Attempting to encapsulate a genre as broad and diverse as science fiction is a nearly impossible task, so I have to give Tom DeMichael credit for even trying. The author of Modern Sci-Fi Films FAQ, one of the latest in Applause Books’ popular FAQ series, DeMichael smartly limits his survey of significant movies in the genre to those released after 1970. Even so, that’s a lot of ground to cover, and even a highly comprehensive volume on the subject is bound to prompt genre fans like me to complain about the titles he leaves out (I’ll get to that later). Luckily, DeMichael has succeeded in creating an entertaining read that serves as a good survey of the genre for newcomers. READ MORE
Perhaps no film genre has inspired as much debate as film noir about what it does and doesn’t mean. It’s generally accepted that the term refers to movies released, approximately, in the two decades after WWII, generally shot in black and white, with plots involving crime and featuring a generally bleak outlook. However, as Mark Fertig notes in the introduction to Film Noir 101: The 101 Best Film Noir Posters from the 1940s-1950s, genre aficionados constantly debate which titles do or don’t qualify as noir; to Fertig, “A crime movie becomes a film noir when certain narrative, thematic, and iconographic forces fuse, clash, or agitate against one another, creating a uniquely dark, moody, and undeniably alluring atmosphere that also quietly, almost subversively, raises questions about the status quo in mid-century America.” READ MORE
It was a few years ago that I spoke with the legendary Jules Feiffer in regard to the 50th anniversary of The Phantom Tollbooth, which he illustrated from Norton Juster’s story. His new book, Kill My Mother, has just been released. I’m sure I’ll review that, but I thought its release was a good opportunity for me to make available my full interview with Feiffer for the first time.
J7: At what point did you begin to drift into the idea that you wanted to do work for children?
JF: At the time of The Phantom Tollbooth, I never envisioned having children. I didn’t want children, I was opposed to having children, didn’t think I was very good with children. My parents weren’t very good with me. They did their best, but it was not much of a best. I thought I would be no better. Why should I be?
But after Katy, in my second marriage to Jenny, I started fooling around with a book called I Lost My Bear, which was the first picture book I wrote. It was about my daughter Hallie when she was about 3 or 4, wandering around the house, being unable to concentrate. It was essentially an idea I had that came out of watching her and I saw how she couldn’t fulfill a complete one task or one job, that she’d go from one thing to another thing to another thing to another thing, and it occurred to me that one of the big differences between grown ups and kids is that grown ups have assimilated over the years a sense of — well, they have a beginning and a middle and an end to what they do. Kids don’t have that at all, and I thought that was worth experimenting with in a book, so I did this dummy of I Lost My Bear and that was the first picture book.
Before that, I wrote The Man In The Ceiling, which was a chapter book, and that’s what really got me into the business. I wrote it because a friend of mine, a wonderful illustrator named Edward Sorel, had suggested to me that I write a picture book for him and then we had a falling out over what the story would be and I got very angry with him and said okay, you write you’re picture book, I’ll write mine, and mine will be better than yours. That was what started this.
I started to think in terms of what the subject would be and as so often happens with your first books, it was autobiographical, and it was about a boy cartoonist and it became The Man in the Ceiling and went from picture book to chapter book into a full fledged novel. READ MORE
In a world where graphic novels for younger readers can sometimes be gimmicky, over the top, cartoonish, Raina Telgemeier has focused on creating books with a singular quality that wraps itself around all aspects of her stories — sincerity. There are no bells and whistles in Telgemeier’s books, no flash, no high concept, just people, and the simplicity of her conceptions, as well as her presentations, pave the way for something deeper and more honest lurking behind them unexpectedly. READ MORE
"I get to the point where I’m like, without a larger context, I don’t know how useful that information is. Without a larger conversation about minstrelsy, what it means, the effect that it has on our culture today, which are very strong, how it has shaped our entertainment, the way we consume entertainment, the way we look at race. As part of a larger context, I think these conversations about, ‘oh, he used the n-word’ – well, in and of itself, that means nothing. What does it mean in the larger conversation? That’s where we’re still working on that, I think, as a culture. The context and what did it mean, what do we do with it?" READ MORE
Sometimes, you love things that you don’t actually like. Anyone with relatives knows the feeling. It is that way with TV shows, often ones from your childhood experience, but sometimes you encounter something as an adult that is quite something for what it is, even as it doesn’t quite hit the mark, and it touches you somehow.
And so it is with Raven.
I have a soft spot in my heart for this very awkward little TV show about a ne’er do well London street kid who gets sent to the country and mixed up in some mystical environmentalism by way of King Arthur mythology. It’s not always good, but it is always interesting, consistently capturing your attention even as your eye begins to wander off a little too much on, say, the cast’s ‘70s wardrobe. READ MORE
Street fashion – and street fashion photography – is now ubiquitous in most cities. Online, there are even niche sites dedicated to older women, people of colour or particular style trends. But most of these blogs tend to simply record what’s out there, and what’s currently hot within mainstream fashion. Here in Toronto, where we’re definitely less adventurous than other cities, it’s not uncommon to visit street style websites, or even articles in our major papers, and see pretty young girls in the same trends – currently, cutoff jeans, brown suede boots and flowered shirts - from the typical fast fashion mall store.
