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Archive for March 2009

The Nightly News

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The Nightly News

by Jonathan Hickman

Jonathan Hickman is so new to the industry that his biography in The Nightly News cites issues of The Nightly News. But Jonathan Hickman is not a new babe, mewing and he scratching at little projects before he develops voice or style. With the Nightly News, he fires at full speed with energetic storytelling and a graphic art style that challenges and rewards on each viewing, making Hickman one of the most interesting new voices in Comics.

The Nightly News follows John Guyton, a man falsely accused and ruined by the Media, who joins an underground cult following the unseen Voice. Their mission: to attack the media head-on with the style and grace of guerilla anarchists armed with bombs, sniper-rifles and a plan. To punish the six most powerful news media conglomerates in America for destroying their lives.

The Cult of the Voice is a crazy, dangerous cult that you can’t identify with, but you’re not supposed to. They aren’t anti-heroes prone to posing with cool gadgets and absolutist philosophical beliefs about freedom and justice. They’re pissed off crazy people with guns and a plan that comes to them via cassette tape. The narrative doesn’t pass judgment on them, the same as it doesn’t pass judgment on the journalists or leaders of industry, like you don’t when you watch a high octane action thriller – when the hero is taking the law into his own hands and warps justice for the entertainment value.

It is perfect that The Nightly News vaults into the story with a first chapter titled: “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore,” which should drag back the memories of Howard Beale of Network, screaming of the power and corruptive force of all media and the powerlessness of the individual. The Nightly News is more than a spiritual successor, using infographics (which he acknowledges you can either ignore and continue with the story or absorb some facts) to show us that we are in Howard Beale’s nightmare. Our media mainstream media is owned by six conglomerates and it is growing uniquely independent from fact checking and accountability. Lives are ruined by the news, more than a few don’t deserve it.

The Nightly News is a voice telling you how to live your life. It’s not a manual to change the world and it certainly doesn’t advocate violence or bloody coups in industry. It’s not a call to arms. It’s a story that touches on how easy it is to fall into camps with the media. Operating with the News and you sell your voice to unchecked corporations that will lie and cheat and destroy without recourse. Operate outside of the news and be careful who you follow, as one of more groups may steal your voice and replace it with their own. So the Nightly News exists, as Howard Beale once did, warning you, sincerely, to look at who you’re listening to, or have your Voice stolen.

– Timothy Legion

– Timothy Legion is not presently read, looked to or admired. He created a newspaper (pamphlet) at his University that is fondly remembered by six people. He has not won any awards or been considered for nominations. He is wrist-deep in the Third Year of his self-imposed GLORIOUS FIVE YEAR PLAN.

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Written by thesilentmajoritysays

March 19, 2009 at 12:00 PM

Posted in crime, political, thriller

Tagged with , ,

American Movie

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American Movie

The first time I saw American Movie was about seven years ago with my brother. The movie ended, and I could not stop laughing. I remember telling my brother “that was one of the funniest mockumentaries I’ve ever seen.” It was at that moment my brother told me that it was not a mockumentary. Everything I just saw was completely real. Upon hearing that, I could feel my brain slowly start to leak out of my skull.

American Movie is the story of indie film maker Mark Borchardt and his attempts to make his first feature length film, Northwestern. Realizing that the easiest way to raise money for a movie is to sell copies of another more commercially accessible movie, he goes about filming a short occult horror film called Coven (pronounced COE-ven, not like ‘oven’), expecting to use the funds from VHS sales to cover the cost of producing Northwestern. Working with little money and very little experience, Mark goes out with a few thousand dollars of his uncles money and makes Coven in barren fields and living rooms all over rural Milwaukee. Joining him in his adventure is his best friend and musician Mike Schank, a lovable stoner who is always ready to help Mark in any crazy scheme he thinks up next. The interaction between the two make for some of the best moments in the film, with Borchardt talking a mile a minute about film technique and the catharsis of independent creation and Schank staring into space like a dog who just heard a high-pitched noise.

