Freitag, 31. Dezember 2010

The Best of 2010 Comics Gift-Getting Guide

While plenty of places will provide you with lists of what gifts to get for comics-loving friends and family prior to the holidays, it’s my tradition here on the Cool Kids Table to wait until after y’all have gotten all those nice gift certificates and store credits and then let you know what to spend them on.

There were a bunch of great comics this year, and while I’ve singled out 22 collections here I think deserving of your dime, I also encourage you to check out my Comics Worth Reading archives for some I may have overlooked.

Using a very specific story structure over the first almost year of Avengers Academy—the first person narration shifting from one cast member to the next each issue—I think Christos Gage has pulled off the ever-challenging task of introducing half a dozen really intriguing new characters who I’m already invested in. The series has yet to have one true overarching multi-issue story, which I kind of dig, as it gives the book a different feel and sets it apart with the emphasis really being on character and relationships over big action (though the fights are still well-done, don’t worry). This first volume provides a wonderful introduction to a unique and entertaining series with superb art by Mike McKone and others plus some fun guest stars to boot.

As I so often do with Grant Morrison’s work, I couldn’t fully appreciate it until all the pieces were on the table. Am I too impatient or just not smart enough to get it earlier in the game? Quite possibly both, but I still credit Morrison with being able to ratchet up the satisfaction level when it comes to that crucial “A-ha!” moment. Speaking of satisfaction, there’s a great deal involved when a story really feels like it has been building up for some time as this one has—it’s what makes good long-form television a success—not to mention when a truly great bad guy finally gets what’s coming to him, and we have both here. I also like that everybody from Dick Grayson to Damien to Commissioner Gordon to the freaking Joker—Frazer Irving’s Joker is so creepy!—and of course Bruce Wayne gets a nice spotlight without it feeling overloaded. Honestly, I feel like if you haven’t been reading Batman the past couple years, you’ll get a nice filling adventure here and if you want to sample the rest, it’s there for you, plus the set-up to the next intriguing age.

Of all the comics I was expecting to dig in 2010, I can certainly say Batman Beyond was not high on that list, but here we are. I never watched the cartoon regularly, but the Return of the Joker movie and the characters being featured on Justice League Unlimited a couple times was enough to endear them to me. Adam Beechen did a nice job with this series of immersing you immediately in the odd but familiar world of future Gotham and mining the Bruce Wayne-Terry McGinnis dynamic for its inherent strengths. I found myself caught up in the Hush mystery—though a bit let down by the “big reveal”—and enjoying the new additions to the Beyond canon like aged Dick Grayson and Catwoman Beyond; good primer for what I hope will be a nice ongoing.

Tough choice between this one and The Self-Preservation Society in terms of my Boys pick for 2010, as the latter had some rad standalone origin stories, but the actual action arc didn’t do so much for me, whereas both arcs contained in The Innocents are just wrenching. The story the book is named for sees Hughie going undercover in a Legion of Substitute Heroes pastiche and the way Garth Ennis handles bonafide good guys who want to be super heroes in the horribly corrupt world of The Boys is both a little heartwarming and massively heartbreaking, plus Butcher gets a kick ass moment in the midst of being a prick. The second story, Believe, is a heartbreaker, as Hughie finally learns the truth about Annie and amidst the jokes and violence is the moment we’ve been anticipating/dreading played with almost depressingly real emotion and heart. Definitely missing Darick Robertson’s art, but Russ Braun has stepped up admirably. If you think The Boys is just about shock storytelling, I’ll say as I do every year that you’re missing out.

I’ve said so much about how incredible I think Daytripper is this past year and I stand by all of it, so I’ll save me and you some time by linking to those thoughts and just reiterating that this is one of the most gorgeous, moving and poignant stories I’ve read in some time that I’d recommend to anybody, comics fan or no.

Jonathan Maberry and Scot Eaton’s Black Panther(s and friends) versus Doctor Doom mini-epic hit a sweet spot in my fan nerve that craves unfettered, old-fashioned “good guys fighting bad guys” stories with a dash of social relevance, but more importantly a heaping helping of outlandish action and the kinds of crazy chess moves you don’t see anywhere else but comics. Maberry wrote one of my favorite takes on Doom in years, doing justice to one of Marvel’s most complex and powerful villains while not cheaping out on the megalomaniacal speeches and insane plans. On the flipside, the T’Challa of this story is great in his role as the good guy who’s not so much a hero but rather a politician and master strategist, willing to engage Doom in a way few others have and go way outside the box. Eaton’s art is a perfect fit for the type of fun you get when you pit the X-Men, Fantastic Four, Deadpool, War Machine, etc. against an army of Vibranium-enhanced Doombots.

