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I Luvz Me Some NOAH

28/03/2014

Noah_poster946While not a great movie, Noah is certainly a good one, and it is certainly the hands down front runner for the title of weirdest Biblical picture ever made.[1]  You can’t drag the Nephilim into your story and hope to stay within the bounds of normalcy.

Kudos to director Darren Aronofsky and co-writer Ari Handel for moral complexity, unexpected plot twists, good restrained acting, and top notch production values.  It follows the Biblical story closer than either the 1928 version or the 1966 version but it does add stuff that is not specifically excluded in the Bible story (such as how they kept all the animals quiet on the ark) and ends with a positive statement that we are most like God when we show mercy and love.

The middle portion is much stronger than the beginning and end, Anthony Hopkins steals the show as Methuselah, and the fallen angels vs. human army slugfest has gotta be the wildest scene ever filmed for a Biblical movie.

So why do so many people hate it, sight unseen?

A great many people objecting to it are doing so mostly because it says rapacious greed and treating humans like commodities are evil (there are hints of cannibalism in the film as Tubal-Cain’s army prepares to assault the ark).  As servants of Mammon and not God, these critics are appalled at the mirror-like reflection Noah shows of contemporary culture, and as such they feel duty bound to condemn it.

Noah gets more into the why & wherefore of the flood than previous versions of the story, and in doing so casts it in a light that doesn’t make God seem to be a petty spoiled child who kicks over the sand castle when things don’t go His way but rather a just and loving creator who realizes that humanity is far from perfect but if there is to be any hope of saving us from ourselves it is to save those who desire to serve Him and His creation (including other humans) rather than those willing to consume the planet with their own greed, gluttony, and lust for power.  That is what is driving the prejudice against this film.

God (referred to thru out as The Creator) is depicted as just and righteous, yet loving and merciful.  The destruction of the world is a human process, the flood is a cleansing one from God.

Noah is willing to serve God, but in the process makes an erroneous but not wholly illogical assumption; he does not act on that assumption but shows love and mercy instead.  This leads to his famous post-flood drinking binge because he feels he has failed God.  In the end of the film Noah and his family realize the flood was not to punish the wicked but to save the just from the unjust, and that we are closest to the image of God when we show mercy and love.

So far all the objections I’ve seen have either been from false-flag extremists or nit-pickers who regard any deviation from what they believe to be true and factual as blasphemy.

Does Noah take liberties with details in the Genesis story?
Yes, but without undermining the moral & theological core of that story.

Does the film state there is a Creator God who has the moral right to judge humanity?
Sure does.

Does the film state mercy and love are the most God-like traits humans can hope to aspire to?
Once again, affirmative.

Does the film have the Nephilim in it (referred to as The Watchers in the movie)?
Yes, and I think a lot of people are bugged that somebody dared to depict them other than the way they had personally imagined them.[2]

Has any movie ever followed the true Biblical account?
Movies are works of fiction using actors performing off scripts that are written and edited to form a dramatic whole; that’s why even with historical films we see events and characters dropped or melded together so that the underlying truth of the story can come through even if the actual facts can’t be emulated.

There have been hundreds of films based on various stories in the Bible.  This is one of three big budget Hollywood productions based in whole or in part on the story of Noah.[3]

What this movie does state clearly again and again is:

  • There is a Creator responsible for everything
  • This Creator has the moral right to judge His creation
  • Even those who believe the Creator has abandoned them believe He exists
  • A just God is more interested in saving the just (i.e., those willing to serve Him and His creation including the humans He has created) than in punishing the wicked
  • We are never more God-like than when we shown mercy and love

Sounds like Biblical truth to me…

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[1a]  Some would argue Godspell deserves that title and I would not oppose anyone who chose to argue that point.  But ultimately Godspell is a pretty straightforward adaptation of the Gospel of Matthew set in Manhattan with a troupe of circus performers adding song and dance to the otherwise intact text; it’s odd in appearance, not content.  Noah is like the James Tissot of Biblical movies.

[1b]  The question also arises as to just what is a Biblical movie?  Godspell, despite its odd style, is clearly meant to be the actual story found in Matthew; Jesus Of Montreal, despite being one of the finest religious allegories ever made, is not the gospel story per se but a story about the gospel story; a fine distinction but a real one.  And The Sign Of The Cross, the only religious based movie to give Noah a serious run for the title IMO, is technically not a Biblical movie even though it occurs during Paul’s time in Rome.

[2]  That’s one of the things that makes this movie so weird for a Biblical film: It actually shows stuff that no other Biblical movie has shown before.  I think the style of the presentation is what is bothering some folks, not the actual content.

