On Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert

A few days ago, the country lost one of its greatest minds in the realms of film and criticism. Though there have already been a superfluous amount of articles memorializing the reviewer from the Chicago Sun-Times, it would be a mistake to not acknowledge a man who has had such a profound impact on film.

It seems that today just about anyone can hop onto a computer and consider themselves a critic (myself included), but serious criticism is harder than ever to come by. I won’t go so far as to say that Ebert was the greatest American film critic, but he was a symbol for a bygone era where films were more intellectual than entertaining and criticism wasn’t skin deep.

Ebert’s appreciation for film influenced my own through his many television shows, columns and a decade’s worth of “Two Thumbs WAY Up!” on VHS and DVD covers. He didn’t just review films for their overall quality but for how well they accomplished what they set out to do, as well as how much he believed the target audience would enjoy it. This relative grading scale made him the subject of a lot of ridicule, but at least there was an understandable method to his madness.

Those of us who obsess over film, both professionally and as amateurs, often don’t have too many close friends who share our passion for the silver screen. Losing Ebert feels like losing a close friend, one who understood something about you that no one else did.

This isn’t to say that Ebert was perfect. I often disagreed with his reviews and the man came across as a bit arrogant on more than one occasion in his writing. But that isn’t the point. Everyone I’ve ever met or heard of had some sort of defect, so there’s no sense in remembering a review here and there that may not be popular.

Ebert was the friend you discussed and debated films with at length, never growing tired of exploring new themes and ideas. Each week he invited us into his little studio and shared his views on the latest offerings from Hollywood. He did it with wit, intelligence and an amiable spirit. In the closing of his final blog post, “A Leave of Presence,” Ebert wrapped up everything I enjoyed about his work:

“So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies.”

Top Things for 04/08/13

What’s up guys! Welcome back to another edition of “Top Things,” in which I try to regulate your lives, one blog at a time. There’s a lot of good stuff coming out this week, so let’s get right to it, yes?

Books

This week sees the release of Blood of Dragons, by Robin Hobb. I haven’t read the series yet (Dragon Keeper), but it’s got pretty decent scores up on Goodreads. So maybe check that out. The only other books I see coming out are diet books, so…

Comics

If, by now, you don’t know that I’m going to recommend SAGA each month, well you clearly don’t know me. Last issue ended on a powerful, if somber, note. And as much as I’m sure our characters could use a minute to grieve, it looks like Prince Robot IV will be making his return to the series.

Over at Marvel, the new Hawkguy issue is out, which promises to be as fast-paced and fun as it has been since the first issue.

Movies

42 comes out this week, if that’s your jam. I don’t typically care for sports movies (with a few notable exceptions), nor do I care at all about baseball. That being said, Jackie Robinson is an important historical figure, so there is a story to be told I’m sure. At this point I’m really just biding time until Iron Man.

Music

Paramore is coming out with their fist album since two founding members left the band. From what I’ve heard/seen, the reviews have been pretty positive, but this could potentially be a make-or-break moment for the band. Will they use this opportunity to shake up their sound, or will they try to reassure long-time fans by sticking to what they’ve done so far?

Television

We’re really living in a sweet spot, television-wise right now. The network shows are still on and ramping up to their season finales. At the same time, cable has started rolling out some of their summer shows, such as Game of Thrones and Mad Men. This week, we’ll be seeing Cece’s bachelorette party on New Girl, Community will be a puppet show, and Leslie takes on the animal control department in Parks and Rec. And as always, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, and Doctor Who on the weekends.

 

On the blog this week, I hope to have a review of Mad Men‘s premiere, or else maybe Game of Thrones‘ season so far, up on Wednesday, and a movie post from Will on Friday!

Top Things For 4/01/13

I hope you’re all surviving your April Fool’s Day, everyone. I personally hate this stupid day each year, as my patience for outlandish articles and “shocking” tweets grows thinner and thinner. More and more, today seems like a day to just avoid everyone/the Internet. But worry not, fair reader, for you will always have a safe haven here! My lies will always be comforting and/or self-preserving, and never malicious! So without further ranting, let’s get to the best of this coming week! Because it can only go up!

Books

On Tuesday, The Sword and Laser is kicking off their discussion of The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey. While I won’t be reading this month, I always enjoy listening to the podcast, watching the YouTube videos, and creeping on the Goodreads forum. If you want to see this month’s sci-fi/fantasy releases, they have a calendar here. If you have any interest in their discussions, or want to see which six books I am currently reading, head to Goodreads.