To laugh at Borchardt for his ineptness as a film maker is probably most peoples instinctual reaction to the documentary, but American Movie goes far beyond simple mockery. While the costumes are pretty weak and his actors are not quite at the top of their game, but you can still see that Borchardt truly loves what he is doing. He is trying so hard to do it well, that it is almost tragic to see the mistakes he makes and the hurdles he has to overcome. A scene in which he describes his day job as a landscaper at a funeral home gives you the perfect impression of why he still has the drive in him to achieve his dreams. After an incident at the funeral home, he remarks “It was a really, really profound moment. Cuz I was thinkin’, “I’m 30 years old, and in about 10 seconds I gotta start cleaning up somebody’s shit.”

In my defense, I think a lot of people who were not told beforehand that American Movie was indeed completely real may have thought the same thing about it I did. The characters are incredibly animated. The progress and pacing of the story feels very cinematic. The moments of humor seem far too hilarious to be unscripted. Turns out I was wrong on all counts. A story this great could only be real life, and no actor could ever deliver lines like Borchart and Schank and make it feel half as organic. It’s a documentary that truly shows you how documentaries can craft a story, no matter how absurd.

– JD Renaud

— J.D. Renaud has no formal education in film, but that is more than evident upon meeting and/or seeing him. A purveyor of all things eccentric, he prides himself on being a guinea pig test subject for any new form of media he is given. He currently lives in Winnipeg Manitoba with his go-go dancer roommate.

Written by thesilentmajoritysays

March 17, 2009 at 12:00 PM

Posted in documentary

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Lone Wolf and Cub vol 1 – Assassin’s Road

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Lone Wolf and Cub – vol 1 – The Assassin’s Road

A Ronin, formerly executioner of the Shogun, is forced to wander the vast country-side, searching for ways to redeem himself after his honour is sullied and his school turned against him. Yet for reasons unseen, he is also alone in raising his three year old son, whom he is forced to carry with him. A man on a mission of bloody redemption, carrying innocence as a burden.

But a the son of a wolf is still a wolf, as we are constantly reminded, and innocence in this place is not so innocent.

LONE WOLF AND CUB is episodic in presentation, each issue telling a wholly accessible story of the Father and Son as they travel – pointed but seemingly aimlessly – through countryside and cities, forced to accept work as an Assassin along the way.

An excellent blend of Western pacing and dialogue intermingled with the Manga toolbox of accomplished, lush visuals of cities, the country and duels at sun down, LONE WOLF AND CUB is the Kurosawa of comics. So engrossed are we by the lush, engaging art, we hear each clang of sword play and each splort of bloody violence.

The audience is welcomed to each dangerous scenario as it’s played out, but only the Lone Wolf understands how everything will play out. His purpose and thoughts hidden from us until the last moments. And when you understand the true intention of the Lone Wolf, be certain you have spoken the truth, or incur their wrath.

– Timothy Legion

— Timothy Legion is not presently read, looked to or admired. He created a newspaper (pamphlet) at his University that is fondly remembered by six people. He has not won any awards or been considered for nominations. He is wrist-deep in the Third Year of his self-imposed GLORIOUS FIVE YEAR PLAN.

Written by thesilentmajoritysays

March 15, 2009 at 12:00 PM

Posted in samurai

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Hawaiian Dick vol 1 – Byrd of Paradise

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Hawaiian Dick vol 1 – Byrd of Paradise
Writer – B. Clay Moore
Art – Stephen Griffin

Hawaiian Dick is a detective story following the titular Byrd, a disgraced former police forced from the mainland due to a violent incident, who takes up residence in Hawaii to – one assumes – drink himself to death. Instead Byrd ends up working as a private investigator for police detective and war-buddy Mo. Alongside them is compatriot and cocktail Waitress Kahami, a dame with a heart of steel and an eye for Byrd, looking for her runaway sister and a cast of characters to make the island both dangerous and colourful. And so we’re put alongside our Hawaiian Dick, who alongside Mo, has the odds stacked against him with time running out.

As the outsider, Byrd is witness to the unexplainable phenomenon of the Hawaiian culture gone supernatural, as witch-doctors and resurrected bodies roam the countryside, looking for revenge. But it’s not that kind of “magic” book. It’s not a supernatural mystery, it’s a ghost story. It’s not horror, it’s mysticism. Hawaiian Dick is chock full of the undead, floating monsters that hang in trees outside your window but it’s not mutants, or magic, or elves and orcs. It’s the supernatural kind of supernatural that Byrd can’t understand or explain with smoke and mirrors. It’s the local myths of the colonized scratching at the feet of the detective story playing overtop.

