Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sad News

Hello all,

Sadly, today I have to choose between posting an awesome review for Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Gravens or doing my translation of Caedman's Hymn for Old English. I have chosen to do the latter, which means that I will not be able to post my review until next Tuesday night. Also, I will not be posting a review on Friday because I am going to be at a conference at Purdue and will not have internet. You will have to be patient and wait a week. I hope you can make it!


This is a trailer for Nosferatu to whet your appitite. Unitl next time; go enjoy some art!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Batman: Faces

Grade: G
Title: Batman: Faces
Author AND Artist: Matt Wagner

Batman: Faces was an ... interesting read because it was based around an intruiging idea; however, the way it was executed was painfully weak for a number of reasons. To begin, the introduction typifies the book it is introducing. It made some interesting points (like his item about Ted Bundy and Jeffery Dahmer - intruiged, aren't you! now you have to read it), but it was a bit clunky and heavy-handed.

Looking at the above image, you can see that the art can be quite weak. Part of the problem, for me, is the way it is colored. While, the other part is the awkward penciling, which causes the story to be arrested and to suffer.

On the other hand, Wagner does make nice use of the comic book medium. For example, the above page shows an interesting play with the way space in comic books seems to control time and hwo we experience them in this form. He successfully presents six separate panels at the same time while not disturbing the story. An excellent example of what the comic book form is capable of.

Yet again, he loses the power and expertise that he had gained with spreads like the above. Few things in the comic book medium annoy me more than when the words or images are not needed. There is no reason to say what is about to happen. If Batman needs to create a diversion and then does so - there is no reason to say that. that is what really bothered me in the so called "classic" X-men story God Loves, Man Kills (even though I do enjoy that title). A girl in that story thinks "I'm going to walk across the street" and then preceeds to walk across the street. Irritatingly pointless! Nothing makes me lose my patience with a comic book faster.
The most compelling aspect of this story, as I mentioned before, is the idea behind it: the way Two-Face handles the other freaks (taking this term from the self-titled circus troup in the 1932 movie Freaks). He has collected, kidnapped, and gathered a number of people with deformities in order to populate an island where they can live without suffering from oppresion by so-called "normal people." It is very interestign because while Two-Face is attempting to achieve justice, the "freaks" say things like "I was happy" and "I miss my family," showing that they were able to create "normal" lives for themselves.

Thus, it was an interesting enough idea to merit one read, but nothing to run and buy. I would reccommend that you rent it from your local library. Until next time; go enjoy some art!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Blade Runner

Grade: E
Title: Blade Runner (1982)
Director: Ridley Scott
Notable Actors: Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer

I love a good post-apocalyptic tale (let me put in a quick disclaimer: I LOATHE The Road. I know, it's post-apocalyptic, but it also had NO beauty in it. Their lives were empty, pointless and why would anyone want to watch a story like that? People need beauty and anything that forgets this becomes quite useless to me. I didn't think that it had any redeeming quality in it), and Blade Runner is no exception. I loved it from the moment it started with its breathtaking cityscape and eye-locking lighted images.

This masterpiece of dark tones, intriguing artificial life (I am specifically thinking of all the fun creatures Sebastian created), and future prophecy is loosely based on (and it really might be better to say inspired by) Philip K. Dick's book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? that obviously looks into what makes androids androids and, more importantly, humans really humans. This theme is focused on less in the movie, which is a little bit of a loss. However, the most notable issue that Blade Runner has is the fact that there have been about seven (yes SEVEN) versions shown! I watched the most recent release: The Final Cut, but I am not sure is the best one. I like to think that it is partly because it is the one I had to watch and partly because it is the director, Ridley Scott,'s real cut.

One of the best aspects of Blade Runner is the characters. The main character is Rick Deckard, a man who works as a hunter of androids when they escape and come back to earth (they work as slaves on off planet colonies).

There are four of the most recent versions of androids who escape and the movie focuses on Deckard as he hunts them down. I especially found Pris and Roy Batty a fascinating couple. She acts almost doll like and is seemingly sweet with quite a dark side because she has to protect her life (she is the one with the tool covering her behind Deckard's poised gun).

Her counterpart Roy (got to love how he is just chilling with that bird) is dedicated to keeping her alive and takes charge of who he is as an android - a hero if he hadn't been an android, or if it was told from his perspective. The way he acts when Pris dies is quite touching. He even allows Deckard, right after he killed his love, some time to get away while he takes a few moments to say goodbye to Pris. It is a very gripping scene and the one that questions the difference between artificial life and real life in the most provocative ways.