It may have taken a little while to get there, but the conclusion of Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris’ multi-years mash-up of politics and super-heroics was worth the wait—not too surprising since BKV is one of the strongest finishers in comics. The final multi-part story was smart, harsh and unrelenting, with a great mix of intelligent social commentary and science fiction action with an added element of unworldly unease; in short, it was a good snapshot of everything that made Ex Machina what it was. The final issue, however, was really something, from the pay-offs to the shocking moments to the lengths BKV didn’t mind going to with Mitchell Hundred’s character right down to the ending I did not see coming but smiled and nodded “of course” to as soon as I turned that last page.

I love when Fables flashes back to tales of the Homelands, breaking away from the ongoing narrative and allowing Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham to switch up storytelling styles, and this year’s “secret origin” of Rose Red was a fun, impactful story that made nice use of the concept’s central conceit—fairy tales twisted and refined with modern conventions and humor—to catapult a great character towards her next phase. That aside, this collection also contains the momentous 100-page 100th issue of the book, a true triumph for the creators with an awesome flat-out fight with Mister Dark—one of the creepiest villains in all of comics right now for my money—and the culmination of several simmering plots even as new ones begin. I’ll be interested to see how many of #100’s extras make the trade, but even just the main stuff alone is gold.

Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul’s first arc on the “reborn” Flash accomplished something I thought nigh-impossible: It made this diehard Wally West fanatic at least warm up to the idea of stories starring Barry Allen as the Fastest Man Alive. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my hang-ups as far as Barry being a bit bland and believe Wally has way more of an upside, but Johns the exaggerated Silver Age nobility of his lead and makes it work with a tale that takes the best characteristics of that era of storytelling—the boundless enthusiasm, that no concept is too over-the-top—and marries them to his modern bag of characterization and pacing tricks for a satisfying ride. The metaphors about speed or timeliness would usually make me groan—and they still do sometimes—but they work here as they would nowhere else. Johns also still writes the Rogues as among the best villains/supporting cast around and Manapul’s energy is palpable.

Just as The Muppet Show did last year, Archaia’s anthology of stories inspired by Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock took hold of a beloved memory from my childhood and pulled it into the present in a way I fully enjoyed as an adult. No question Fraggle Rock is perhaps the weirdest of Henson’s weird concepts—Dark Crystal aside—but the creators who worked on this book were able to grasp this quirkiness and use the mythology to build neat tableaus to entertain readers of all ages that showcased all the unique characters and settings available; great fun, hoping for more.

The DC Universe’s true outsiders finally found a place I think they’ll be comfortable for some time to come, and I think Judd Winick is doing some of his best writing in years in the process. I’ve said this before, but it’s always seemed a shame that while the Justice League International characters are likable and well-realized, they haven’t worked beyond humor and nostalgia guest shots in awhile; by putting a chip on their shoulder without hardening them too much and giving them a legitimate threat only they can stop in Maxwell Lord, Winick has done wonders and created an intriguing little mystery that’s funny and really explores the characters. Add in solid artwork from pros like Aaron Lopresti and Joe Bennett and this was my pleasant surprise of the year.

Certainly Bryan Lee O’Malley had a self-imposed series of hard acts to follow in crafting the finale to his Scott Pilgrim opus not to mention a high exposure movie to run up against, but I was really satisfied with Finest Hour and think the man deserves a hearty “job well done” both for this volume and the larger work he created. Perhaps better than any other chapter of the Scott Pilgrim story, Finest Hour gives equal service to the underpinning emotional coming of age story and the crazy video game action world, with the first portions of the book feeling about as real as it gets in terms of Scott coming to grips with his own past actions and then the finale being the most balls crazy final fight you could ask for. I don’t want to get too far into analyzing the nitty gritty as finer minds than mine have already done so, but I closed this book feeling satisfied and look forward to cracking it back open in the future.

I’m certainly not the first person to say Zeb Wells and Chris Bachalo realized a horrifying potential never before reached in perennial Spider-Man nemesis The Lizard with their story “Shed,” but I won’t disagree with it. The Lizard has always been an interesting character as far as the tried and true but evergreen trope of his alter ego Curt Conners being the unwitting vessel for a monster not to mention one of Peter Parker’s few loyal allies, but Wells didn’t fall back on that as a crutch, instead really tossing the human to the wind and embracing what a primal tale of terror you can tell with an antagonist who is nothing but animal savagery unleashed. “Shed” is frankly uncomfortable to read, but that’s what sets it apart and gives Lizard new life as a bad guy whose appearance is cause for genuine unease. Bachalo—aided by Emma Rios—is the perfect choice to lose himself in depicting a world completely off balance with the evolutionary scale tipped way out of whack.