Comics

This is actually a pretty light week, for once – for which I am immensely thankful. The last several weeks have been jam-packed with releases, and it was getting tiring. Probably the most notable release on Wednesday is the new Action Comics #19, which sees Andy Diggle taking over from Grant Morrison. Of course, Diggle walked away from the title almost immediately, and artist Tony Daniel will take over for at least an issue. Apparently more info on what’s next for the Superman series is forthcoming. So while there’s drama behind the scenes, Daniel’s art looks pretty amazing, and hopefully worth the price of admission so to speak.

Movies

This week sees the release of the Evil Dead reboot, but honestly I could not care less. The original is a cult classic – though I’ve never seen it. A roommate in college tried to get me to watch one of the sequels, but I just couldn’t get through it. Some of that might be because this guy had the worst. Taste. In movies. EVER. I mean, Daredevil, Electra, and Ghost Rider were unironically two of his favorite movies. His favorite actors included Nic Cage. So maybe I didn’t give the movie the chance it deserves. That being said, this reboot just looks… meh. Like a Cabin in the Woods without any sense of self-awareness or humor.

The movie I am actually excited about, however, is the re-release of Jurassic Park in 3-D. In general, I’m pretty cynical when it comes to these 3-D re-releases, as they seem like the absolute laziest way to make money. On the other hand, Jurassic Park is a phenomenal movie that still holds up twenty years after its initial release, and the chance to see it (again? I can’t remember) in theaters is just too great to ignore.

Music

My frankly embarrassing lack of investedness in the world of music is well documented. I mean, I probably spent $10 on music last year. And the year before that. And probably the year before that. I’M NOT THAT HIP YOU GUYS. But if I had to point out an album release this week, I’d probably have to go with The Band Perry. I don’t love them, but the only other artists I recognized were Rilo Kiley and NKOTB. And I couldn’t name a song by either. Rilo Kiley brings back really embarrassing memories of a phase I went through in college where I was really into indie folk music. So… yeah.

Television

I warned you guys. GAME OF THRONES GAME OF THRONES GAME OF THRONES holy crap did you see when they cut that guy’s nipple off and did you see the dragons eating fish and oh man Cersei wants to totally strangle Margaery Tyrell and she and Loras are her worst nightmare because she can’t seduce them and when are Jon and Ygritte gonna get DOWN and where was my homegirl Arya?

Sorry. Deep breaths. Calm.

Anyway. If epic fantasy isn’t your thing, Parks and Rec is coming back on Thursday after a few weeks off! And New Girl has been moved to Thursday too, where we’ll get to see Nick and Jess try to have a first date as Schmidt and Winston attempt sabotage! AND APPARENTLY MAD MEN IS BACK ON SUNDAY??? How did I not know this??? And Doctor Who is back on Saturday! SO MUCH TV YOU GUYS I CAN DIE HAPPY.

OK, well I just managed to make my own day with those last few revelations. I hope you guys find something to enjoy this week in the world of pop culture. Or in your fulfilling lives with your real jobs and stable incomes and significant others. NOT THAT I’M BITTER. Anyway. Peace out.

Literary Things: The One Trick Rip-Off and Visual Poetry

Well hello again, all. It’s been a while since I’ve flexed the review muscles here at Tellurian Things, so apologies for the long absence! Over the past few months, I’ve been devouring a lot of books– mostly graphic novels– and I thought of one in particular that might just appeal to all of you prose-heads out there. I talked about it a little bit over at my Tumblr, but I’m expanding and clarifying my thoughts here.

Allow me to introduce you to the mad brushwork of Mr. Paul Pope. Part fashion-designer, part Dark Prince of Comics, this is a guy who fuses poetry, literature, and world cultures into a heady package. And this book should be your gateway:

Image

The One Trick Rip-Off (+ Deep Cuts) arrived in the mail about a month ago and it was a fairly quick read, even at over 200 pages. But I liked it. My previous encounters with Paul Pope taught me that, if anything, he has this carefully cultivated vibe that reads like a less anti-heroic Lord Byron. He’s the cosmopolitan romantic of the comics world.

His C.V. is pretty impressive. Besides doing design work with Diesel and DKNY, he’s known for his time at Japanese manga giant, Kodansha, as well as his independently produced (and frustratingly hard to find) Mars comic, THB. He also counts comic grandmasters like Jean “Moebius” Giraud and Frank Miller as personal friends and mentors. Back in the early ’00′s, he caught the eye of DC Comics, who invited him to do some original graphic novels for their Vertigo line, then play in their licensed characters’ sandbox with works like Batman: Year 100 and a gorgeous Adam Strange serial in Wednesday Comics. He’s also got a new monster fight comic called Battling Boy coming out from First Second later this year.

