Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Vincent and the wife

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

Ezquerra and the two-shot

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

Hello to Jason Hong

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

Avengers/JLA: I still have no idea what is going on

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

First Reformed v The Predator: Trash before art

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

Groo: He couldn't get a crowd

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

Love and Rockets: Here we go again, just like animals

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

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Immortal love

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

I just took a DNA test, turns out I'm 100% that bitch

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

Things just couldn't be the same

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

We've got the right to choose it

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


Last year's Suspiria remake was so tasteful it made me want to fucking puke.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Everything you want for yourself

Somewhere in space and time, in Jamaica, years and years ago, Lee Perry is smoking his first ever joint, and starts hearing the world in a different way, and that heavy, heavy bass becomes the only thing worth ever listening to.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

She'll pity the men I know

As a 44-year-old man, I always feel like a bit of a perv when I try to catch up on the latest hit music, but it is an indisputable fact that the very best pop music is always made by young women who just don't give a fuuuuuuuuuck.

Monday, July 15, 2019

How's that?

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

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood: I'm in the movie

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

The Hateful Eight: Got room for one more?

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: What do you mean by that, mate?

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

Kill Bill: I got bloody satisfaction

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

Jackie Brown: My ass may be dumb, but I ain't no dumbass

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

Pulp Fiction: Catch up

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

Reservoir Dogs: It's a metaphor for big dicks

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

Welcome to the machine: Pink Floyd forever

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.

Fuck yes.

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

Welcome to the machine: Embarrassed by myself

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

Welcome to the machine: Remember when you were young

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

Welcome to the machine: He's getting rather old but he's a good mouse

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

Welcome to the machine: Video nasty

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

Welcome to the machine: You can't have any pudding

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

Welcome to the machine: No more turning away

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.