over his arms. Ditko's water looks just as heavy as that machinery, and is a vital ingredient of the scene. Ditko could draw anything, from weird surreal hell dimensions to the best fingers in comics, but nobody can make water as heavy as Steve.
Monday, June 3, 2019
The creation myth behind Spider-Man is elusive and contradictory, and always will be, because the main people involved all had a different idea of what 'created by' meant, and they're all dead now, so it's never going to get settled.
Stan Lee was always happy to give Steve Ditko his dues as co-creator, but held firm to his half of that credit, sticking to his claim that he'd had the original idea of a man with the powers of a spider, and that had to count for something.
Ditko, who always liked to see in black and white, was equally clear - he'd come up with everything you'd really associate with Spider-Man, and while Stan might have provided some small part ofthe inspiration, he could hardly be called a co-creator.
(And somewhere in a comic heaven, Kirby is putting down his cigar and pencils and getting his dukes in, making sure everybody knows he had some say in the design.)
They could never agree on who was the creator, because they had a different definition of what a creator was, and they were completely incompatible. They were both utterly right, and both utterly wrong. It's a heck of a contradiction to hang on the real life origin of Spider-Man, but everybody knows that old Webhead has proven amazingly resilient.