Part of what makes Pope a super comics-god is his sinewy and sensuous brush line. His pages are a mess of black splatters and angular anatomy, but they decode quickly into environments where pretty people pose, converse, and fall in love with endless cool. It’s something like if Jack Kirby turned to fashion illustration and lived in Tokyo. There’s a lot of power, but also a lot of ache in Pope’s ink– it’s visual poetry, essentially– and it’s a big part of his appeal.

Of course, style isn’t much if you don’t have substance to back it up, and Pope’s reputation makes you anticipate an angle or two. I think one thing that refreshed me here was that this book is his “early work” collection, culled from his first decade in comics. As a result, these stories are all old enough to show a more loose, experimental version of the artist, and it’s fun to watch him figure out what he had to say.

The titular story, which takes up the first half of the book, was pretty darned great.  It concerns two young lovers who aspire to get the heck out of their dead-end city. The only problem is, they’re associated with a street gang called the One Tricks, and they think the best way to bring their dreams to life is to betray and rob their cohorts. Naturally, conflict ensues– and since the “One Trick” is essentially a low-level form of hypnotism that allows you to manipulate your enemies, it plays out in a delightfully unusual fashion. It’s a solid model of mood-building, it has a romance you can believe in, and the climax has high emotional stakes. (It’s the first time I winced in anxiety at a comic, I think). Its also an examination of the tension between pride and love, which I found intriguing. Some spotty character rationale crops up in the middle, but overall, this is the strongest solo work I think I’ve read by Pope. I’ll take messy-but-sincere over polished and distant any day of the week.

The other stories that round out the book are also engaging, though not as meaty. If anything, the rest can be categorized as experiments in adapting poems, making a go at manga (“Supertrouble” is a fun example that can be enjoyed at face value), and doing some autobiography. The personal bits are some of my favorites in the second half, especially “Four Cats,” where Pope lowers his guard enough to let us relieve a memorable rebuke. It’s a different take on the pride vs. love scenario, but on the level enough to sting a little more.

The book is bound in a glossy hard cover, and it feels and smells like a brand-new high school textbook. Considering the lessons you can learn from looking at a master cartoonist’s formative work, I’d say it’s an apt format. If you’re interested in comics that have some literary ambition and tons of style, it’s definitely worth picking up.

Top Things for 03/18/13

‘Sup. I’m back, flush with patriotism after my week-long excursion to our (well, my) nation’s capitol. And also fresh bunions. Because, in case you didn’t know, D.C. is mostly just stuff to see so basically it’s just walking for like five hours a day. So let’s get to it!

Books

There’s a new book by Orson Scott Card but really eff that guy. I don’t care about Ender’s Game, and the dude just lost an artist on a Superman comic because he’s so homophobic. So eff that guy.

Comics

This week, the most note-worthy release is almost certainly Action Comics #18, the conclusion to Grant Morrison’s rather polarizing run. While I have not been the series’ strongest supporter, I am reserving judgment until the end. Regardless of how it turns out, I’m sure it will be noteworthy.

Other notable releases: Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, and SAGA!

Movies

This week looks like a bit of a competition to see what can be the worst release. The Croods, while likely to please the kiddos, does not appeal to me in the slightest – despite the inclusion of Emma Stone. Then there’s Olympus Has Fallen, which looks like a truly spectacular waste of time (and I can’t wait to read the racist tweets about Asians after people see it). InAPPropriate Comedy looks even worse than those terrible parody movies and includes Adrian Brody (blugh). So, for what it’s worth, Admission looks like the best option. I love Tina Fey unconditionally, and I desperately want Paul Rudd to be my best friend and/or platonic life partner.

Or, you know, go see Oz the Great and Terrible. It was pretty good. Review forthcoming.

Music

Ummm, there’s a new Brian McKnight album?

Television

Well, after this week I’m basically going to be recommending Game of Thrones non-stop, so enjoy this while it lasts. That being said I’m not really sure what to recommend! The Biggest Loser finale is on right NOW, Girls just ended, there’s no new Parks & Rec… what to do!?! I guess I’ll suggest Community, even though it hasn’t been quite itself this season. BUT it has been finding its feet, and even zombie Community is better than no Community.

Basically, Winter Is Coming, so deal with it.

Top Things for 01/28/13

Guys, I’m back. I’m not making any promises, but hopefully I can be more consistent than I have been the last month. That whole “post a day for like a month” thing was weirdly exhausting. Plus I just started contributing to Nerdspan.com, which I LOVE, but it means writing three more blog posts or so per week, so I put this site on the backburner while I adjusted. So, let’s go forward and just see where this thing takes us, baby.

