What We’ve Been Reading
Clint’s Reading List
A.D.: After Death – Scott Snyder & Jeff Lemire
Snyder and LeMire is a winning combo and everyone should be reading this! I’m not a fan of Snyder’s endings most of the time; his “you decide” style can get very frustrating for anyone looking for absolute closure but in this it completely works. LeMire’s sketch style meshes perfectly with Snyder’s prose, the minimalist art crossing with the formulist display of Snyder’s prose to create something that isn’t quite a novel, isn’t quite a comic, but embraces the best aspects of both. There are no wasted sentences, no dialog balloons delivered for exposition, but what comes of the read is an experience that astounds the mind. It forces us to contemplate what really comes of not just existence but scientific progress but the minds behind it, the manipulation of reality we experience every day. This novel is only 3 issues in length and is coming out in a hardcover, find it any way you can and read it. We have a critical analysis of the book coming out next month so stay tuned!
The Walking Dead: Days Gone By – Robert Kirkman
I had to re-read this for class so strap in, you’re about to hear me both cry out in ecstasy and bitch at the same time. Kirkman’s first foray into zombie comics is both ground-breaking and cliche as hell, in no small part because he helped define the modern cliches. The book takes a lot of time to build the human elements and has, to this day (over 120 issues in!) refused to define the intricacies of the infection. This first volume contains the first arc, a soap opera that asks us to look at not only our socio-political interactions but how hopeless they become. The dialog is heavy-handed and blunt, but it gets the point across acceptably. Kirkman asks us to look at more than the small victories and this is his statement in its entirety – the idea that even surviving a small moment (like most zombie movies) isn’t enough because the horror continues.
Patience – Daniel Clowes
Dan Clowes does it again! This was my first exposure to this comic and so much of it reminds me of Manchester by the Sea, the way grief is discussed in such a frank and melancholy way. It also reminds me of Memento, the pieces and fragments of a former life dictating who one will become despite the act of rending. Clowes tells a very different type of story than he did with Ghost World and honestly this might be the better work, though much less defining for an age. What he achieves in this is the story of patience, of pain, and of perseverance as well as obsession and suffering. Within each panel lies some exposure to suffering and pain, each image calling to mind the idea that we are human and that this life sucks, but it isn’t without good points. The comic is a desperate call to hold on to these moments, to happily suck out each and every drop of them and that we create them.
What We’ve Been Watching
House of Frankenstein – This is it, this is the film that saw Universal finally bring all 3 of their biggest monsters together. They’d done Frankenstein’s Monster meeting the Wolf Man, but adding Dracula to the mix brought a whole new level of fun and ridiculousness to the mix that I found lacking in a couple of the previous installments. Boris Karloff returns, but not as the monster. Instead we see him as Gustav Niemann, a doctor who escapes prison with his hunchbacked sidekick to resurrect Dr. Frankenstein’s legacy. Meanwhile we also come across the frozen remains of the Doctor’s monster and none other than Lon Chaney, Jr.! The man is still playing the furry beast, still waxing about the sign of the pentagram and his curse, and still turning into a beast to kill people. This is a weird little mashup story that does not give enough time to its monsters, but it winds up being a blast all the same. Modern Universal can try all it wants, until it embraces the horror of what it is trying to do with this “Dark Universe” thing it will not achieve the success that this franchise figured out 80 years ago.
Closer to God – This screened at Fantastic Fest to middling reviews last year, but with the concept I just had to take a look. The plot revolves around a scientist involved in cloning, one who creates a baby named Elizabeth. Religious aggressors as well as staunch defenders come together to argue about it’s effects on humanity as the man’s life crumbles around him due to a previous experiment. One thing that I have an issue with in this film is just how on-the-nose it gets. I don’t mind the subject matter, I think it’s fascinating to discuss, but the blunt discussion and condemnations in the film aren’t justified by its slow and methodical pacing. It wants desperately to be the Ex Machina of cloning films but it lacks the depth of character development to raise it up above this idea, and I found myself glancing at the run time quite often. The film only clocks in at 80 minutes, so that’s not a great sign. I think this is an interesting experiment and something worth watching for fans of things like Cronenberg’s The Brood but is it worth watching? Well…sorta. This has been a controversial film, and not for the subject matter or for the high-horse attitude towards those against things like cloning, but merely for the fact that the film is only ok but people keep coming down on extremes with it. It’s worth your time, but don’t go out of the way for it.