Rachel is the love interest in Blade Runner. She believes herself to be a human, only to be proved an android, which causes her to question what she is supposed to do with her life. She betrays her kind in order to save Deckard, but the ending of the film is ambiguous to whether or not Deckard and Rachel are going to live happily ever after. Throughout the film the man who has been forcing Deckard to "retire" the androids has made a point of saying that he is going to have to kill Rachel as well. The final scene has Deckard and Rachel together, but Deckard holding a little silver unicorn (see below) left behind by this guy.

The imagery of a unicorn is especially interesting in light of the film. People have been able to create artificial life, but animals have become rare, often extinct, which reflects upon this mythical creatures origins. Perhaps, the people who live in the world of Blade Runner would imagine alligators to be mythical creatures. All in all, I loved this movie. It made me think, reflect on beauty and my fellow men, and appreciate the sublimity of love. Go see it right now!!! I would recommend that you simply cut to the chase and go buy it: http://http://www.amazon.com/Blade-Runner-Final-Two-Disc-Special/dp/B000UD0ESA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1282704244&sr=8-2. Until next time; go enjoy some art!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Daredevil: Yellow

Grade: G
Title: Daredevil: Yellow
Author: Jeph Loeb
Artist: Tim Sale

I am so glad to be back! I hope y'all didn't miss me too much! I will try to be faithful with my blog, but I think it is only fair to warn you that I have a lot on my plate this year (I am just getting back to school, which means teaching and taking classes - lucky me). However, I have so much fun reviewing things, you know that you will be hearing from me frequently! I am glad to be working with Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale again (they are the guys who wrote Superman for All Seasons). You know my real love for them comes from their Batman comic books (one of which I will be using in an upcoming paper that I will be presenting at Purdue) like Batman: Haunted Knight.

This is my first Daredevil comic to be reviewing, and I am glad to do it because the Daredevil character has generated some excellent stories. However, as you can tell from the grade I gave this particular comic book, this Daredevil certainly did not change my life, although it is pleasant enough. In fact, that is the exact word I would choose to describe Yellow: pleasant. The story harkens back to the classic All American story - the love story.

The presentation of the story is good - a very simple feeling story that is presented simply. In fact, that is what I love about it. It is a story rich with feelings that are easy to relate to, but there were just some elements in the story that felt awkward and out of place. For example, Loeb and Sale are attempting to give homage to the long history that has surrounded Daredevil, like the fact that his first case was helping the Fantastic Four, but in this story it doesn't fit and distracts from the story rather than adding to it. So, little digressions like this detract from what should be the main purpose here: storytelling. Even if storytelling wasn't the main purpose, there should be a more convincing reason for including elements like that, which simply feel painfully out of place.

However, in many ways it is a good origin story about Daredevil. That is why you see him garbed in yellow (his color is traditionally completely dark red). This color comes from his father's old boxing robe that he constructs into his costume. I like that Loeb and Sale broke away from the classic Daredevil to dress him in yellow, and you know that I love the art of Tim Sale! That is one of the best assets of Yellow because his simple, clear style fits well with the simple nature of Loeb's storytelling.

Nevertheless, I just did not find the simple story in this Daredevil to be compelling enough. I am not sure what exactly it lacked, but I think that it didn't develop certain points fully, which made the whole story feel rushed at times or even a little disjointed. I am afraid that this will happen with a lot of comic stories that are tied up in the mess that is the long long long history that makes up the Marvel universe. Part of me loves the idea of all the continuity between the superhero stories, but I think that usually it just leads to awkward mentions of things that don't always fit in the story.

All in all, this is a diverting book. I would say it is worth a read, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend that you buy it, which is why I am not going to give you a link to purchase it. Instead, I would suggest you go to your local library and rent it! Don't worry, if they don't have it you can always inter-library loan it, which means they borrow it from a neighboring library that does have it! Until next time; go enjoy some art!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Break . . .

I am taking a short break today and next Tuesday because I am going back to Virginia (from Texas) and I need to pack and drive a long way. Expect to see my next post a week from today.

However, I would hate to leave you with nothing, so I am going to share a poem with you that one of my friends recently shared with me.