[3]  It’s certainly closer to the text than the 1925 version (which was forgiven its egregious departures because it was presented in a pious manner)or 1966 version (which was just an all around bad movie, no matter how sincere the film makers were).  We shall not speak of the Disney adaptation with Donald Duck as Noah (admittedly a more even keeled Hollywood personality than Russell Crowe).

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The Living Dead vs The Vampire Kingdom

13/02/2014

vampirevszombiescaldwelleasley

Stan Lee Media is at it again…

art by Caldwell Easley

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The Best (And Only Good) Jar-Jar Binks Story EVER

6/02/2014

GRB 1_2

GRB 3_4

GRB 5_6

GRB 7_8

GRB 9_10

by Tony Millionaire
originally found here
(thanx to Brian Hughes)
oh, and I guess (c) & TM by
LucasFilm and/or Disney

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I Luvz Me Some NOTHING LASTS FOREVER

4/02/2014

NLF nothing-lasts-forever-1

For a movie that I didn’t even know existed until about 2pm yesterday afternoon, Nothing Lasts Forever has quickly won a place in my heart.  The only feature film to date by Tom Schiller, an Emmy-award winning writer who made numerous short comic films for Saturday Night Live and documentaries on a variety of subjects, Nothing Lasts Forever is one strange / quirky little movie that manages to pull off one of the most difficult challenges for a film maker:  Shoot a contemporary film that looks like a classic Hollywood production.[1]

I’m not saying Nothing Lasts Forever is a perfect film; far from it.  But when it works it works oh-so-well and its loopy story of a musical fraud turned wannabe artist who gets recruited by an empire of hobos who secretly run New York City to fly to the moon on a bus and bring love to the lunar colony dominated by colonialist consumers just ain’t the kinda thing you see every day at the mega-plex.[2]

NLF Nothing-Lasts-Forever-ears

The film near seamlessly mixes contemporary footage with stock shots from classic Hollywood films[3] .  The story never quite jells, shifting gears abruptly and jumping from premise to premise, but Zach Galligan and an astonishing supporting cast — includes Dan Ackroyd, Bill Murray, Imogene Coca, and Calvert DeForest (Larry “Bud” Melman on David Letterman’s old show) among others — keep the story rolling with fresh, funny characterizations.

NLF worst-nothing-lasts-forever-1984-

Add to that a never ending stream of often subtle sight gags and Nothing Lasts Forever should easily keep any old and / or oddball film lover interested.

NLF nothing-lasts-forever-3

And just where can you see this jem?

As the Vick’s people would say:
Aye, there’s the rub…

For reasons not entirely clear, the original distributor never made much of an effort to show the film in the US:  Apparently just a handful of test screenings then the film was yanked and seemingly forgotten.

It has fared better in Europe, but even there is is considered a cult item.

Part of the problem may be legal (entanglements with various rights holder re stock footage in the film) but more likely it’s just that this film is so far afield of anything done by mainstream Hollywood that one can’t feign surprise to learn no major distributor in the US wants to handle it.

Luckily, however, there is YouTube, and if you hie thyself over there,
you can catch Nothing Lasts Forever in all its delirious black + white glory.

How long it’ll stay up, I dunno.  But currently it’s your only chance to see one of the quirkiest film made in the last 30 years.

(Big tip of the bloggin’ editor’s eyeshade to The Austin Chronicle, Musing Of A Cinematic Obsessive, Midnight Only, and Popblerd for supply back into & screen caps of the film.)

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[1]  Among the very, very few that have pulled it off have been Man Of The Century and The Artist, both highly recommended.

[2]  Oh, that old story…

[3]  Since most of the exteriors were shot in Manhattan, and since much of Manhattan hasn’t changed in the last century, the melding is quite good.

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Howzabout Some Vintage Nazi Spaceship Pr0n?

10/01/2014

I get all sloppy sentimental (but not about Nazis!)
after the jump so I’m front loading the link & pictures
then will bore you to tears on the other side.
You have been warned.

VSF Weltraumschiff_I__1 flipped

VSF polaris2

VSF vlcsnap-1669869

VSF vlcsnap-1670124

 

Read the rest of this article »

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The Funniest Comic Strip Dailies Of 2013

31/12/2013

My picks for the 10 funniest comic strips published/put on the Web in 2013.

Criteria:

#1 – Must be funny. (There were a lot of touching/poignant/inspiring/awesome strips this year but only the funny ones made the cut.)

#2 – Must be fresh. (Otherwise this list would consist of Peanuts re-runs.)

#3 – Must be family friendly. (Anything over the edge got cut even if it made me laugh.)

#4 – Must be fathomable. (i.e., punchlines that were the pay off of lengthy continuities, long-running gags, or required esoteric knowledge of the strip in question also got cut.)