For the better part of a year, the creators and editors responsible for Amazing Spider-Man have been setting up the dominoes of juicing up Spidey’s villains while simultaneously weaving a larger story in the background involving the Kraven family. Joe Kelly had the tough task of knocking those dominoes down while also crafting a story that would overturn part of Kraven’s Last Hunt, one of the best Spider-Man stories ever—so no small task, but as he generally does, this writer rose to the occasion in my opinion. The tone of Grim Hunt shifts organically from Spider-Man going about his business in that usual cavalier manner to our hero experiencing anxiety and rage the likes of which he perhaps hadn’t since his last encounter with Kraven, and in that mood shift, Kelly really does something neat while also placing this arc right in line with Last Hunt and earning the connection. It’s a full-on saga that features a full range of heroes and villains as well as seemingly multiple incarnations of Spider-Man, a tricky return for a great character that works, a heavy emotional payload and perfectly gritty art by Michael Lark that just looks pretty.

I love Paul Tobin’s Marvel Adventures Super Heroes for the fun, funny, well-crafted stories featured month in and out in wonderfully bite-size portions, but also because it has honestly one of the coolest Avengers line-ups you’ll find anywhere: Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, The Invisible Woman, The Black Widow, The Vision, and, of course, Nova. Tobin is a master at meshing these disparate personalities for maximum entertainment as he cues up action and adventure for his artists to bring to life. This volume features the birth of the new team plus battles against such oddball foes as Diablo, Plant Man and The Silver Surfer; it’s extremely different from just about anything else out there today and if you’re looking for a consistent monthly smile, you can’t do much better, beginning here.

No favoritism necessary for me to proclaim my buddy Jim McCann’s amazing original graphic novel from Archaia to be one of the best things I’ve read this year, because the work quite frankly backs it up. Jim imagines one of the kookiest and most intriguing new worlds I’ve had the pleasure to explore in years with his land of children and robots lacking in adults and the conventions they bring until the descent of the Dapper Men from the title. But as good as Jim’s story is—and it’s really good—I know he’d agree this would not have been the same without the sensational artwork of Janet Lee, whose eye-catching work blew my mind not to mention impressed the heck out of my mother, a full-time watercolor artist, showing how transcendent it is. I don’t feel it’s any exaggeration to say Jim and Janet have created a fairy tale for the modern age destined to be a classic.

I often overlook when a new issue of Secret Warriors is coming out as it’s a real under the radar book for me, though I do tend to enjoy it; I think part of that is that Jonathan Hickman has made no bones that he’s laying out a finite tapestry here, so it’s designed more to be read as a complete work down the line rather than having standout single stories. That said, Last Ride of the Howling Commandos was a real neat little arc dropped into the middle of this year, with a bit of a break from the byzantine big picture to focus in on Nick Fury’s war-time buddies in a split story between a sentimental little guest spot from Steve Rogers and a blistering climactic campaign from the old warhorses. With character depth and considerable scope, this was Secret Warriors at its best.

Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning brought their chronicles of the Marvel cosmic universe to a major head this year, paying off the Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy ongoings with a suitably epic event that returned one of the best villains around in Thanos to prominence, provided memorable geek out moments like the rise of the “Cosmic Avengers,” and featured major sacrifices to really hammer home what a big deal this all was. Nobody does this stuff quite like DnA, and it will come as no surprise to anybody who knows me and my proclivities that I enjoyed the heck out of this and saw it as a worthy bookend to Keith Giffen’s Annihilation, which it referenced more than once. Up against a neat and imaginative threat like the “Cancerverse” and its corrupt champions, the cosmic heroes shined as DnA along with Miguel Sepulveda showed why the best good guys in the galaxy don’t necessarily live on Earth.

I think me and the rest of the Internet have said about all we can say at this point about how great Thor: The Mighty Avenger is, but if by some chance you still haven’t given it a shot, well, you’re nuts. Whether you know Thor or don’t, whether you even like comics or not, this is a book that can show you why both are great and why we have a really neat way of telling stories over here, Roger Langridge’s tale of a man struggling to rediscover his home and finding a new one along the way is one that can resonate to anybody and Chris Samnee’s heartfelt and playful art only sweetens the pot. Grab this first volume and you will for sure be back for more.