But in New York, street fashion photographer Bill Cunningham of the New York Times doesn’t just record the fashions he sees on the streets, he takes an active part in setting trends and provoking stylish New Yorkers to follow suit. READ MORE
I’m betting that the only comic book artist who has drawn New York City more than Peter Kuper is Jack Kirby. The difference is that Kirby’s stories involved NYC under siege by exceptional people, giants like Galactus or the Sub-Mariner. Kuper’s New York City is more down to earth, much more recognizable, and it’s largely an existence that rots from the inside, often in the most mundane ways. In this way, Kuper is different from the other prolific New York City cartoonist I can think of — Will Eisner. Eisner always offered a glimmer of hope. READ MORE
What is the sum total of a person when that person is gone? Are the memories of them what counts? Their deeds? The property left behind? The mysteries they left behind? These are the central questions of Carol Swain’s Gast, and what answers do show themselves might leave you struggling. READ MORE
Antibodies is like an overload of information you don’t want, like too many postcards from from a hopeless subconscious that you never wanted to set loose, and yet you probably won’t look away from it. You can’t even process every bit of minutiae presented and that will keep you looking.What does it all mean?
Does it need to mean anything? Isn’t this just the unseen world that you can never un-see? Isn’t that the only point.
Antibodies is the work of photographer Antoine D’Agata, an intense guy who you can read an interview with here. The book captures the man and the world as he walks through it. READ MORE
The miniature diorama work of French artist Marc Giai-Miiet (above and here) will restore your faith in craftsmanship, since miniatures have been displaced in modern film and TV in favor of the same old, generic digital work. Most of his work seems to capture multi-levels in split view houses, and include both an industrial and a science fiction element. Wonderful work.
Tiresome Godlessness Department
As an atheist, I can’t imagine anything more excruciating than cranky television devoted disproving something. Why not offer actual religious history, real analysis of religious texts, and documentaries on science, math, rationality? Educate people! Or is just whining and bitching really more effective?
Take Nothing At Face Value Department
The latest paranoid outrage online is about the new Facebook Messenger app, which isn’t any different from any other app or website that has access to your information and permission to do things on behalf of your gadget. We’ve already guzzled the no-privacy Kool Aid ages ago. There is no more Kool Aid left and the Facebook Messenger app is nothing to get upset about in that scenario. My advice: If you want privacy, you might start with not owning a smartphone. That’s a pretty good step.
Don’t settle into being like climate change deniers because something just seems wrong despite the science telling us otherwise and despite scientific consensus to the contrary. Here is a good point-by-point essay on what the more radical opponents of GM crops get completely wrong.
Celebrities Worth Caring About Department
This New Yorker profile of Nina Simone is a fascinating and sympathetic piece that acknowledges her fire and genius, and her real involvement with the movers and shakers of the 1960s Civil Rights movement, but also the significance of her African features and how that is being downplayed in a recently film bio-pic that raises new levels to the charge of brownface in filmmaking — Zoe Saldana, an African American woman, is playing the role but apparently requires make-up to help her look “blacker.” If you know nothing about Simone, this is a must-read.
“I know it’s unfashionable for people of my generation and after to uphold any religious principles, but I agree with the Muslim fundamentalists that certain crimes should not be allowed. I think religious principles are the only ones worth fighting and dying for. Blasphemy should be punished because it’s utterly disrespectful, and when respect and order go out the window, you end up with a society like the one we have now.”
It also reminds everyone of her endorsement of fire bombing McDonald’s. Silly old Chrissie Hynde.
I like the term “wild art” so much better than “outsider art.” Not that they are exclusively related or anything.
“Wild art is the vast proliferation of art forms that occur beyond the perimeters of the established art world,” the book explains in its introduction. It then goes on to differentiate itself from “outsider art,” and explains that wild art “is simply art that does not fit into the narrow confines of the established art world.”
More than that, though, and as the book points out, it is art that does not wind through the traditional system of acceptance and applying value as it has been developed within the art world. “It is wild vegetation to the manicured lawns of the art world,” it states. Within these terms, I’d say it was unavoidable and invaluable.
Wild Art posits that there is no one art world, but multiple worlds, and takes it upon itself to function as some form of survey of many of these, an introduction to areas worth exploring further. READ MORE
Oh, this is a simple graphical delight with a lot of emotion behind it that is sure to thrill the parents who share this book with their kid.
Penelope the Fox says goodbye to her best friend, who is going on a rocket ship trip, and accidentally drops her own heart into the ocean. Of course she dives in after it, but that’s just the beginning of an exciting journey of recovering in which the heart is always one beat ahead. READ MORE
Henry Darger, like photographer Vivian Maier, has been claimed by the proper art world and there’s nothing we people out here can do to reclaim him. It’s too far gone. But any of us might have quietly labored with our own massive creatives works without any proper training or any clear intention of trying to introduce them to the world, to make a living off them, we all get Darger.
Darger is called an artist, but he’s an illustrator at heart, as well as a novelist. It’s not as if the proper art world has ever embraced illustrators very comfortably, using the sheer commercialism of the venture to enforce a chasm between the disciplines. And Darger seems to take most of his influence from the the commercial world of children’s books and comics, more than any fine art. As this very book points out, Darger’s vast fantasy world is more aligned with L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz series than anything else, and I feel fairly sure he would have at least courted the idea of sharing it with the world in a popular culture way had the right representative of the right publishing house shown up on his doorstep at the right time with that suggestion, and, of course, full knowledge of the work going on inside. READ MORE
Caitlin Skaalrud’s Houses of the Holy is like some alternate tarot cards that no one has ever seen, so personal that they are impossible to pierce anyhow. Regardless of what you draw from the deck, are they ever really meant for you? Or are they just cryptic dispatches from Skaalrud’s internal life, laid flat and challenging you to explain? READ MORE