Category Archives: Reviews

Scenes of Explosive Disappointment

Adrian Tomine is one of the most enchanting and amazing cartoonists. Optic Nerve is so beautiful and heart-wrenching in its beautiful faint lines and mundane moments and quiet cynicism. Up until today, I would think that the high regard I hold for his work would prohibit a critical reading of his latest release.

Now that my drawn out declaration of adoration is complete, please empathize with me as I decry Tomine’s latest work, Scenes from an Impending Marriage, to be boring and uninspired. A fucking snore, to be precise.

I won’t be overly harsh, as I acknowledge that this book was only intended to be a wedding favor for guests. It was written for a captive and loving audience who was present to enjoy the fruits of their anguish. The book is an insiders joke, but without a punchline. I cry foul to whoever suggested that Tomine shovel this autobiographical drivel in to eager hands of adoring fans.

There is one highlight that made me smile:

That’s right, a single panel on page 29 drawn in the style of Charles Schultz made me smile. (Yes, this means that the best scene in the book made me want to crack open a different book.) The remaining panels are rich with moments of economic and social privilege countered with pandering liberal guilt, bookended with more boring anecdotes to leave me uninspired and annoyed.

A hero fallen? I wouldn’t go that far. I will take this disappointment, ball it up into a mini hate missile, and launch it at the entire wedding industry. Even Tomine’s beautiful sketches cannot make the beauty-salon-ritual, DJ-picking, honeymoon-booking, guest-list-building-exercise tolerable.

I close with a challenge. If you are a cartoonist who has a story of your wedding or commitment ceremony, I dare you to share the story of your nuptials. Until proven otherwise, I am writing off Scenes from an Impending Marriage as proof that comics of this genre should never be made.

We Love Movies! (Jeff Bridges 2010 edition)

(aka The Post In Which We Fawn Over Jeff Bridges circa 2010.)

TRON: Legacy (dir. Joseph Kosinski)

I left the my local theater feeling really uneasy about TRON: Legacy. I couldn’t shake the feeling that Disney totally screwed me over by pulling the rug from under my feet. All of the innovation and philosophy and tension and weird art of the original TRON film were gutted by discombobulating CGI and fancy-looking distractions to make the viewer not notice the lack of innovation and heart. Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn is interesting in a distanced way that lends nothing to the story. It pains me to say it, but too much of The Dude, not enough of Kevin Flynn. Ultimately, I didn’t care about a single character. In fact, I cared so little that I couldn’t suppress laughter when Garrett Hedlund as Sam Flynn would cry. I’m a dick.

The Daft Punk scene was nice, as were the light cycle battles, but the overarching impression is that the film was flat and uninspired. It’s a damn shame because as weird and scary as technology was in 1982, its even more pervasive and insane now. Disney screwed the pooch, which most likely surprises no one.

True Grit (dir. Coen Brothers)

First, everyone involved in this film, from costume production to cast deserve applause. The casting is spot on, location scouts did a great job (NM represent!), and this film restores the Coen Brothers in my eyes after the painful A Serious Man.

Jeff Bridges as the hero of the hour did a damn fine job as Rooster Cogburn. In fact, the whole cast was stellar. Everyone down to Barry Pepper got dirty and grimy and donned their costumes with an impressive commitment to their craft – especially Barry Pepper, because that man got UGLY for the film.

While this review is included under a proverbial marquee in which Bridges’ name flashes brightly, the fire and guts and awesome of this film is firmly on Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross. It is rare when a younger female is given the space to carry the film AND be the hero. In this film, she is the glue that binds the bad, the ugly, the human, the beautiful, and the touching. As these stories circulate around her – Cogburn as a sad drunk without direction, LeBoeuf as an eager but bumbling hero, Chaney has a hick idiot with a wicked trigger finger – the center of the chaos is Ross and her ability to harness the wild personalities while proving her skills.

Eff Best Of Lists

I am rigidly against ‘best of’ lists. I feel like they are a crutch for weak critics, and insincere at best. My reasoning? There is no way that you could get me to list my top 10 artists of the year, because my mood drastically shifts whatever objectivity I claim to have towards music/books/photography/comics/movies/etc. What can I say, I’m human. I expect critics to have the same conundrum. You should be passionate and introspective about your reactions to art. It should be impossible.