Probably my favorite ongoing super hero comic of them all right now, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man had another strong year as Brian Michael Bendis continued to mine the brilliant idea of Aunt May having a “super hero halfway house” where Spider-Man, The Human Torch, Iceman and Gwen Stacy live while Kitty Pryde and Mary Jane show up to hang out for all its worth and then some. No book does soap opera better, and devotee of teen drama that I am, I eat this up like it’s ice cream laced with crack. There was also actual action aplenty, be it the boys trying to train the wildly out of control Rick Jones—who may or may not be Ultimate Nova—to use his powers of the Chameleon siblings taking over Peter Parker’s life, but the real meat is the quiet emotional stuff, be it the fears of a teenager who now has the power of a god or how a nasty shapeshifter can really ruin your life if they don’t care. This series seemingly doesn’t know how to lose momentum and I applaud Bendis and his talented artists for constantly reinventing it to ensure it never will.

pretty picture: ginger snow ballerina

today's pretty picture is in honor of my snow-loving-ginger-ballerina best friend who lives in minnesota.  she is going through a hard time and today i will be reunited with her and will hold her hand and wipe her tears and tell her everything is going to be alright.  not exactly "fun," but i am glad to be able to support her.

image via

Jeffrey Meyer covers Multiforce

Original cover by Mat Brinkman; Picturebox 2009. Jeffrey Meyer's website is here.

Donnerstag, 30. Dezember 2010

One More Paragraph Movie Review: Invictus

If you don't have plans to see this movie, you can check the spoilers here and then come back.

Morgan Freeman's performance as Nelson Mandela is absolutely brilliant, but unfortunately the only thing I have to praise in a movie I expected way more from. To stay on the positive for a moment, Freeman is able to portray Mandela as both larger-than-life and yet remarkably human, unfailingly optimistic yet tortured, and with great humor yet equal sadness beneath the surface. It's a downright inspirational turn that makes you want to cheer as he nails every speech, making it worth sitting through the scenes surrounding them--almost. Despite clocking in at over two hours, the story still feels like it jumps from beginning to end with no real sense of progression, the artificial momentum and moments of triumph feeling completely unearned, which is obviously a major problem in a story centered around sport. I don't feel like we ever saw exactly why or how a bad rugby team became good or a fractured country became united other than Nelson Mandela asked them to and they did; it feels like we skipped way too many steps between point A and point B and instead were treated to surprisingly dull game sequences with way too many long camera shots and laughable slow-mo sequences. Also, despite this being based on real-life events, the portrayal of just how important rugby was to Mandela in the nascent days of his presidency doesn't feel genuine and borders on a bit absurd, forcing Freeman to work even harder to legitimize him. Most disappointing for me, however, was Matt Damon, one of my very favorite actors, turning in maybe the worst work I've ever seen from him. Damon seems more focused on nailing his accent than infusing his role with any of his trademark enthusiasm and charisma, coming off extremely flat as a result. So while Invictus proved to me you can have an award-caliber lead performance in a movie that's anything but, it mostly just disappointed me.

Akumu Ink covers Superman 306

Original cover by Ernie Chan and Bob Oksner; DC 1976. Akumu Ink's website is here.

Tim Foley covers Ghost Rider 1

Original cover by Dick Ayers; Superior Publishers Limited 1951. Tim Foley's website is here.

quotation: wendy whelan on grace

words can't put into words how much i love this quotation.
& this image.  beautiful.

image via
[original source unknown]

Mittwoch, 29. Dezember 2010

Orgasmic gaming and life inside a Terry Pratchett novel

I wheeled to the library tonight, first day open after Xmas. I had books and manga to return and the library always had the excitement of unknown delights.
Upon entering the library, the 'quick-view' 3 day DVD's, free for check out (if you could find something good) are just on the right. They had just put out a new selection, two rows of DVD's from 2010, just processed that day: films and documentaries which, due to library closure would not be due back until Jan 3rd. I got Knight and Day and Robin Hood. The limit of the 3 day DVD's is two DVD's per card, but with Linda here that means I could take out four. I learned to take what looked good and then check against Amazon and Internet Movie Database to find the best. I got my computer assignment, the one on the corner at the back, facing the lounge chairs. I could wheel into it by removing the chair for it. Linda went to get some week long rentals from another section to check.

I had the IMDB open and was checking titles.

A Guy sitting 15 feet away facing me had wild beard, and unkepmt hair, with two layers of jackets suddently said, “Maybe you’re praying to the wrong god!”

I looked up startled. Oh dear, Beard-o had a steady stare at me. Had I talked to myself? I had been reading about the DVD in my hand: You shoot, I shoot. It was a ‘must see’ dark comedy satire film about too many hit men in Hong Kong, so while some hit gals are having a 'hired kill sale!',another hit man has a ‘bonus points’ reward scheme with a card you punch, pay for five assassinations and get the sixth for free.

Did a sigh of satisfaction for hit man humor indicate a sign of my divine dissatisfaction? Are DVD's the new religion? My daily offerings and collection would certainly make me a Shrine Maiden then. But maybe Beard-o wasn’t talking to me? I looked up.