Far from a formulaic detective story, the characters are placed in a setting so unique that it changes the entire aesthetic and reading of the book. It’s a 50’s Noir tinted with a Hawaiian mythos. A campfire story with bullets, broads and the revenge of the undead body they found in a trunk.

The effect is an island surrounded by mystery, mob bosses and lackeys, bent cops interfering with the investigations of straight cops and relatively no place to go. When it comes down to it, how far can you run on an island as small as Hawaii? Especially from what you don’t understand?

– Timothy Legion

— Timothy Legion is not presently read, looked to or admired. He created a newspaper (pamphlet) at his University that is fondly remembered by six people. He has not won any awards or been considered for nominations. He is wrist-deep in the Third Year of his self-imposed GLORIOUS FIVE YEAR PLAN.

Written by thesilentmajoritysays

March 13, 2009 at 12:00 PM

Posted in crime, mystery, Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

Jackie Brown

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Jackie Brown

Quentin Tarantino’s third film opens on Pam Grier, playing Jackie Brown. Her demeanor generates the “I don’t give a fuck” vibe. Behind her is a hideous, multi-colored tile wall which screams 1970. On the soundtrack is Bobby Womack’s soulful “Across a 110th Street”. The title, “Jackie Brown” splashes on the screen in Blaxploitation style.

We then find out, despite the stylish, soulful, and nostalgically badass introduction, Jackie is just trying to get to work. She is a flight attendant for a small, low-paying airline. On the side, she smuggles money for Ordell Robbie, a low-level gun merchant, played by Samuel L. Jackson. That is, until she gets caught with more than Ordell’s cash by the ATF.

Jackie Brown is Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece. The film appears to be a superficial foray into Blaxploitation cinema, but consider the genre: Exploitive, gratuitous, and glamorizing. Blaxploitation featured street-level amoral characters killing, stealing, and copulating. In Coffy, Pam Grier used sex to get close to her enemies, and murder them in cold blood to avenge sister. Still, we rooted for her, despite a skewed sense of morality.

Jackie Brown also features killing, stealing, and copulating, but the criminals are aged and desperate to get off the streets once and for all. The glamour is removed from the equation and what the audience is left with are a group of rag-tags trying to make up for their mistakes. The cast is both colorful and plentiful. Tarantino, working from the novel Rum Punch, by Elmore Leonard, paints a beautifully sardonic world of petty criminals all making a last ditch effort to come out on top.

Beautifully realized, Jackie Brown is a sober, mature, and unforgiving crime film. It is endlessly inventive in how it defies genre conventions. It is both paying tribute to Blaxploitation and criticizing it. The film never sees a dull moment between its fascinating characters, stunning dialogue, soulful soundtrack and impeccable storytelling.

The original tagline for the film read: “Six players on the trail of a half a million in Cash. There’s only one question… Who’s playing who?”

Much like that Blaxploitation vibe, the tagline merely describes what is on the surface. The important question isn’t “Who’s playing who?” but rather “Why are they playing?”

– Alex Lyons

— Alex Lyons studied English and History at the University of Guelph, where he acquired keen insights into late Victorian history, and its literature. This education, of course, serves no purpose here. Alex still lives in Guelph, and thinks of Jack the Ripper often.

Written by thesilentmajoritysays

March 11, 2009 at 12:48 PM

Posted in crime

Aetheric Mechanics

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Aetheric Mechanics

Sax Raker, the main character of Aetheric Mechanics, may seem familiar to you: He is London’s greatest detective, has a Doctor friend (Dr. Robert Watcham), and is a consummate asshole. No, it’s not Sherlock Holmes. At least not just Sherlock Holmes. Sax Raker is equal parts Holmes, Sexton Blake, Solar Pons, and every other fictional London detective that are cheap rip-offs of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic creation.

You’re asking, why do I want read a graphic novella about an amalgamation of Holmes and lesser creations? Because it’s written by Warren Ellis, and it’s bloody brilliant. Moreover, said amalgamation is partly what the story is about, but you would never predict how.

