Amoeblog

Near Perfect LPs from Death Waltz

Posted by Charles Reece, August 13, 2012 01:42am | Post a Comment
I'm pretty much committed to getting every release so far announced from Death Waltz Recording Co.. They're putting out LPs for great cult scores, which are either newly remastered for these editions. Some are appearing for the first time on vinyl (e.g., Zombi 2 and Let the Right One In). I'm really happy that the additional cues from Carpenter and Howarth's Escape from New York can now be heard sans dialog interludes on vinyl (the inclusion of which was what I didn't like about the Dagored release from about 10 years ago). The company has also hired a great bunch of artists to do the covers:

Out Now:

let the right one in death waltz
Johan Söderqvist's Let the Right One In - art by Candice Tripp

zombi 2 death waltz
Fabio Frizzi's Zombi 2 - art by Graham Humphreys

escape from new york death waltz
John Carpenter & Alan Howarth's Escape from New York - art by Jay Shaw

What Sight & Sound (Mostly) Missed: My Personal Top 20 Films of All Time

Posted by Charles Reece, August 3, 2012 06:49pm | Post a Comment
Sight & Sound has released its "Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time" list for the decade. The good news is that Hitchcock took over the number 1 position from Welles and Eisenstein was kicked out of the top 10. About time. The top 20 from the list are: (1) Vertigo (2) Citizen Kane (3) Tokyo Story (4) The Rules of the Game (5) Sunrise (6) 2001 (7) The Searchers (8) Man with a Movie Camera (9) The Passion of Joan of Arc (10)  (11) Battleship Potemkin (12) L'Atalante (13) Breathless (14) Apocalypse Now (15) Late Spring (16) Au hasard Balthazar (17/18) Seven Samurai and Persona (tie) (19) Mirror (20) Singin' in the Rain. This got me to wondering: which films do I always feel like watching, regardless of what I'm reading, thinking about or feeling? After about an hour (which is more time spent than these kind of lists are probably worth), the following is what I came up with as the films that have and will likely continue to provide me with the most enjoyment, discarding any historical concern for the aesthetic enrichment of the cinematic commonweal. In no particular order, my 20 list:

bladerunner poster
Blade Runner - Ridley Scott

sweet smell of success criterion cover
Sweet Smell of Success - Alexander Mackendrick

high and low criterion cover
High and Low - Akira Kurosawa

Malazan Book of the Deaden: Gardens of the Moon

Posted by Charles Reece, July 30, 2012 10:37pm | Post a Comment
 gardens of the moon steven erikson 

Having long since caught up to George R.R. Martin's progress in finishing his A Song of Ice and Fire saga, I've been on the hunt for some fantasy methadone to make waiting for the man a little more bearable, but, most importantly, only if it doesn't make me wonder why I'm not reading something else. (It's always been much easier to find well-written science fiction.) One such series that's regularly suggested in Google searches is Steven Erikson's 10 volume Malazan Book of the Fallen (e.g., this site suggests it's one of the best, as does NPR's list). I was wary, since its densely imbricated world has its origins in Erikson and co-creator Ian Cameron Esselmont's formative years as role-gaming enthusiasts (the latter has his own series of novels based in the same diegesis). But most writers don't have Tolkien's background in history, language and mythology, so the counterfactual worldbuilding has to come from somewhere, I guess. Besides, Martin himself has been influenced by gaming and my goto critic of weird fiction, Jeff Vandermeer, seems to admire the series. So I tried the first book, Gardens of the Moon, only to suffer through it until page 221 (of 484), when I threw in the towel. The possibility of nine more volumes of this:

The flat tone of her voice told Toc that her invitation had not cost anything -- and this horrified him, shook him to his very core. A quick glance showed a similar response from Tayschrenn and Dujek, though the latter veiled it.

was too much. It doesn't matter who the 'her' refers to or what the invitation is (it's the Adjunct Lorn, FYI, inviting the person who killed her family, the sorceress Tattersail, to the dinner table as a show of political tact), only that without knowing anything about what's going on, you can tell exactly what everyone's emotional reactions are and that this woman is very capable of coldly repressing her own. There's no character opacity here: even though Dujek "veils" his reaction, the narrator assures the reader that this character, too, is "horrified." Page after page, the book reads like a dungeon master telling his players what they're facing. Erikson hollows it out further by assigning every character clearcut roles from the D&D manual: a thief, an assassin, a soldier, a mage, a god, etc.. This is adult fantasy only relative to a lifetime of reading Dragonlance novels.

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Holy Terror, Batman! Some Thoughts on Violence in The Dark Knight Rises

Posted by Charles Reece, July 22, 2012 11:56pm | Post a Comment
jeff koterba batman shooting cartoon

There are plenty more insipid cartoons about the recent "Batman shootings" where Jeff Korteba's came from. I don't use it as an example of the decrepitude of political cartooning (it's always been the world's lamest artform). Rather, the cartoon exemplifies a certain misreading of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy*: the vigilante Batman displaces real world law and order in the superheroic fantasy. In which case, the films' audience needs a reminder of who we should fantasize about, namely the guy who really puts his life on the line. However self-critical his films are, Nolan is too much the well-ensconced liberal advocate to ultimately use the character as anything more than an imaginary supplement to the status quo. There is a reason, after all, why the revolutionary violence in all three films is treated as pure chaos for chaos' sake. Batman doesn't represent change, but a much needed (or so the narrative goes) restoration of order.

Sure, the Joker scores some good points against hypocrisy when he sounds like Walter Benjamin in advocating "divine violence," a resetting of cultural values to zero, destroying the occluded underground byways of systemic violence that capital requires to continue (just think of the modern sweatshops used in manufacturing the iPhone, for example).** And Catwoman sounds like Bertolt Brecht as she gleefully portends what Bane's about to do to Gotham's stock exchange (e.g., "robbing a bank's no crime compared to owning one"). Nevertheless, these are the villains of the trilogy, not the heroes (Catwoman only becomes a hero when she fights to restore order). That's why Ben Shapiro over at Big Hollywood has it right: this is a conservative trilogy.

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The Late, Great Ernest Borgnine

Posted by Charles Reece, July 9, 2012 10:12am | Post a Comment

Here Ernest Borgnine tests the faith of William Shatner in The Devil's Rain. The former died yesterday.
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