Yup, still staring right at me. I lowered my head and looked up another DVD. What it is that makes guys need to confess odd things to me? While getting the DVD’s, a guy with 20 hairs of comb over stared at the DVD’s before turning and telling me he had not watched a DVD for an entire year. “Yup, all due to World of Warcraft.”

I told him I heard playing WOW can take up time.

He gave a sigh of longing and satisfaction which bordered on post orgasmic and said, “Oh, but it was worth it....every hour.”

And yet ANOTHER reason to avoid World of Warcraft.

At the computer, Linda had returned and now sat beside me. But Beardo rose, wandered deliberately over to the back of my computer and stood, his shoulder dropped towards me, connecting us as his voice lowered, to make sure only I heard he softly intoned, “Limited offer, okay. For a reasonable donation, I can go talk to MY god for you.” I felt like I was in a Terry Pratchett novel, perhaps of Small Gods and had annoyed an obscure high priest. He saw me startled hesitation and added, “Take it or leave it.”

I looked up from the computer, put on my best ‘please do not kill me’ smile and calmly told him that I appreciated the offer but I think I would ‘leave it’ at this time.

He brushed past and said with a bitter emphasis, “Then you won’t get NUTHIN!” and ambled toward the main library section.

Wow, that actually hurt. I had pissed off Beard-o, and felt some self doubt mixed with a tinge of rejection pain and the calm of finding out life is far more surreal than expected.

The self doubt played through my mind: Linda had just applied for one job, other jobs were finally, after almost a year, showing up for application. I hadn’t heard from the neurologist. What if I really had just alienated not just another doctor but a god?

I started laughing softly, then somewhat hysterically. After 10 seconds Linda wanted to know what was up. “I don’t get nuthin.” I told her. “Don’t you see, I don’t get NUTHIN.”

She just gave me ‘the look’.

“I didn’t DO anything” I protested, “Maybe he saw the wheelchair and meant that, who knows?”

I’d like to think that if I was ‘entertaining angels unaware’ it was not Beard-o, or the WOW guy, but the elderly lady next to me who I helped sign online after she had failed three times। I read out her card number to her and we double checked it on the screen. This time it worked. I told her I always had problems with my library number, too many zeros and six’s to not miss one. I hope that angels are those who check our generous spirit, rather than those who try to blackmail or extort. Maybe Beard-o was a pissed off Santa, who now I was on the ‘nasty’ side of the list (I know it is supposed to be ‘naughty’ versus ‘nice’ but I did NOT want to do ‘the naughty’ with Beard-o).

The library is always a place of mystery and adventure.

2010: A Year of Paragraph Movie Reviews

I did not get to see as many movies as I would have liked this year and missed quite a few I was pretty excited for (thankfully getting The Expendables on DVD for Christmas will go a long way towards evening the scales there). However, as the reasons why I was absent from the theater a bit more were in large part happy ones like visiting family or my wife wanting to stay in to study for nursing school, I’m ok with it.

Still, I did take in a fair number of flicks, and as is my want, reviewed them in paragraph form. Just like last year, here are some snippets from what I saw and what I wrote (and before you ask, I never review Marvel movies and generally don’t review stuff where I feel too close to the material and just want to enjoy, so yes I saw Iron Man 2 and Scott Pilgrim, no they’re not on here).

Inglorious Basterds
From the eclectic music choices (I love in particular Bowie's "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" as pump-up jam) to the constant movement of the camera angle and flourishes such as the title chapter cards, it's a smash job from the directorial end while the screenplay skillfully threaded a huge cast and disparate plot threads into a killer tapestry of kick ass. There was nary a scene not dripping with tension where I didn't cringe every time a character reached in their pocket or picked up a pen for fear of what was coming next, and yet at the same time the whole thing was just tremendous fun.

Sherlock Holmes
In general, I found Law's Watson whiny and irritating and couldn't for the life of me figure out why a cool cat like Holmes would want to hang with him; the best bromances or buddy teamings come from two guys good at different things who complement one another, as opposed to here where Holmes is such a clear alpha and Watson is just bitchy.
(BONUS: Here’s Kiel’s review!)

District 9
Ultimately perhaps the most disappointing thing about District 9 for me was that I think had they made the firm choice to be a light-calorie action movie from the start it would have been a good one, as Blomkamp clearly knows how to craft a blockbuster and Copley has a great sense of timing to toss out the one-liners. On the flipside, I was totally buying into the more down-to-earth angle, so I would have loved to see more of that too. However, when the two worlds mashed up against one another, I didn't feel fully satisfied with either.