Warren Ellis is known for his approach to big concepts and mind-melting science fiction, and Aetheric Mechanics is no different. It is set in an alternate London, when steam technology gave Britons airships powered by reactionless drives and the fear of invasion from Ruritania grew stronger by the day; Dr. Robert Watcham returns home to London from the war, amidst social hysteria, and visits his good friend Sax Raker, who has just been commissioned for some detective work.

The MacGuffin: A dead body. What does it mean? Oh so many things.

A genre-bending tale of detective fiction, Aetheric Mechanics builds to a stunning, and wholly original conclusion. Ellis’ London is a city on the edge of science, where the relationship between faith and reason is greatly segregated. The art by Gianluca Pagliarani delivers the story cleanly, and with great elegance.

Aetheric Mechanics is 50 pages of wonderful comics. Also, it retails for $6.99. The fact that the book is dirt cheap is not the selling point, however, the content is.

I would have gladly payed quadruple for the Aetheric Mechanics. It’s just that wonderful.

– Alex Lyons

— Alex Lyons studied English and History at the University of Guelph, where he acquired keen insights into late Victorian history, and its literature. This education, of course, serves no purpose here. Alex still lives in Guelph, and thinks of Jack the Ripper often.

Written by thesilentmajoritysays

March 9, 2009 at 12:00 PM

F for Fake

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F for Fake

“For the next hour, everything you hear from us is really true and based on solid fact,” says Orson Welles at the start of F for Fake. And with a run time of over an hour and a half, that is your first clue that you are not in for a normal ride. F for Fake is a true documentary in as much as Welles was a true documentarian. Which is to say, not exactly.

Welles was without question a brilliant actor, director, and jack of all trades in the movie business. However, he also prided himself on being a self described trickster, charlatan and magician, though as he puts it: “There are no magicians, only actors playing the parts of magicians.” With F for Fake, Welles takes a stab at encapsulating his favourite past time and tries to elevate the art of fakery and fraud to its rightful place in the artistic community. The film acts very much like a visual essay, drawing examples from the lives of art forger Elmyr de Hory, his interaction with hoax-biographer Clifford Irving and Welles’ own sordid life story, full of fanciful tales of little white lies and little green men.

While never forgiving the actions of the imposters he documents (nor even his own), Welles instead proposes the idea that a truly well executed hoax is, in of itself, a sublime work of art. To explore this idea, he crafts the film to be insightful and engaging, while always keeping the viewer at arms length, wondering at all times when we are being told the truth or simply being led on by the master trickster himself. At the core of Welles’ gripe is the hypocrisy of art criticism, and the idea that beauty and form is dictated entirely by the so-called experts and aficionados of the art community. The film argues that truly great art is an expression of yourself, and an expression of the love of your craft. If you express yourself by painting fake Picassos, how is what you did any less valid than what the real Picasso painted?

Going beyond the idea of forgery, the film also explores the troubled identity of the modern artist. In one truly stunning scene, Welles delivers a stirring monologue about the grand French cathedral Chartres, and the fact that its many builders and architects names were omitted from any part of it. In many ways a love letter to Chartres, the scene is also a subtlety enraged rant about the identity of art versus the mere presence of it. The scene culminates with Welles’ immortal words…

“Our songs will all be silenced. But what of it? Go on singing. Maybe a man’s name doesn’t matter all that much.”

Which is something so radical and sublimely challenging that only Welles would attempt it: That the unity of art and artist is fundamentally obsolete.

At times profoundly reverent and at others gleefully prankish, F for Fake is Welles letting go of narrative and linear story telling to explain his passions as best he can. He takes the viewers expectations of what art, and indeed the very structure of documentary film making and jumbles them so gracefully that by the end of the film, no one is left unaffected. You may feel tricked. You may feel conned. However, you will not feel settled. At the risk of sounding too hyperbolic, anyone with a creative bone in their body should see F for Fake at least once just to ask themselves: What’s in a name?

– JD Renaud

— J.D. Renaud has no formal education in film, but that is more than evident upon meeting and/or seeing him. A purveyor of all things eccentric, he prides himself on being a guinea pig test subject for any new form of media he is given. He currently lives in Winnipeg Manitoba with his go-go dancer roommate.

Written by thesilentmajoritysays

March 7, 2009 at 12:00 PM

Posted in documentary