Thursday, November 6, 2008

Stuff I've Been Doing #2


Locke And Key

If you haven’t read Locke & Key yet you really really should. As anyone whose ever sat through a Chris Mitchum movie, or listened to The Wallflowers knows, talent usually isn’t genetic.

Joe Hill however, is proving to be the exception to this rule, and between his fantastic novel Heart Shaped Box, his short story collection 20th Century Ghosts, and this frankly wonderful series, Hill is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.

Locke and Key is one of those titles that I almost don’t want to talk about too much, because of how perfectly constructed it really is, every issue is a superb mix of horror, suspense, and family drama. It’s as if The Royal Tenenbaums are starring in The Haunting via Lost.

Suffice to say it’s the story of a family that suffers a tragedy, and moves to the old ancestral home. The home has some strange properties, and an unknown tenant who lives in the well. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Simply put it’s a great story told by a great storyteller. Though he works in the supernatural, Hill’s work reminds me not so much of his father, Stephen King, but more of Neil Gaiman. The through line to his work so far has been stories within stories, like Gaiman his work almost functions as puzzle boxes, smaller stories locked within large ones that are themselves the gears to the big picture.

Reading Joe Hill I get the feeling every reader craves, the spark of excitement that I found with Dennis Lehane, David Mitchell, and precious few others. The knowledge that I had found an author that I would be following for a long long time, and whose every new development will be nothing short of a gift.

I Kill Giants

I Kill Giants is a tough comic to explain. It’s like Calvin and Hobbes if it was clear that Hobbes was Calvin’s way of dealing with some terrible trauma. It’s like Brazil and Pan’s Labyrinth a story about how imagination can simultaneously save and destroy a person. It’s not a children’s story, it’s a story about childhood, real childhood the first time you feel truly powerless and know that the world isn’t going to play by your rules. It’s like Tideland if it didn’t completely suck. All in all it’s pretty fucking great.


American Beauty

You know I’m not the world’s biggest Grateful Dead fan, but if the whole runtime of American Beauty was as good as it’s first three songs, it might have been the greatest album ever. "A Box Of Rain" is the pinnacle of hippie music.


A friend gave me Easy Star All Star’s Dub Side Of The Moon and I thought it was pretty amazing. For those who don’t know, Dub Side Of The Moon is a reggae version of Dark Side Of The Moon. Normally I don’t care for covers and tribute albums, but this one was fantastic, bringing new edges and perspectives to an album that I basically know rote. Some don’t work, but a lot do, songs like Us And Them are tough for me to think about outside of a Reggae context now.

That said I was a bit more skeptical when I heard about Radiodread, a Reggae version of OK Computer from the same collective. Despite all the psychedelics, pretension, and pomp, Pink Floyd at their core was always pretty much a blues band that liked Organs, and studio tricks. Drawing a line between them and Reggae isn’t really that hard. Radiohead on the other hand, are well know for writing two of the most sonically avant garde albums since Metal Machine Music and aren’t really known for their soul.

It basically boils down to the blackest of music genre’s covering the whitest band ever. How the hell is that supposed to sound?

Well really fucking good. Radiodread transforms OK Computer in a way that’s damn near alchemy. Songs like Let Down, one of Radiohead’s dreariest (which must put it in the running for the dreariest song of all time) becomes joyful. Lucky sounds like a fucking hymn now.

There are plenty of weird moments, “Jah loves his Children” is now a statement of fact rather then a bitter irony. And oddly it’s most minimal, Subteranean Home Sick Alien, No Suprises and Exit Music (For a Film) come off as simple covers, rather then the more tricked out ones.

But like Dub Side Of The Moon, the album is on the whole a success, an old favorite from a completely new angle.


Ralph Bakashi is a weird dude. Even I, an animation and cult movie freak, his target audience, have more or less stayed clear of his work. Part of the problem is that it’s tough to build a cult audience when you are equally famous for making terrible movies as you are for making debatably good ones. Bakashi’s oeuvre is littered with such gems as The Lord Of The Rings, and Cool World and even the movies of his that have good reputations pose there own difficulty. It’s tough to walk into your local video shoppe and say “Why yes I’d like to rent Coonskin please, and some Fritz The Cat to, if you don’t mind. Yep it’s a nice night of Racially charged images and animated Cat Sex for me.”

That said I was always curious to see some of Bakashi, so I picked up Wizards, his “family movie” and fuck, if this is PG Bakashi, I don’t know if I can handle full bore. Watching the special features after the movie is like an object lesson in Cognitive Dissonance, Bakashi talks warmly about the wonderful family movie he has made, after you have just watched ninety minutes of cute fantasy creatures being machine gunned to death, and a shitload of naked people. Yes even in a story set tens of thousands of years in a feudel future, Bakashi found away to incorporate whores into his story. If you think Frank Miller loves writing about whores, well sir you haven’t seen the amount of passion and energy Bakashi puts into finding new ways to write about ladies of the night.

Set thousands of years After the earth blew up (No that’s how the movie starts with that exact phrasing to) The world is set ruffly into two camps, those who follow the good wizard, the lecherous, drunken, Grouch Marx impersonator, Avatar and those who follow his brother Blackwolf, a man so evil that he has skeleton arms. Things are kind of a stalemate because though Black Wolf does have tens of thousands of bloodthirsty evil mutants he can’t properly motivate them to go cracking in some fairy skulls. That is until he discovers the power of Joseph Goebbles and gets them really pissed off. I’m not being metaphorical, he literally finds ten thousand year old Goebbles movies and uses them to piss off his orcs.

What follows is basically sixty straight minutes of fairy genocide, broken up by some of the most unlikable heroes I have ever seen in a motion picture.

The film basically ran out of money forcing Bakashi to “rotoscope” a whole lot of it. I put rotoscope in quotes because he didn’t so much do that as he did tint stock footage. By the films end he’s basically just repeating the same frames of ugly animation over and over again and intercutting them with old blitzkrieg footage that now looks purple.

If you can’t already tell I found Wizards is an aggressively unpleasant movie. But it’s a magnetic one. Try as I might I can’t quite get it out of my mind. Bakashi’s animation may be crude, but theres a method to his madness, and some of his design, collage, and composition is quite striking. While I probably would never recommend him, or Wizards to anyone, it has intrigued me somewhat, and I’ll probably end up exploring more of his films.

I just might end up using a trenchcoat and long brimmed hat to do it is all.

1 comment:

christian wolfe said...

I know what you mean about Wizards being magnetic. I have only watched some clips on youtube, but aside from the violence of the ending fight scenes, I was shocked at scene where they fairy president gets assasinated. That is most definitely not a kids movie. I guess it is something about seeing that kind of violence in a film that, at first glance, doesn't indicate that it intends to be so gory.