Couples Retreat
Not a lot of depth to the plot as it's pretty cookie cutter stuff for the genre with the usual physical comedy bits thrown in, but points for there actually being some realistic stakes even if they're not blockbusters.

The Hurt Locker
This was not a showcase for acting, but rather for process, and I found myself appreciating that far more than I'm accustomed to. To that end, I understand and agree wholeheartedly with the praise for Kathryn Bigelow for her directing work as, again, this was an instance where I actually noticed things like camerawork and placement of set and was riveted by that in the place of over-the-top characters and performances. The use of silence, slow motion shots, shaky cams, lighting, etc. put me totally in the moment as I was utterly engaged in the dangerous situations the characters were placed in even if I found them disposable in large part.

Julie & Julia
I watched this movie pretty much only to see if I should pick Meryl Streep in my Oscar pool but ended up walking away with quite an enjoyable experience…Julie & Julia is one really good movie and one decent movie mashed together where the end result is fun, but runs perhaps a bit too long and makes you wait too long between courses; great comfort food though.

The Blind Side
The Blind Side is a fun movie about issues that aren’t so fun with a good cast that seems to enjoy what they’re doing; I doubt it will change the world, but I don’t think it sets out to...[This] role is such a departure from a lot of [Sandra Bullock’s] stock characters, showing her range, but she also walks the delicate tight rope of portraying a strong, tough female lead who gets her way by being blunt and outspoken yet does not make her just another “bitch.”
The Informant!
[Matt] Damon continues with these random fact voiceovers throughout the film and I could have listened to just that for the full hour and forty-five minutes because I laughed out loud nearly every time. However, outside of those little nuggets of goodness, the plot is so byzantine and confusing that I couldn't follow it to any great degree of satisfaction and found myself extremely frustrated.

Get Him to the Greek
[It] turns out not only does a more layered and nuanced Aldous Snow make for a great lead character, but Russell Brand has more than enough facets to his own talents to make it work; the stuff that was supposed to be funny almost always was with Brand's performance, but seriously, some of his more down-to-earth and heartfelt scenes were probably my favorite bits.

I wasn't so much blown away by Moon as deeply impressed; I don't think I'll be watching it again, but it held my attention quite well and I certainly came away with a deep appreciation for the work put in.

This movie had a tiny cast, which was perfect because it was composed entirely of actors I really dig. The actual zombie/comedy structure of the story was really incidental for me, as it was the characters, the performance and the chemistry that upped the quality and the post-apocalyptic setting just provided a nice backdrop for them to bond against.

To me, Inception was, at its heart, a really good heist movie; the science fiction and higher concepts trappings built around that central caper for the most part helped though in a few cases hindered the guts of the film. The world in which the story takes place does require a bit more exposition than I generally like to see in a movie, but for the most part the actors did a good job not making it too clunky and I think it was a good choice to have the idea of traveling through dreams be one the general populace was already familiar with rather than having one character be discovering it entirely out of nowhere.

The Baxter
It's not easy to come up with a clever take on the worn out genre that is the romantic comedy, but I proclaim this movie a success in that regard. Writer/director/star Michael Showalter's premise of following the jilted "other guy" from every other romcom who gets shoved aside so the destined lovers can get together in the end is a unique one with plenty of material to mine.

The Other Guys
As far as I'm concerned, [Mark] Wahlberg should do more and more comedic roles because he's so funny without even seeing to try that hard; just that he's self-aware enough to poke fun at his own tough guy image makes me chuckle. [Will] Ferrell is actually more of the straight man despite being so quirky here, while Wahlberg just throws wild temper tantrums, and it works.

Easy A
There are some films that are above all else a showcase for a single actor, which is what this was for Emma Stone, and she was spectacular, elevating the movie from something that would have been forgettable with another lead into the one we'll probably all look back on as her big star turn.

The Social Network
I'm impressed how well [David] Fincher and [Aaron] Sorkin paced the movie, as it comes in at a smooth two hours and never leaves you bored (it could have been longer). They definitely improved on the book in many ways, using it as a guide but not becoming slavish to it…[Jesse] Eisenberg's [Mark] Zuckerberg is like a robot or reptile who chillingly and without interruption moves from one task to the next with single-minded purpose; when he displays human emotions for even a moment, it's as if he's simply straining to mimic those around him rather than feeling for himself, and it works perfectly.

The Kids Are All Right
Rather than being about coming together or overcoming anything, this movie showed how some challenges can be insurmountable when it comes to interpersonal relationships, people don't always live up to your hopes for them even if it seems they will at first, and yet in the end there is still the lesson that those who truly care about you will find a way to make it work. There is positivity in this story and just enough feel good, but you come to it through a filter of refreshing realism.

