Sunday, June 17, 2012

30 Books Before You're 30?

Flavorwire has a list of 30 Books Everyone Should Read Before Turning 30.  I can't really tell how many of these I read before turning 30 but probably not many - a few didn't even exist when I was 30.  As it stands now I've read 19 and much of what's remaining I'm not sure I will.  Is To Kill a Mockingbird really "complex"?  Maybe but its reputation and the calibre of its admirers suggest not.  As much as I love Bradbury Fahrenheit 451 has always appeared to be a one-note song.  McCarthy's The Road might be worthwhile but it seems like another mainstream author dabbling in science fiction.  Of course without reading them I don't really know.  On the other hand I've started Infinite Jest and have read about half of O'Connor's stories so maybe that counts as 0.6 or something.  The rest of the list is mostly solid stuff though things like Don Quixote seem like odd choices given that even even many people who love the book consider it a slog at times.  And 1984 is one of the weakest of Orwell's works.  Maybe this should have been 30 Books You've Never Heard Of That Might Be Worth Reading Before You're 30.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Zero issue comics

Like so many gimmicks zero issue comics seemed pretty cool the first time around but quickly become more useless than attractive.  (And "first time" meaning the first time I encountered them since I haven't been able to determine exactly when they started - possibly 1994's Zero Hour event which happened during my 20-year comics blackout period.)  Most zero issues are in actuality the first issue of a story and are even included as such in the tpb or they're a prologue and still included in the tpb.  (And a topic for another post is how prologues in any medium are a sure sign that the writer can't handle fundamental storytelling.)  In any case why have a #0?  Even something aimed at a more mass audience like Landgridge's Snarked came with one.  (And though it doesn't quite fit this is where I'll point out one of my favorite huh? covers for Morbius #1 which despite that number one trumpets "Part 3 of 6" - guess you had to go into negative numbers for that one.)

The news that DC is doing an entire month of zero issues in September is only made worse by the news that most of these will be origin stories of some sort.  Apparently nearly all of these issues will have stories set diegetically before the actual #1 which only makes me wonder how they'll be reprinted since the tpbs for nearly all series will have already appeared by then.  Just stuck in the second volume?  Included in new editions of the first volume?  Or yet another huge omnibus reprinting only the zero issues? 

Even more odd is Jim Lee's statement that this is "really about sparking continued interest in new storylines".  How is completely ignoring the current and new storylines going to help create interest in them?  Unless maybe Superman turns out to be a robot (or gay), Aquaman actually a merman (or gay), Wonder Woman only delusional about being an Amazon (or gay), Batman really the Martian Manhunter in disguise (but not gay). 

I don't care about any of this but as usual what's often more fun than actually reading the comics is watching the modern comics business approach this sort of thing with such complete (and completely inappropriate) seriousness while deploying almost amateurishly transparent marketing tactics.  What Lee is actually saying of course isn't that the zero issues will raise questions for the ensuing narrative to answer but that customers will pick up a zero issue and think "Hey, this OMAC thing is pretty cool!  Where can I get more!"  Well, Hypothetical Customer Person OMAC was the most purely entertaining of the lot so of course it's already canceled.  Perhaps you might be interested in this new Talon series about a character nobody's ever seen before in a storyline nobody cares about?  Really ok well then maybe you'd be interested to know that Green Lantern is out of the closet.  No not him.  Not him either.  Not that one.  Nope not that other one.  Nor him.  Look just trust us - he's a Green Lantern.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Tarr x2

The Man from London (2007) - Simenon turns out to be a perfect source for such a stately paced, cryptically blank film.  (The novel was filmed in France in 1943 and England in 1947 and appears to have been translated into English under the title Newhaven-Dieppe though that's a bit unclear.)  The manager or maybe just a watchman at the docks sees a man assaulted and later recovers his briefcase full of money.  The manager starts acting oddly, an insurance investigator shows up and that's about it.  Bela Tarr, like Simenon, doesn't deal with psychologizing, with drawing connections or making explanations.  Characters act while Tarr observes.  And observes and observes - the most striking thing about the film is the very long takes where the most minute things happen or maybe just nothing at all.  This is the type of film that when two people sit down to play chess you think we'll have to watch the entire game played in real time.  Fortunately Tarr isn't that much of a conceptualist - staring out a window at people leaving a ship for several minutes is one thing, watching a chess game is apparently a step too far.  Tarr handles this to fit the story though at this point it's hardly groundbreaking since numerous commentators have pointed out that this long-take style has become something of a default setting for many art-film directors.  In fact the most out-of-place element of the film is Tilda Swinton's screeching histrionics, possibly a deliberate contrast or possibly just Tarr not wanting to tie down the closest to a name star in the film.

Werckmeister Harmonies (2000) - This earlier film is something different.  If Tarr didn't seem so completely humorless I'd think this was a parody of Eastern European Art Film complete with black-and-white images, downtrodden local citizens, out-of-place weirdness (a whale!), heavy-handed politics, unexplained events and an overall feel of dour malaise.  Except of course that parodies are meant to be if not funny that at least amusing and this is a real chore to sit through.  At two and a half hours I'd think that even if you considered this a successful film that it's still overly long.  It doesn't even start promising.  The first scene is some men in a bar replicating the movement of planets in a type of dance and this goes on and on and on.  The point eludes me (maybe to show it's a deterministic universe?) and it has no charm.  The film never recovers though admittedly there's a nice sequence of a kind of riot towards the end with a fantastic overhead tracking shot of a moving crowd.  It's based on a novel by Laszlo Krasznahorkai who also wrote the source for Satantango (which I haven't seen though the English translation of the book just appeared and it looks like you could read it in far less time than it takes to watch the movie). 

The US home video release of The Turin Horse (2011) is in July.  Tarr claims that this was his final film and descriptions make it sound like a variation of Au Hasard Balthazar only featuring the horse whose suffering pushed Nietzsche over the edge.  Chuckles for all!