Here on the Sandy Dunes

Stuff I have read and watched since January.

The Master

Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012

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I didn’t see a lot of 2012 movies and most of them have degraded in my memory.  So “The Master” has retroactively taken up my best movie of 2012 thingie.  It’s a frustrating movie but enjoyably so.  Slow, intentionally inscrutable, sparse in story or even connective threading between set pieces it relies on its exquisite photography and the charisma of its actors to do lots of acting. Not overacting, mind, just a lot of acting, maybe “Big Acting” is a better phrase.  It is the style of acting in all PT Anderson films, where the characters start broad and then go deep while staying broad somehow, so “Big” seems fitting.  The movie continuously made me question my own readings of stuff because those readings felt right but too simple, too easy. Duality and the Id versus the Ego, and how those two sides wish they were more like the other didn’t seem like they were good enough.  Is it weird to appreciate a movie for making me feeling intellectually inadequate? The answer, of course, is yes.

Django Unchained

Quentin Tarantino, 2012

jamie-foxx-as-django-in-django-unchained

This on the other hand is so exactly what it’s about that I got everything in one go. I read somewhere that somebody said it was “entertaining but not very good” ( I think it was the mightygodking blog) and that pretty much synced up well with my impression of it.  Id have to say this is his second least good movie with “Death Proof” being the bottom and they suffer from the same problem of over-indulgence.  “Death Proof” he over-indulged on dialogue to the point of shrillness and the death of that movie’s pacing.  This one is just badly paced.  He could of cut 45 minutes out of this fucker with no loss of plot and whatever texture those scenes provided (texture being a phrase I picked up from Robert Evans and have grown to love) are acceptable losses.  Man, this thing had a plot contrivance so glaring that it just picks at your brain and I always try to write around spoilers but this time…

SPOILERS

Now I figured the reason that they had to use a ruse to rescue Broomhilda was because King Schultz didn’t actually HAVE 12, 000 dollars.  So when they get caught and Schultz actually just has 12,000 dollars on his person in his wallet…then why the ruse? Why bring Django? Why not just approach him to buy alone to buy Broomhilda for 12,000 for the reason that he wants a German speaking slave?  Calvin Candie couldn’t refuse such an offer.  It seemed like the only reason they had to do any of this is because Schultz didn’t want to fork over 12,000 if he didn’t absolutely have to…so it seems like the whole second half of the movie happens because he is a stingy bastard.  This was too big a logic gap for me to ignore.  If the movie had tighter pacing it probably would’ve been able to skate right past it, but I had too much time to think about it.

Marvel Comics-The Untold Story

Sean Howe, 2012

marvelcomics

The prose in this is really economical and has a lot of pop. For every one bit of data I already knew as a comics fan I learned five new things on top of that.    The last 20 pages about the company could have been easily excised since all of the people who would have anything interesting to say still work for the company and we’re not going to here any of the behind the scenes juice about the stuff going on right now for a long time.  Plus. his heart was clearly in the 70’s and 80’s  parts of the book and I have a feeling he had to excise that stuff the most to hit his page count. I’d be very interested in reading a whole book by him that expanded those two sections.

Red Harvest

Dashiell Hammett, 1929

red harvest

This book is known for being the inspiration behind Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo” and Leone’s “A Fistful of Dollars” though those movies are a lot more clear cut in terms of morality and how many sides are at play.  They both have heroes who are dirty and scoundrely but ultimately altruistic playing two equally bad gangs against each other so that they take each other out.  This is much murkier.  I lost track of how many people the main character (known only as The Continental Op, because he’s an operative of the Continental Detecive Agency) was playing against and what there relationships were to each other.  But the character is engaging because of his motivation.  If the corrupt cops and gangsters had left him alone while he did the one job he came to do he would’ve left the town quickly and as it was. But they fucked with him so he decides to burn it down.  It didn’t hit me till way after I finished it but this would’ve been an awesome Walter Matthau movie from the 70s.  Something that would have slotted in nicely between “Charley Varrick” and “Hopscotch” two other movies where his schlubby charm is cover for the fact that he’s smarter than everyone out to get him.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2013

It’s hard to give off sexy vibes in a Wendy’s

Three movies big 2012 movies, none of them Django Unchained.