I am so glad I ignored every review and all conventional wisdom to watch this dumb movie. There was certainly nothing to distinguish it as any sort of classic, but it provided me with a bizarre and intangible entertainment for an hour and a half...and for this I am grateful.

Black Swan
Enthralling, engrossing and frankly terrifying at times with a last half hour that will blow your mind, this is maybe the most intense and well-done psychological thrillers I've ever seen and among the better flat out movies I've been to in quite some time. If ever I've seen an instance where a director can be a star, it's here, as this film has Darren Aronofsky's fingerprints on every aspect and is the better for it by far. However, as much as Aronofsky brings as a director, Natalie Portman matches him as an actor, delivering the most breathtaking performance I've ever seen her give.

pretty picture: malgosia bela - up close & beautiful

i just think this photograph is stunning.  love the eyeliner, love the freckles, love the bright purple scarf.  i'm completely captivated.

beautiful malgosia bela was photographed by vincent peters
from vogue germany, march 2007
image via

wedding wednesday: vera wang fall 2k10 - organza

ack -- almost forgot about wedding wednesday!  i've been so busy preparing for the opening of my store [which sells prom gowns] that i seem to rarely know what day of the week it is.

anyways, i remembered just in time! 

so here are a few exquisite gowns from the always-incredible ms. vera wang ~ fall 2010 bridal collection.  i've chosen gowns with exceptional organza work, in honor of an argument i had with a coworker regarding one of our organza gowns today [i loved it, she hated it!!]

organza, organza, organza - ohh how super pretty & utterly dreamy organza can be!

images via

Jeffrey J. Manley covers Usagi Yojimbo: Grasscutter II - Journey to Atsuta Shrine

Original cover by Stan Sakai; Dark Horse 2002. Jeffrey J. Manley's website is here.

pretty picture: mini ballerina

it's been a really rough week... yes, i realize it's only wednesday, but it's been rough... except this picture really, really, really helps!!

hope it made you smile!


Dienstag, 28. Dezember 2010

Rob Steen covers Man-Thing 8

Original cover by Mike Ploog; Marvel 1974. Rob Steen's website is here.

Illness: the three ghosts versus the dream of that day

Xmas and Holiday time for me is about those ghosts (as I seem a social one, making 'oooooh' noises and chain clanking from my study), ghosts of past, present and future. They are not just the Dickens tale but the emotional fluxes as I/we move from the past, through the present to the future. And with those experience, while others go from the pre-independence of family obligations to the empowered future promises, I move backward. I live as the Angel of History, watching my past piling up at my feet, while unable to turn around, never knowing the future.

This is my ghost of the past: I had misunderstood ‘pace’ for ‘value’, and believed the fallacy that because I had more options, I made better use of them. So sure, I did everything because it was expected of me, because it was what ‘good girls’ do, because I didn’t know what else to do. And sometimes I did it because it was exactly what everyone didn't want me to do.

This is an error we make individually and as a culture: that slower, or that ill or disabled means having less worth, less meaning.

What do you want to do when you grow up?

I was always asked that. So why is that when I meet family, I don’t feel grown up at all, as I fall into old habits and everyone works so hard to make me 15 again.

When I meet my brother, he tries make me feel the younger sibling: to parents I will always be the child that needs to be ‘taught right’ or feel guilt because I must have done something.
I used to come back from family visits with frustration, relief and depression: frustration that they didn’t seem to want to know me as much as try to make me 15 again. Relief from being at MY home with my space and my place, but also depression because I hadn’t lived up to the expectations I thought they had for me, or I had on myself.

I will always long for my brother to be proud of me, his wife proud of me, and my nephew, and most of all my parents. The aunts and uncles, and cousins I wanted to show that I could come back to this town where my being a fourth generation means rare part of city history, and show them that education wasn’t ‘stupid’ or ‘a waste of time and money’ or ‘airy fairy’ but something which not only gave me joy but gave them someone to brag on.

Love withdrawn hurts.

Yes, that is a stupid reason to come back or act at all, but I feel it all the same. Whether I have this or Lupus, or CFS/ME, Fibro, depression, whatever disability or none at all I would still feel that I have to adjust to SECOND best. Or perhaps lower than that. Every person walking with purpose past me makes me feel ashamed, not just for me, but for the expectations I carry: that I’m supposed to show what all that time taking degrees was worth.

Yet have I ever had a job I didn’t try to change, to take on the next two levels of bosses? Or doubled my hours?

This is my ghost of the present. That feeling that I never tried hard enough, goofed off too much, or worked hard enough. And that life has passed me by.