10 Least I Could Do 20130513

Honorable Mention: Least I Could Do

Ryan Sohmer and Lar deSouza’s Least I Can Do is a sharply written, flawlessly drawn, often hilarious webcomic about Rayne Summers, one of the most charming sociopaths on record.  As it is a living embodiment of the term “NSFW” (though incredibly without using explicit images or obscenities), it’s also pretty much permanently excluded from competition (though the Sunday strips focus on Rayne in his childhood and as such are family friendly in a raucous Calvin And Hobbes sorta way).  Sohmer and deSouza occasionally interrupt their main story with brief so-called true-life accounts of their (mis)adventures at various comic cons.  One such strip finally gets them into the finalists’ circle.  Welcome, boys.

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09 poc130110

Honorable Mention: Pooch Cafe

Pooch Café vacillates between competently amusing and wickedly brilliant.  Here Paul Gilligan takes a risk with a wordy set-up and gets his well-earned laugh.

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08 13 07 30 Willy n Ethel

Honorable Mention: Willy ‘n’ Ethel

Joe Martin always lands somewhere in the top ten, frequently with each of his strips making an appearance.

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07 13 01 15 Zits

Honorable Mention: Zits

Jeff Scott and Jerry Borgman never fail to perfectly capture the tension between modern teens and their parents.  You never see Archie and Jughead doing this!

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Runner Up: Pearls Before Swine

Well, that got weird in a hurry.

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05 20130621cscwh-a-p

Runner Up: Cats With Hands

…and that…

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04 13 04 22 One Big Happy

Runner Up:  One Big Happy

…and that.

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03 hev130613

Third Place: Heavenly Nostrils

Dana Simpson is methodically and hilariously engaging in complex magical world building with Heavenly Nostrils, but does so in such a perfectly understated way that the average reader isn’t aware of it.  Here is one such perfectly executed understatement.

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02 Gil 20130804

Second Place: Gil

One of the most common complaints leveled against modern (i.e., post-Peanuts) comic strips is their purported lack of draftsmanship.  Norm Feuti shows he can stand up to the best of the old grandmasters with this well drawn, utterly charming, and ultimately character driven summer time Sunday strip.

01 13 10 08 Boffo

Grand Prize Winner: Mr. Boffo

Anybody can parody Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks; Joe Martin goes for a meta-gag on the painting itself.

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Jolly Old St. Nick

11/12/2013

Bad Touch Santa

Picasso Santa

“You wanna piece of me…?”

Naughty Santa

“And All Through The House”
Vault Of Horror vol.1 no.35
EC Comics

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Movies You Don’t Think Of When You Think Christmas Movies

9/12/2013

yeah, yeah
It’s A Wonderful White Christmas Carol Story On 34th Street instantly springs to mind whenever somebody says “Christmas Movie” but here are a few you should give thought to as alternative programming for the season

Hell’s Heroes

HellsHeroes 32_720x500

Hell’s Heroes is the first sound version of The Three Godfathers, most famously filmed in 1948 with John Wayne.  Based on the novel by Peter B. Kyne, Three Godfathers has been filmed officially six times (2 silent versions, 3 talkies, 1 TV movie) and unofficially more than can be counted (see below).  Hell’s Heroes is my favorite take on the tale, a story of three doomed desperadoes who sacrifice themselves to bring an infant to safety across the trackless desert.  It pops up occasionally on TCM so tell your DVD-R to look for it.

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Tokyo Godfathers

Tokyo Godfathers

So how in the world does a novel set in the American West translate into an animated feature set in 21st century Tokyo?  Very well, thank you.  The time and setting and characters have changed but it remains essentially the same story:  The desperate, the doomed, and the damned prove their humanity by saving an infant on Christmas Eve.  Highly recommended.

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Die Hard

Die hard card_blog

Oh, yeah, like you didn’t see this one coming…

 

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

on_her_majestys_secret_service_xlg

The only James Bond movie with a song about Christmas trees.

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The Junky’s Christmas

the-junkys-christmas

Now, I know what you’re thinking:
You’re thinking “Buzz has finally lost his pea-pickin’ mind.  A story about a petty criminal drug addict trying to score a fix is his idea of a Christmas story?!?!?”

As a failed veep candidate would say:  ”Hew betcha.”  ’Cuz The Junky’s Christmas is William S. Burrough’s meditation on the act of compassion even when it runs contrary to one’s own self-interest.  It’s the story of a jonesin’ user who has the choice of feeding his addiction or helping a total stranger who needs his fix even more than he does.  Read the original short story, then watch the marvelous animated puppet film.

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Christmas On Mars

Christmas on Mars

No, this is the film where I finally lose my pea-pickin’ mind.  Christmas On Mars is an indie sci-fi feature by the Oklahoma alt rock band, The Flaming Lips.  It’s a clever, well made, intelligent, thoughtful, and ultimately uplifting tale of human colonists on Mars just trying to get through their daily routines without collapsing into despair and depression.