The Hobbit-An Unexpected Journey

Peter Jackson, 2012

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The success of The Lord of the Rings movies are that they were able to cut and reshape a dearth of text into three movies with form and momentum and though I don’t love them (I like them fine but I don’t need to see them again) I respect them.  I’m a believer that you can get more from cutting than adding…Peter Jackson has very much gone the other way. This is a guy who made “King Kong” 3 hours, if ever there was something that was made to be 90 minutes long it’s that.  The Hobbit is that kind of bloated and it will be that bloated two more times.  I was talking to somebody and said I didn’t care for this but I’d be back for the next one.  She asked me why I would do that.  I had nothing.

“Less is only more when more is no good.”

Frank Lloyd Wright

Skyfall

Sam Mendes, 2012

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Of the 23 James Bond movies that count (whatever) I only think 5 or 6 of them are actually good and the rest can be dismissed to that land where I’m not bothered they exist but don’t bug me about them.  Those 5 or 6 however I think are REALLY good and a couple are favorite movie status.  This squeaks in the bottom of that list by being technically accomplished and well-done all around. The stuff in Hong Kong with the window reflections genuinely wowed me by being something Seijun Suzuki would do. Daniel Craig made me feel inadequate about my body which is the correct feeling.  And it is Dark Knight James Bond and that’s fine because its really the only other pre-existing character that could map onto (certainly not Superman) It falls flat on its face in the last five minutes because it doesn’t trust the audience to draw easy conclusions or try to deliver those conclusions in any sort of naturalistic way.  For the victory lap it was taking I can understand why it was done just not why it was done so badly.  It wasn’t the most heavy handed thing I saw though because I saw…

Lincoln

Steven Spielberg, 2012

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A movie that constantly gets in its own way.  The part at the beginning where he talks to the soldiers at the end is terrible.  Not because it couldn’t happen in real life because it could but because it shouldn’t happen in a movie in 2012.  It only serves the purpose of setting up that anytime Lincoln opens his mouth in this movie it’s to tell you the meaning of the movie (slavery bad.)  All the stuff around it about the house of representatives and the vote buying and the weighing of ending the war right away versus getting the 13th amendment passed, the stuff with James Spader and Sol Star is excellent…all the scenes without Lincoln really.  More times than not it all grinds to a halt when Lincoln is around. Dealing with Joseph Gordan-Levitt’s dull storyline and more of Spielburg’s daddy issue stuff (I’m sick of daddy stuff in movies and other things I consume) or with Sally Field complaining about being thought of as crazy but is nothing but crazy in the movie.  And the end…I could go on a long thing but this sums it up succinctly.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2013

Spooktacular 100th Post

It’s my 100th Post! I watched a bunch of movies for Halloween! It’s November 1st! Shit.

House on Haunted Hill

William Castle, 1959

The twist and reversal at the end along with Vincent Price’s charisma make this thing hang together better than it should. It suffers from some half-decisions and bored acting from the side characters.  This could have really popped if it had committed to the conflict of the man-made frights and the supernatural instead of just having that one whiny guy talk about ghosts that never show up.

Let the Right One In

Tomas Alfredson, 2008

Austere in presentation, sincere in its feeling, meaty in unpacking its implications…I’m gonna have to write a longer one on this. Stay tuned.

The Sentinel

Michael Winner, 1977

This one is almost there in so many ways.  A well-stocked support system of veterans (Burgess Meredith, Ava Gardner, and Eli Wallach) and soon-to-be names (Christopher Walken, Jeff Goldblum, Beverly D’Angelo), some weird 70’s fleshiness, and a strong ending are among its good points. But sub-plots are revealed as time-fillers, the main characters shifts from the girl to her boyfriend and back again too often and you can never invest in him because of his greasy mustache.  The leading lady is the big problem especially at the end when it should have been like her head was about to explode and instead it was just girlish shrieking. Some good, some bad, solid C, three star sort of movie.

Blood and Roses

Roger Vadim, 1960

It’s an issue of House of Mystery with Alex Toth art.  It’s the director fetishizing his wife who he cast in the lead and getting her to do also sorts of lesbian stuff on film. Like Arthouse swingers.  Dig that fish miming scene from a different movie in the middle.  This was alright.