The joke is that this, right now, is life. And it is each of those who turn away, not I, who are passing life by.

New Year is where we see the ghost of what we can be, when we ask ourselves “Is this what I want to do, and who I want to be?” And we challenge ourselves by making a list, perhaps looking too much like the list of last year, to vow the change that will occur: we will be changed men and women.

Terminal illness, late stage reverses all that, and I need the security of a family not there, to be held, supported, and being able to be HERE, without worry, not pressured about the next "What are you going to grow up to be?", medical or otherwise.

This is my resolution, to stop looking, and learn to trust me and those who accept me, as that is what matters. I won’t be able to meet all expectations, and I will be doing less, and often just surviving. Some days I can’t even do that myself, because I am fragile. I wish I wasn't but I am very fragile and need one or at times two people to assist me, to do the very basic things to keep me going like food, water, air, movement, so that I get a few hours on a day like today to 'do', like writing this down.

I did the math and the 30 postcards I did this weekend, if I had my normal life, would be three months volunteering. Yeah, it is just a postcard, or a note, or a present, but for me, it is 1/50th or 1/40th of my waking life. And soon I won’t be able to do that, and then I won’t be able to write.

What ever time is left, and it isn’t that much I can’t be a late 30 year old, or Dr. McClung doing research, or an impish teen or hot goth crip, but all of it and none of it. I don’t have time to be other than what I am that day (which sucks as all the good manga I want to read is coming out in may, and Sakura-con is late April. There is one manga coming in May Ai Ore! (Love Me!) where the ‘princess’ from an all boy’s school and a handsome and butch ‘prince’ from an all girl’s school find themselves interested in each other through music, while they bend which gender is supposed to do what, and have to fight the expectations of their schoolmates, particularly the same sex ones in love with them).

The Butterfly is apt as a symbol I think for those living with many chronic, life threatening or terminal illnesses. They are butterflies with invisible wings. For the caterpillar’s life is changed and lost, a time of pain, sorrow and loss, before learning how to become something new, not flight like a bird, or focus on the ground like the caterpillar of before but something between. It is through the struggle, and pain, adjustment that such fragile wings emerge. We cannot be what we were, or try to maintain that path. I cannot be what I was, or planned to be, or wanted. I have to learn new dreams. And I respect those who take the time to accommodate me, and see the wings and achievements made, not in comparison of last year, or six months ago, or last month, but in joy of a life being lived. These are the real friends, but the few friends.

It is hard, as people forget we trained, we were like them once, that we had big dreams, big ‘accomplishments’. So they trundle on out of view while we still are scatching at our large dreams (day to day), realistic or unrealistic dreams which know the limitation of our illness and accept it or blast through it. The secret of being FIERCE is being brave enough to know the likely outcome and act anyway, because this is what that day is about.

I know that there is supposed to be balance, and spoons of energy, and good and common sense. And that probably works for 95%+ of individuals.

I know my parents stopped coming to field day because I entered into the 100 meters, 200, 400, 400 relay, 800 relay, 1600 relay, mile, hurdles, and high jump and the comments were, “She’s not going to make it.” or “Why doesn’t someone stop her, can’t you see she’s in pain.” It was LA, summer, and yeah, I had my head back, hanging loose as I sucked smog that hurt to breathe, but I was still running and I was in third place.

Later, after being able to walk again, and once I had gotten the knee operations I was told I had to be careful, very, very careful. My knees were carved up, and no more chancesL: so I trained in running marathons. When preparing for a qualification competition I ran over 100 miles each week and at least 10K every 8 hours. I read the best marathoner had run 100 miles a week, so I tried to keep at 200 miles a week. This was all perhaps stupid but it was all very me.

In Manitoba I used to run around and around a track, and Linda counted the times around, 54…55….56, I tried to stay ahead of the bugs. This and working driving a fork-lift and doing custom paint mixing if you can believe it. I think it was Linda counting the laps that made me understand that I had someone who understood that my dream was just that, a dream, not something logical. Yet she waited for me, bugs and all. To find a friend who understands this is to find a real friend; a co-companion through life.

I don’t know what secret dream you have in your heart. I still want to go to the Olympics, and of course, lead a rebellion in the streets. But if over a couple days, I write this, then I finished another race, and I’m sorry, I’m off to the next one. I would love my friends to see and be with me. My dreams are just dreams, and with help, they might happen, they might not, but I WILL try: brick wall in the way or not.

I’ve got a limited amount of time and my ghosts of past, present and future say this: 'stop listening to us'. I will live the time I have as I can, sometimes resting, and sometimes going 'Banzi!!!" (CHARGE!), and if you want to, you can help me, join me or get the hell out of the way.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...