As long as the woman from Rijksmuem
in painted silence and concentration
day after day pours milk

from the jug to the bowl,
the World does not deserve
the end of the world.
- Wislawa Szymborska

I thought this was especially appropriate since I recently referenced this painting in my post about Kingdom Come. In case you forgot what it looks like I have posted it below:

Also, if you happen to be seeking a little zany music enjoyment I offer "Ghost of Stephen Foster" by The Squirrel Nut Zippers (http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJzWGkgFcTU) and the completely odd La Cenerentola by Rossini (http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXrqYCZhndk). Until next time; go enjoy some art!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark

Grade: G+
Title: Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Notable Actor: Harrison Ford

Just look at that movie poster. Is there really anything left to be said? What could be better than the promise of manly men, beautiful women, gold-tinged religion, exotic swords, big snakes and the perfect villains: Nazis. Indeed, this movie provides almost a time capsule of my childhood, so it is hard to make sure I am being fair in grading it since I can't view it nostalgia-free. But really, I am not sure I should. A movie is tied to the time it was made in and the surrounding events of the viewers' lives. However, Indiana Jones is able to stand on its own, separate from my own delightful memories of watching it with my family.

There are many reasons why Indiana Jones is a great movie (many of which I have already mentioned being shown off in the poster), not the least of which is its triumphant and enduring score. This score was provided by the legendary John Williams, who also did Jaws, Star Wars, Home Alone, Jurassic Park, Fiddler on the Roof and Harry Potter - just to name a few. I can't even describe to you how much I love his work. Please, go listen to the theme from Schindler's List: http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yYikshdLcw&feature=related. Beautiful, isn't it. Anyway, having Williams as part of your movie team always helps, and in this movie he was able to create a theme that pronounced high adventure and triumph as Indie goes racing through a cave, trying to out run a huge boulder (that he perhaps could have avoided by simply ducking before it had rolled down the ramp).

True to any action movie I have ever seen, Indiana Jones demands a willing suspension of disbelief. At times, this film might draw a little too heavily from this - for example, the snakes never biting Indie or Marion Ravenwood, his love of the film - but all in all it does not demand without rewarding, which makes this a worthwhile action movie.

Beyond these points, Indiana Jones really delivers. It gives the audience a reassuring presentation of pure evil. Who could feel bad that a group of Nazi soldiers (which the viewers are constantly reminded as the Nazi flag is slapped on anything and everything from the video camera to really random places that they visit) get wiped out in the middle of nowhere. Now, why did they have to take it off of the boat in order to open it up? And even if they did, why did they have to go there? Why not just open it up on dry land right next to the submarine? But these questions, and others like them, merely add to the wonderful flavor that is Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. This is what will keep me coming back for more - that and the fact that it is just a perfectly entertaining movie.

Surprisingly, I really like how this movie ends. It is one thing that I had not remembered about this movie, which I hadn't seen for at least six years. If you haven't seen it yet, or don't remember. Indie leaves infuriated because he knows the government is locking away his discovery. Then, the movie switches to a man slowly pushing what one presumes to be the ark into a long, long row of other, similarly marked boxes.

This is such an interesting idea, and, when I turned to my dad and said, perhaps a little too giddily, do you think they really have something like that? He quickly responded, "The Smithsonian." which made me think of the Louvre or the National Gallery of Art. I know that they have way too much to display at any given time, but does anyone get to enjoy the art they have boxed away? What if they have forgotten about a beautiful piece! It kills me, but maybe one day I will be able to see in the basements of the world's greatest museums. Until next time; go enjoy some art!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Bone: The Great Cow Race

Grade: G+
Title: Bone: The Great Cow Race
Author AND Artist: Jeff Smith

This is a comic that I have heard about for years (i.e. before I started reading comic books). It is one that many of my friends read, even though they didn't read other things from this medium. However, I never could be persuaded to read it because I thought it looked a little . . . pointless. I really didn't know anything about it, but I had seen a picture of Fone Bone (the main character) before and said, "This is someone I just will never care about." And, so all of the vague interest I might have had in this was left there.

However, I finally decided to read this book because it was one of the only ones on the list I found with little trouble (this is saying a lot because I am always a bit lost on how they organize comic book shelves - I know; I'm revealing my ignorance, but I am always so confused. Why don't they put them by author? If it's by the publisher why are they always so mixed together? see below).

See - only the ones in a nice long series stick out in the slap you in the face kind of way, which is exactly how I found Bone. Anyway, I sat down to read this book while my little children were napping (in the summers I watch a class of four and five year olds - sweet little punks that they are), which may have colored how I began reading. This is the second book in the series, but the one on the list, so I decided to do something I am typically adverse to doing. I read the second volume before the first (I am such a rebel). Thus, this volume begins in the middles of an overall story arc, but I was still not lost or confused, though highly intrigued about the first book.