You see that Parental Advisory on the disc cover?

PAY ATTENTION TO THAT!

I recommend Christmas On Mars highly, but if you are among my many friends who are easily offended (and remember, if I think something might be a little iffy you can guess how far on beyond zebra it must be) take heed:  The aliens are modeled on something that’s incredibly NSFW.  Santa Claus Conquers The Martians this ain’t…

 

Honorable Mention:
L.A. Confidential

LA_Confidential_Newspaper_Display_2Say what you will, the LAPD knows how to throw one helluva Christmas party…

 

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I Don’t Know What To Make Of BEES IN PARADISE

18/11/2013

In a lifetime of seeking out odd movies, few have come odder than this.  If you’re a fan of low brow bawdy English musical hall comedy, offbeat low budget films, and/or a sci-fi completist have we got a movie for you!

bees in paradise 1944 - workers

Bees In Paradise is a 1944 quote quickie[1] produced while England was still in the thick of WWII (though eventual victory was in sight).  It mines the old trope of an idyllic society of females but does so with a decidedly contemporary twist:  Though World War Two is never mentioned directly, it’s clear from the dialog that the women in the story have in direct response to the conflict raging around them deliberately rejected the war-like patriarchy of the Western world and set up on a remote island a new civilization deliberately patterned after a beehive.  Males are kept (off camera) as workers and breeders; they have two months of mating time with a female in order to produce offspring and then they’re either executed or set adrift in a canoe!

bees in paradise 1944 - pockets

Into the middle of this crash lands a civilian bomber ferry crew.[2]  There is, of course, rivalry among the females for the four men, a lot of songs, silly vaudeville routines, musical numbers, and the obligatory English male comedian in drag.  What’s surprising is the straight forward discussion of gender politics, socio-economic systems, and women’s right to sexual self-determination.

Singin’ In The Rain this aint.

It also ain’t very entertaining.  Oh, you have no idea how much I wish I could like this movie, even a little, but it just never ever jells on screen.  Individual bits and routines bring an occasional smile (two comics try emulating a bit of Road To… movie business and when it fails moan that it always worked for Hope & Crosby!) but there’s just nobody in the movie to arouse any empathy with, the songs are clever and competent instead of actually entertaining, and the production itself looks rather threadbare (though they got excellent use out of sets left over from The Thief Of Baghdad).

bees in paradise 1944 - queen

I think it would be stretching things quite a bit to say that Bees In Paradise was an influence on Abbott & Costello Go To Mars or Queen Of Outer Space or even Invasion Of The Bee Girls, but it clearly got there first and did the most with the core idea.  To that we tip our sci-fi propeller beanies.

The movie was directed and co-written by Val Guest, who later went on to write and/or direct such B-movie classics as the first Quatermass films, The Day The Earth Caught Fire, and When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth; he was also part of the delirious, glorious mess that was the first film version of Casino Royale.  What interest Bees In Paradise has for film buffs is that it’s a decidedly offbeat take on English morale during the middle of WWII, using a sci-fi setting ala Twilight Zone to examine a more serious issue, in this case the rapid change in gender roles and expectations brought about by the war.[3]

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[1]  England restricted the number of foreign films that could be shown in the UK by requiring a certain percentage of home grown product for all films shown.  In order to get the more popular Hollywood features, UK distributors often booked cheap, inexpensive British made films to raise the number of allowable imports.  These were called “quota quickies” and were the equivalent of American B-movies (double features in the US would have an A feature and a B feature, so called because of their placement on the billing, but revenues for the double feature would be divided evenly between the two; US distributors would run low budget exploitation films along with higher priced major studio fare and receive a kickback from the low budget film maker).

[2]  Pilots and air crew unfit for military service due to disabilities or age often were hired to fly military aircraft from their point of construction to their theater of service, thus freeing military pilots for combat duty.

[3]  Meanwhile, as Guest was churning out this movie in merrie olde Englande, across the channel Marcel Carne was making his epic masterpiece Les Enfants Du Paradis right under the noses of the Nazis.

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“Don’t Think!” by Ray Bradbury

5/11/2013

Ray Bradbury w glasses cap

I never went to college — I don’t believe in college for writers.  The thing is very dangerous. I believe too many professors are too opinionated and too snobbish and too intellectual, and the intellect is a great danger to creativity … because you begin to rationalize and make up reasons for things, instead of staying with your own basic truth — who you are, what you are, what you want to be.  I’ve had a sign over my typewriter for over 25 years now, which reads “Don’t think!” You must never think at the typewriter — you must feel.  Your intellect is always buried in that feeling anyway. — Ray Bradbury

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