The Thing

John Carpenter, 1982

Gruesome and thrilling.  Strangely for a movie that’s all about a monster that could be everybody it is very upfront about and matter-of-fact about its kills and what it presents.  Whether it is playing the corners like in Halloween or something as big as this Carpenter does not bullshit with presentation which I guess the more economical term for that would be economical.

The Night of the Hunter

Charles Laughton, 1955

I knew this movie had a reputation but I did not know what that reputation was until I started watching it and had to make myself find out.  Southern Gothic x German Expressionism. Weird exclamatory monologues.  Fast, fast pacing for the first half.  What I thought the whole movie was going to be ended up playing out within the first 45 minutes and so I was taken by surprise by what the rest of the movie ended up being.  Very charismatic and it’s a shame that Laughton never directed again. Shocking this got made in the 50s.

Twitch of the Death Nerve or “Bay of Blood” or A Whole Lot of Titles.

Mario Bava, 1971

Visually striking, fantastic kills, highly influential for the slasher genre in those terms.  The plot is so boring and muddled it took me three sittings to get through it.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2012

Evil Afro 1-In Which Things Get Swirly

Marvel Premiere #1

“And Men Shall Call Him…Warlock!”

Roy Thomas-Writer

Gil Kane-Pencils

Dan Adkins-Inker

Sam Rosen-Letterer

Been a long time since I’ve gone back and read my own work. I may have said this before over in “Daredevil Minus Daredevil”.  I go out of my way to not describe the story or the plot beat by beat. To me, that is not an essay or a review, that’s a recap.  However upon consideration, I will be starting these with a broad recap of the issue but in the best way that I can.

This issue is mostly NOT about Warlock he is pretty much a non-player till the end. This comic mostly concerns itself with The High Evolutionary. He is a stock Marvel Comics Super Scientist who could be    evil or not evil depending on what the story called for.  He monologues into a space recorder on his spaceship for many, many pages about his personal history. Mostly how he became a 2001 Space Baby and didn’t like it so he decided not to look like that anymore.  He finds Warlock, who had previously gone only by the name Him in the old Kirby comics he debuted, floating in a cocoon out in space. He sticks a camera in the thing and talks to Him while he is still inside the cocoon allowing them to monologue at each other…did I forget to mention High Evolutionary created a bunch of animal people?  The main one is a wolf monster called Man-Beast.  Anyway High Evolutionary creates a Counter-Earth on the other side of the sun with the hope of creating a world without violence. He passes out midway through the job and Man-Beast who had been observing all this sneaks aboard his spaceship and introduces violence and fucks everything up making Counter-Earth like Earth-2 but in the same universe.  Him busts out of his cocoon and scares off Man-Beast and then the High Evolutionary sends him to Earth to be Space Jesus. Because he’s God. (Two meanings! )

That is the broadest recap I could do and that is still a hell of a paragraph. That’s how dense comics were back in 72’ folks and they weren’t all Don McGregor awesome wordiness sometimes they were Roy Thomas shut-the-fuck up faux formal speechifying.  This is very much a Roy Thomas comic from 1972 indeed.  The nexus point between the Roy Thomas that wrote some awesome Avengers and Dr. Strange comics and was pretty terrifically creative and the Roy Thomas who has no other interest then in making all comics fit together into a super-structure.  This comic is 70 percent people talking at each other about their continuity. Roy Thomas LOVES that stuff.  He is always down to recap other comics that he read.  At this moment in time   Thomas is using his power of obsessive continuity tracking to create new plots. He sees Him and the High Evolutionary floating around in space and decides to make his Passion Play in Space comic.  1982 Roy Thomas doing the same thing would try to figure out how they connect to the Golden Age for some reason.

The other part, the creative part is that Roy Thomas is still into space fantasy and God and Jesus metaphors are some easy things to slot into that sub-genre and Thomas would just be in his Early 20s just enough, at this time,  to really believe he was getting into some deep shit (which is why I would say that when Mike Friedrich takes over, without reading those yet, he is realllly gonna take that ball and run with it because he was totally invested in that mindset of just Believing.) Gil Kane definitely plays with the pages of the creation of the Counter-Earth. It’s all a kaleidoscope of swirls and orbs and clouds becoming these thin shapes that are supposed to represent Earth and then going through the history of the Earth and drawing Cavemen and Barbarians and as many floating heads as he can stand to draw. I will say that the trade-off between the nagging verbosity of the prose is offset by the fact that the art is always showing something fascinating going on.  Gil Kane is the Gil Kane of Marvel at this point and can give anything a spitshine at this point…not that this needs a big one.  Picking at it aside I did enjoy it. It was asinine and unwieldy in a way I could get behind.  Fuck it, Space Jesus comics 1972.