But, for the sake of getting to know each other and to create a time-capsule type post where I can go back in 5 years and make fun of myself, I’ll recount some of my favorite things from 2010. Please do the same, and share the link.

1. Favorite movie:

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, with Inception nipping at its heels. This is a tough choice, but there is one movie that I saw opening night and waited years for and pre-ordered the physical copy of, and one that I blindly stumbled upon and loved it with ferocity. Win goes to Scott P.

2. Favorite musical event:

Pavement at the Paramount, without a doubt. I was emotionally prepared for a disengaged Malkmus and a band who had been forced to revisit music from a bygone era, totally bored by songs over fifteen years old. Instead, I saw a group of friends who seemed to be loving their material and actively enjoying their reunited moment, complete with smiles and banter. Also, I got to be in the front row.

3. Favorite comic:

Oy, why am I doing this to myself? This is torture. My knee-jerk answer is the Love and Rockets: New Stories volume 3 release, on the strength of “Brown Town” alone. I totally reserve the right to change my mind.

4. Favorite television show:

Community continues to be my favorite show. I already discussed why Abed is a favorite character of mine, and the exploration of different tones was appealing. Unsurprisingly, my favorite episode thus far is “Aerodynamics of Gender.” Watch it if you haven’t. Comedy gold.

5. Favorite political moment:

(specific) Barney Frank‘s fielding of a dumb reporter’s question in the aftermath of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal.

(overall) The growing importance of non-mainstream news channels in the dissemination of information and the demand for accuracy (see: continued dominance of Jon Stewart and The Daily Show, the growing importance of Rachel Maddow, WikiLeaks, etc.)

6. Favorite older thing that I discovered this year:

Harry Nilsson, thanks to the documentary Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?). I don’t know how I lived my life without “You’re Breakin’ My Heart”.

7. Favorite book I read:

After Dark by Haruki Murakami.

(Another non-current pick, but my school load prohibited much recreational reading. Also, if you don’t like Murakami, we can’t be friends.)

8. Favorite webcomic:

Hipster Hitler. Making fun of hipsters is as tired as jeggings and Hamsters dancing to Black Street, but goddamn this comic makes me laugh.

9. Favorite photographer:

Jenny Jimenez. I feel nothing but envy when I look at how she beautifully brings the voyeur-like eye of a photojournalist to joyful occasions.  It satisfies my need for beauty and curiosity at the same time.

10. Favorite journalist piece:

Lindy West’s review of Sex and The City 2. Go read it if you haven’t. I’d say you could thank me later, but the real accolades clearly go to Ms. West. She brings a feminist eye and a comedians wit to a review that caught the eye of many.

We Love Movies!

Nerdcore Rising (2008)

A quick synopsis might read: MC Frontalot and friends get an idea to tour across the country in hopes of making it big. The band toils in quiet obscurity as they trek through America’s heartland, leaving underattended show after underattended show a little bit more defeated each time. The final stop of their tour is in nerd mecca Seattle, where thousands of adoring fans worship at the alter of Frontalot and his quirky bandmates. All the work pays off, and they all probably got laid.

Yawn, right? It’s a story that insists that you can be weird and make bad music (sorry to any nerdcore fans), but if you find your audience, you will be loved and adored and successful. You just need to sacrifice and work hard. Americans love these stories of bootstrap-pulling, hardworking, underdog successes. Its been a central tenet in our cultural milieu since conception of nationhood, and it will persist far after I question it in this review.

My bias firmly lies in my distaste for the music. MC Frontalot represents a lot of what is wrong with cross-cultural art theft. I’m not saying that white people can’t enjoy hip-hop, or even perform the genre, but I am saying respect the roots. Hip-hop rose out of the embers of a destroyed Brooklyn, ravaged by drugs and poverty and lack of voice. Nerdcore rose out of geeks wanting to play their weird music for each other and to try and harness to elusive cool factor of hip-hop. These privileged nerdcore musicians decide that they can contribute something to the lexicon of hip-hop, and never once acknowledge the struggle or heart or history of the genre they are performing. If the music is the heart of the film, it falls flat. The music reeks of privilege and lack of authenticity.

I admit I liked parts of the film, but only because it ends showcasing how nerdy and awesome Seattle is. PAX is awesome, and I’m glad to see that the attendees can find it in theirhearts to love this guy who may or may not deserve the attention. WEIRD PEOPLE UNITE … or something.