I found this book to be surprising. Not only is it hilarious, I was amazingly wrong about Fone Bone (I mean, how many times have I told you I was wrong! But really you can trust me. I am rarely wrong about my judgement once I have read something. I just need to learn to stop judging things without giving them a chance). I found him to be incredibly relatable, and I also discovered the entire story to be intriguing.

The story presents several things that I was dying to know more about. What about the dragons? Why are the rat-like creatures trying to eat them? Actually, I found the rat-like creatures to be really intriguing. They look terrifying to me and clenched my interest in the overall story. They are creepy, but funny and made me want to get to know them better - in a disturbing kind of way.

I was really torn on whether or not to give this book an "E," but I finally decided on a "G+" because that is what it deserves, although I am sure the entire series (which I can't wait to read and hope to get from my local library soon) will warrant an "E" because, in the end, this book left me wanting more. That is why I am not sure I should judge only one book in a series like this (although, it is clearly too late to do anything else, since I just did what I do not like - twice in one post - I'm falling apart!).

I so enjoyed Bone and its light-hearted , but deep feel that I would certainly encourage you to give it a try. You can purchase it here: http://http//www.amazon.com/Bone-2-Great-Cow-Race/dp/0439706394/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1281149117&sr=8-3, or rent it from your nearby library. Until next time; go enjoy some art!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Red Shoes

Grade: F
Title: The Red Shoes (1948)
Director: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Notable Actors: Moira Shearer

This is probably my All TIME favorite movie! I don't say that lightly, and I am certainly not implying that there aren't a lot of great movies in existence. However, this one is just "IT" for me. I love the music, the costumes, the color, the story, the children, and on and on it goes.

The story is, of course, inspired by Hans Christian Anderson's immortal tale of the same name. However, this version also plays a lot with art. It includes a ballet also named "The Red Shoes" (an adaptation of the same H.C.A. story), which has some quite innovative dance sequences. The gripping story presents three key characters: a fledgling ballerina named Victoria Page, her lover the talented composer Julian Craster, and her impresario Boris Lermontov. As these two loves conflict (essentially her love for a man and her love for her art, which leads to the observation that The Red Shoes also draws from Tennyson's "The Lady of Shallot") it sends Victoria Page into a classic "Sophie's Choice" scenario.

This is an image from the ballet in the movie, but, of course, it also acts as an anchor, a catalyst, and a symbol to what is going on in the movie. However, let's talk about why this movie is truly my favorite (just as I would say Les Miserables is my favorite book, but I hold so many dear - still haven't found one for comic books yet, and you really can't force it. You either immediately connect with it or you don't). This movie actually grabbed me right off the shelf (having already seen a Powell and Pressburgers film I was glad to see another one). I bought it that day, took it home, and watched it immediately. Right away, I was captivated by the opening excitement I felt with the students rushing to get the best of the cheapest seats - pushing and shoving people out of their way, eager to watch the debut of a professor's symphony. This is how we are introduced to Julian Craster, the lover.

He is earnest, deeply gifted, and highly concerned with his art, which is why he is devastated when his professor steals his piece! Obviously, he is beyond upset, and, as a result, he writes an enraged letter to Boris Lermontov. Upon which one of the most enduring lines from any film (a life lesson -and you know how I feel about life changing art) is uttered by Lermontov when he says to Craster "It is worth remembering, that it is much more disheartening to have to steal than to be stolen from." That line just speaks to me of art and those who seek to create it - fascinating.

This is merely a glimpse into the fascinating world of The Red Shoes. This is the movie I force my friends to watch when they come over. I want to share it with everyone I know and those I haven't even met yet (something all great art should illicit from the viewer).

This movie is one of the movies closest to perfect that I have ever watched. The only flaw that might be present is the length and pacing. I would not be surprised if some people termed it "slow." But, I simply can't agree. I think they do a great job with pacing the story - keeping you engaged and fascinated.

The Red Shoes represents an intriguing look into the psyche of an artist, especially one who does want to be consumed with her art, even as she wants to enjoy ordinary life (through her relationship with Craster). It is also a cautionary tale to all artists or those involved with artists.

Its startling mix of reality and the fairy tale world invites the reader into a harrowing picture of the world. I can't encourage you enough to see this movie! Because I love this movie I am going to post a trailer to it be enticed:
http://http//www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSgar55BfPw. You can also watch The Red Shoes for FREE on youtube: http://http//www.youtube.com/watch?v=svTTsrHCvdo. Or - even better - you could buy it: http://http://www.amazon.com/Red-Shoes-Criterion-Collection-Blu-ray/dp/B003ICZW8C/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1280883702&sr=8-1.