Next time, Adam Warlock meets some Groovy Teens!

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2012

What I’m gonna do now.

Okay, writing on this blog has been really spotty. I’ve been working a lot, I’m back to school and I’m lazy.  I’m not ingesting enough movies TV or music or books to do anything nor do I read a lot of new comics anymore. I’m blocked on any sort of creative writing and it’s because I’m not doing any writing at all. That’s the point of this blog to practice writing.  I enjoy subjective critical writing.  I’m gonna write about old comics because that’s what I like, that’ll get the juices flowing again.  Luckily and stupidly both I have let two old comics projects stagnate.

The first is “Evil Afro” which was supposed to be about Jim Starlin’s Warlock comics.  At the time I planned to do those I worked at a comic book store and had access to the Special Edition reprints of those.  I got fired from that job, lost the access, and didn’t have the comics.  Now that they’ve put out Essential Warlock I can return to the project and not only cover those issues but all the Roy Thomas and Mike Friedrich issues before (I like Mike Friedrich so I was happy to find it was him and not Len Wein who had done those issues because I thought that for some reason.)

The other one was “Daredevil Minus Daredevil” which covered the last year of Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr.’s Daredevil run.  I got an issue in and it stagnated again for no reason at all really.  The Funnybook Babylon podcast covered those issues here. Quite a good evaluation.  I’m gonna cover them in the order I dropped them.  I also wanna write about Ed Brubaker comics in the near future. I’m gonna try my best to get back to being somewhat regular on this but this is what its gonna be for a while.  Maybe a few other dashed off things.  I also I’m past the second year of this blog and it’s due for a makeover and, again, content.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2012

Subtle Changes

Batman: Earth One

Geoff Johns, Gary Frank, Jon Sibal (Does he give everyone the weird teeth in Gary Frank comics?), Brad Anderson, Rob Leigh. Batman created by Bob Kane & Bill Finger

DC Comics, 2012

This reads like Geoff Johns notebook of ideas for what to do with Batman after Christopher Nolan leaves.  He might be able to have one or two more of these books out by the time Warner decides it’s time to reboot and he can go, “here you go, make this.”  What Johns does well, what he has always done well, is reset character concepts and tighten up connections.  His universes are pretty internally airtight.  His stories in the long term unfurl with clockwork precision, new information at the right time.  It is his actual issue to issue storytelling that has been a problem since he quit The Flash the first time.  Given the expanse of pages in Earth One you’d hope he could surmount this problem.  Not so.  Page after page I was agreeing with the resets of characters and base ideas he was putting out, “that’s a good idea, that’s a good idea, that’s a smart choice” ideas I could only acknowledge contrasted against what I knew already because I read Batman comics.  I can’t help, I always do this, but to think how a new fan would read this.  If the fan doesn’t know what new ideas are being brought to the table it just leaves the story. This is the story of Batman and some cops fighting a body-builder child molester and the mayor.  It’s a little boring and badly paced.  A lot of short scenes that needed more space and long scenes that could’ve been clipped, the Arkham stuff was odd and then easily dismissed, the “fight” between Alfred and Bruce could have been much shorter…I don’t think the new fan would like this. Especially in a world where Batman: Year One exists. Tell them to read that.

This and “Amazing Spider-Man” had a lot of structural similarities I realized after I put it down.  The difference between why I loved that and was lukewarm to this was that it, Spider-Man, had rounded out it characters as a trade-off to the plots it had left for resolution later, and Batman: Earth One doesn’t. Amazing had a plot we’d seen so many times before but characters that were enjoyable and a story that clipped along.  Earth One, it’s just positioning of characters into modified roles or starting them in modified roles and getting them closer to their regular roles and that’s not a story. That’s a plot and character descriptions. It’s an idea notebook.

It’s a bad comic book with character ideas used better elsewhere.

-Daniel Von Egidy, 2012