The Uninvited – No, this isn’t the 2000’s remake of the early 2000’s Japanese horror film that really annoyed me. Instead, this is the 1944 horror classic. I love this film, but more because it isn’t all that frightening but rather comes off as an accidental Rom-Com set in the horror genre. The film involves a brother and sister who buy a beautiful old house for a steal of a deal, only to discover it is haunted. Sounds like a ghost story, right? Well it is, but it brings in other aspects. The film also includes a meet-cute and a relationship that doesn’t sit well with a young woman’s grandfather. Our characters stay involved in the haunting but it takes a backseat for a while, allowing the relationship to develop more. It comes back around to the more eerie aspects but honestly this feels more like a date movie than a fright-fest. This is on Guillermo del Toro’s list of favorite frightening films and that baffles me but it’s a blast to watch and one of my favorites to toss on if I’ve got 90 minutes to kill.
The Royal Tenenbaums – This is such a beautiful film. I’m not close with my father most of the time, we just differ on so many issues, and what Wes Anderson created strikes so close to home for me. My father isn’t the bastard that Royal is, he isn’t the fake cancer/racist/manipulative/scheming monster that Gene Hackman portrays, but we don’t understand each other. My dad is a fastidious conservative, religious to his core, and I’m a slovenly heathen. We do basketball games together, work out together, and even watch movies together on occasion, but I have never shown him this masterpiece. I suppose it is because I’m cowardly, that I’m scared my dad won’t get it and that he won’t understand what it means to me, but that shouldn’t still be an excuse. This film about fathers is something I should be using to help my father understand what I hold near and dear, what life means to me and what I crave. It should display to him the reasons I’ve chosen a family of friends over my real family. I cry every single time Ben Stiller utters the line “I’ve had a rough year, dad,” and rightfully so. Every year is a rough year, and they get harder with each one, but your father is supposed to be the rock you lean on. I’m not the childhood business genius that Richie is (though that would please my father). I’m not the brilliant writer that Margo becomes (though that would please me greatly). I’m far from the sports star that Chaz Tenenbaum is. Yet, hidden within all of this, is a line that reminds me how much we rely on father figures in life. We crave it, whether through social programming or human nature, and we can’t escape it. This is not my favorite Wes Anderson film, but it might just be the most beautiful of the lot and is the one I have revisited the most recently. It pushes me to love my parents, despite their flaws, and makes me want to move forward from being a child into adulthood despite the daunting task that seems.
The Neon Demon – I keep…freaking…watching this! I don’t know why either. It’s a great film, don’t get me wrong, and undeserving of the split reception it keeps getting. Refn has created something intricate, far more so than what he did with Drive. The narrative is blunt, telling you within the first ten minutes what you’re going to see (“Are you sex, or are you food?”) but you can’t help but look away. One thing that keeps you around is the beautiful color palette, the blues and reds and pinks almost hypnotic in how they’re displayed, and the score is the sexiest thing to come out of 2016. I’m not an apologist for this film, I just think that some people missed what he was going for. This is Refn’s attempt to recreate Mulholland Drive and while he isn’t 100% successful he definitely made something worth paying attention to. Hell, after the flunky mess that was Only God Forgives this seems a masterpiece. I can’t wait to see what the director does next, or the composer. This reinvigorated my interest in Nicolas Winding Refn and I hope it only grows from here.
Oh Hello on Broadway – Nick Kroll and John Mulaney star in this Broadway performance of their theatrical comedy Oh Hello as two elderly men with hilariously checkered pasts, and even more absurd current goings-on. The show itself is entertaining and unique, as it begins with something of a monologue from the two stars, in character, describing the play-within-a-play you are about to see. From there it satirizes many theater tropes while incorporating Kroll and Mulaney’s improv and stand-up comedy style. It’s not a film that’s accessible to everyone, the theater and absurd humor will definitely not be to everyones taste, but if you have an interest in comedy or theater I think you will find a lot to enjoy here.
What We’ve Been Listening to
Clint’s Listening List
The Message – Well folks, we’re in the era of major industry podcasts. This isn’t always a bad thing, and this one proves it. The Message is a full arc told in 8 short episodes, easily binged within a morning (I had it finished before anyone else arrived at work) and it is completely gripping. All of the standard tropes of fictional podcasting are avoided, instead leaning on the medium itself as an idea. What Panoply and General Electric were able to accomplish is astounding, with beautiful sound design and characters that aren’t deep but that make sense within the world. Each episode builds to a climax and honestly I’m desperately awaiting season 2, it can’t get much tighter than this. Alien messages, disease, and code-breaking all await you.
Life.After. – Another podcast from Panoply, this one is contained in the same feed as The Message and I found it tangentially. While not as addicting, this one is interesting nonetheless. The plot follows a man that has lost his wife and clings to what is, essentially, her Facebook page. He is confronted with the digital form of her ghost but at a price – he must sell himself out to those that created her from her electronic memories in order to spend time with her. This hostage negotiation evolves into an interesting thriller that has a satisfying conclusion, open to further entries in the series. It isn’t as good as previous podcasts mentioned but remains addiction nonetheless and is worth a look if you’re into this kind of thing.