Books

HyruleGUYS! The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia comes out this week!! I am such a HUGE nerd, but I NEED THIS IN MY LIFE in the biggest way possible. Zelda was one of the first games I EVER played. I got a Gameboy when I was four years old (not because I’m spoiled, but because we were moving literally halfway across the globe and my mom needed something to entertain me on planes), and I got The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (PS it was super hard and took me ten years [not consistently] to beat and I felt such deep an abiding accomplishment I still get goosebumps thinking about it [hyperbole]). Anyway, I need a hardcover compendium. Deal with it.

Comics

Hawkeye

Hawkeye #7! It’s just so fun. So so so much fun. Snarky teen girl Hawkeye, snarking at snarky carny adult Hawkeye, fighting Russians in tracksuits that say “Bro” way too much. Plus a one-eyed dog, occasional cameos from Avengers, and stakes that feel real and important and appropriate to a non-powered hero. Win/Win/Win.

Movies

Warm_Bodies_Theatrical_Poster

Warm Bodies comes out this weekend, and I’m actually kind of excited about it! This is the time of year for crappy movies, so I’ll basically see anything that looks decent in comparison. But this movie actually seems pretty cool! The story of a zombie slowly coming back to life as a result of love? A romantic comedy set against a zombie apocalypse? Rob Corddry and Dave Franco? Basically I’m sold.

Music

destiny

Longtime readers will know that I hardly pride myself on my music taste. It’s evolved over the years from grunge and metal, to mellow alternative, to a weird indie folk phase in college I’m not too proud of, to now where I’ll basically listen to anything. It’s sad. Which is why I hate recommending music. Because if I don’t respect my choices, how can you? But one thing I’m not ashamed of? DESTINY’S CHILD. That’s right. A greatest hits album is coming out this week. Right after I spent my iTunes gift card too. Dang it.

Television

archer

Basically I was just going to type “ARCHER IS BACK ARCHER IS BACK” around a million times, but figured it might get old. So basically Archer is back and you should all watch the animated love child of James Bond and Arrested Development. DO IT.

 

And that’s all for now guys. I don’t know what the week will bring, but I’m sure it’ll be great.

Oscar Nominations: Snubs and Surprises

Yesterday morning, Seth McFarlane and Emma Stone announced the Oscar hopefuls for the 85th Academy Awards. As is the nature of any awards show, there are a variety of opinions on who deserves what and what films are worthy to be called the best of the year.

Best Director

Two of the biggest films this year were “Argo” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” which combined for 12 nominations. Sadly, none of those 12 will lead to Oscars for Kathryn Bigelow or Ben Affleck. Leaving Bigelow off the ballot makes some sense as she won the title back in 2010. The bigger crime is that Hollywood seems to still be punishing Ben Affleck for a couple of poor films from a decade ago. His three directorial features (“Argo,” “The Town” and “Gone Baby Gone”) are all loved by critics and were financially successful. It’s about time he was rewarded for resurrecting his career. On the bright side, Affleck is only 40 years old, so he has several decades to change voter’s minds. What is most admirable for this year’s category is the inclusion of first-time director Benh Zeitlin and his work with “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

Apparently the Academy loved “Amour” and “Silver Linings Playbook”

Before Thursday morning, French film “Amour” was only expected to pick up a nomination in the foreign language department. On top of that category, it also received recognition at best actress, best picture, best original screenplay and best director. Quite the victory for a non-American film that flew under more than a few radars. It wasn’t a real surprise to see “Silver Linings Playbook” on the list of nominees, but the Academy’s love for the David O. Russell picture was overflowing when Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver were able to pick up supporting nominations (bringing the film’s total nominations to eight).

“Django Chained”

It isn’t unusual for Quentin Tarantino’s films to be under-appreciated at the Oscars, but many of his fans will be crying foul after failing to read the filmmaker’s name on the ballot for Best Director. Perhaps just as frustrating for them will be how the Academy overlooked Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio for supporting actors. But, let’s be honest, the possibility of getting 3 supporting actor nominations for one film is ridiculous. Even if it happened, none of them would probably win because they would cancel each other out with the voters.

Animated Feature

While most people may not be all that excited about this category, I’m just glad that all of the nominees are quality animated films. There’s no “Hotel Transylvania” or “Kung Fu Panda 2″ on this year’s list. Although “Wreck-It Ralph” has most of the momentum going into the awards season, there are several films in this category that could win.

There’s several more remarks I could make about this year’s nominations, like “What does John Hawkes have to do to impress Academy voters?” but at the end of the day, a lot of this is subjective. For the most part, I think this is a solid class of films. Now let’s see how the Golden Globes go this Sunday night.

Happy viewing