Paranoia seemed like it had an audience in film in the 1970s, but not so much in television, let alone children’s television, unless you count The Night Stalker. It wouldn’t become standard fare until the 1990s, when The X Files made such discomfort not only palatable, but preferable to genre series.
That makes Codename: Icarus, from 1981, not only early to the game, but doubly unusual for being a children’s show. It could probably be described as a science fiction espionage show, but that would underplay the strong themes of conspiracy, of reality being out of anyone’s control, and of powerful forces manipulating the lives of ordinary people for the conspiracy.
Approaching the End: Imagining Apocalypse in American Film by Peter Labuza
The apocalypse is always just over the horizon, particularly if you live near a multiplex or have a Netflix subscription. Hollywood’s fascination with the end of the world is nothing new (as Charlton Heston’s early ‘70s career demonstrates), but recent years have seen a deluge of apocalyptic cinema, from disaster movies (2012, The Day After Tomorrow) to dystopian sci-fi (The Book of Eli, Snowpiercer) to comedies (This is the End, World’s End). If you’re looking for a critical study of these films, be warned that Approaching the End is not it: Peter Labuza has an entirely different take on what constitutes the apocalyptic American film, which makes for fascinating reading in its own right.
Labuza, a film critic who has written for Variety and Indiewire, sees most of these end-of-the-world movies as anti-apocalyptic, in that they tend to celebrate the endurance of the human spirit even through all the special-effects carnage. “You go into Roland Emmerich’s 2012 (2009) expecting the end of the world,” he writes, “but there at the end of it is John Cusack and his daughter hanging out on a boat with a bunch of other survivors cruising toward Africa and checking out a sunrise. It’s boring.” A true apocalyptic narrative, in Labuza’s view, finds the old social order permanently destroyed, resulting in darkness and chaos. READ MORE
Though told through a sheen of playful absurdist fantasy, Moonhead and the Music Machine from Nobrow Press is your basic high school loser tale, and it’s one plenty of us can identify with. Ask anyone if they fit in very well in high school and they are apt to say they didn’t — it’s one thing that unites us all, this feel that we are at arm’s length from our contemporaries, that everyone else has something better going on that we are not a part of.
How much harder would those emotions be to live with if you had a moon for a head, as does the aptly named teenage boy Joey Moonhead, whose head is, in fact, a moon that floats just above his neck and shoulders. He’s not a total freak in that his parents both have the same condition, and the school is filled with other physically unusual students as well. READ MORE
When the iPod Classic quietly died, it was underneath a bunch of public ballyhoo for the next shiny thing, the iPhonesomethingorother. I don’t know because I don’t have an iPhone. I barely have a cell phone, but that’s another story.
I do have an iPod Classic, though, and it is now in its twilight years,. When I saw the news I realized that I had very little time to replace my treasured but apparently clunky and unwanted gadget.
If I had been paying attention, I wouldn’t have had to move so fast. I guess it’s been common knowledge to people who read about this sort of thing that iPod sales had dropped off 50% over the last year and accounted for all of one whole percent of Apple’s sales. That still makes them the top selling MP3 players in the world, but that’s not really saying much. It’s like touting the top selling vinyl LP in the world — a high end for a niche market. And the iPod Classic is the niche within the niche. READ MORE
It’s hard to imagine now that Life of Brian was so controversial upon its release in the UK thirty-five years ago. The five living members of Monty Python’s reunion shows this summer saw them praised as cultural institutions, and two years ago, Eric Idle sang “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” during the closing ceremony for the London Olympics. It’s amusing to remember, when seen in such a context, that Idle originally performed the song in Life of Brian as an improbably upbeat man on a crucifix, trying to cheer up his neighbor Brian, and that the movie ends with a wide shot of a chorus of men on crosses joining in. In fact,Life of Brian was controversial enough that it remained banned in some English towns until only five or six years ago. READ MORE
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