Final movies post of 2018


Turbo Kid (2015)

This is a bit of nostalgia porn for people who loved BMX bikes and bad apocalypse and gory horror films. I ... don't much care about any of those things.

At first, watching this, I thought it was crassly mocking its ancestry. The love didn't come through until about the halfway point. Then it became obvious. And it was all love from there on out.

I will say: granted I don't watch gore-fun movies so this may not mean much, but I don't think I've ever laughed so much at gore. It was ... pretty darned creative.

My Neighbor Totoro (1998)

This is film group's selection for December and so I chose to finally watch the new dub. It has a lot of advantages over the old Fox dub, but it's not better in every way. I'm also curious if the rest of the film was merely remastered and remixed or if much of the sound and score were rerecorded.

Even though the old Fox dub has many flaws, I'm so familiar with it that even its problems are charming and comfortable. Still. Distractions from the new voices didn't prevent me from crying.

I love this movie so, so much.

The Comedy of Errors (1983)

It wasn't too bad, I guess. I didn't like it. But I've thought a lot these past couple weeks about Comedy of Errors and how I should think it should be staged. And Under an Hour is my primary decision.

But were I to put it on, I would prefer to turn it into a twenty-minute animated short. Sort of in this style. Adriana is a blubbering mess, always wailing and moping and making eyes at a framed image of her husband she carries around. The Ephesian Antipholus is hyperviolent while the Syracusian's violence is minimized.

I have other ideas. No one cares.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

I absolutely love this movie.

Which probably means it will go down as a lesser Coens film as my opinions don't usually coincide with the orthodoxy.

But I stand by my claim.

North Avenue Irregulars (1979)

This was one of my childhood-favorite slapstick live-action 1970s Disney comedies. I probably have not seen it since the previous century and I've been a tad nervous to see how it holds up. After all, some others have not (Gus, The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again...).

The good news is, it's still a fun watch. That helps when you have a cast like Barbara Harris, Cloris Leachman, and Edward Herrmann. They make the places where the writing is lazy slide by fairly easily.

That said, the writing is hella lazy. Lady Steed and I spent a chunk of our six-hour drive two days later discussing how the film could be updated. The concept has potential and this is the sort of film Disney should be revisiting instead of @#$%$#ing Lion King....

Spider-Man (2002)

I probably haven't seen this since the first time, in my father-in-law's mancave.

It holds up pretty well. It's an easy argument to make, that the superhero renaissance began with this film. And I sort of remember it being a soft open to #2's excellence, but watching them back-to-back, it's hard to argue that one is better than the other.

Let's skip ahead to that one, shall we?

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

The effects in this film hold up better than those in #1, but for films well on their way to twenty-years-old, they hold up fine. It's also nice to watch them together because the real story here is that of Peter and MJ and it takes two films for them to have a satisfying arc.

This film too I have not seen but the once, this time in-theater, just before we moved back to California. It blew me away and, in my mind, has always been one of the greatest superhero films. On rewatching I still consider it quite a good superhero film, but there's so much more competition now, it's a harder claim to justify. Largely because what a superhero film can be has grown so much. It's happy, in other words, that I'm not sure I still find my old opinion justifiable.

One thing about watching these films? How young everyone looks. Time, it seems, has indeed passed.

One last comment, this about Kirsten Dunst (who, it would seem, has aged the least, which may be more a comment on Hollywood's expectations upon women than anything else). Isn't she great? And I'm not saying that because her nipples get cameos in both films. She manages to be a damsel in distress while remaining strong. She gets her Fay Wray on while seeming fully modern. And Sam Raimi's horror bits throughout the films are never better served than when Kirsten Dunst gets to play the scream queen.

Weirdly though, seeing her here most makes me want to finally watch Melancholia, just to catch some more of her range.

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

It's been far too long since I've revisited this film. My kids had never seen it. Now they have. And a thousand parodies now make sense to them. And they thought it was a good movie.

But only their parents wept throughout and sobbed at the end.

This is a movie you admire and are moved by as a child. But it's something else entire when you grow up to be some mix of George and Mary yourself.

This should be the movie we watch every year. It has so much to give.

The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)

This is the greatest of all (known) New Year's Eve films and if you watched something else, you must justify yourself to me. It's perfect.

I cannnot understand anyone who declares this lesser Coen. Have you even seen this movie since 1994?

Come over any December 31st and share in the joys!


Previous films watched







Final books post of 2018


116) Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge: "Only a Poor Old Man" by Carl Barks, finished December 31

Although I enjoyed this book very much, I'm particularly grateful for the little mini-essays in the back. They're not much (note: mini), but they're enough to help me, a newcomer, see why Barks is so well regarded among his peers and fans and descendants.

As further evidence, let me mention that this was a rare occasion where all three of my boys (ages fifteen to nine) asked if there were more of these and please let us get some. That much mean something.
maybe two weeks



Connecting today to a Christmas
a quarter-century ago....


115) The Witching Hour by Anne Rice, finished December 23
My sister gave me this book for Christmas about twenty-five years ago---somewhat begrudgingly, from the inscription. I guess me being hard to buy for is a longstanding trait. She gave it to me and I was excited to have it, but I had other Anne Rice books in my collection to tackle before beginning this 1000+page monstrosity.

I had already read and been delighted by Interview and The Vampire Lestat. But then I read the third vampire book, Queen of the Damned, which was terrible. As was The Mummy. I don't know what order these disappointments happened in, but add in the extreme discomfort that came from reading the first half of the first Beauty book as well.

Anyway, The Witching Hour went into storage. But I never forgot about it. And I pulled it out to read this fall as my Halloween book.

I have mixed feelings.

Much of the novel was excellent, although it did rather feel like more than one novel cobbled together. And then, towards the end there were literally hundreds of pages of stalling. And then, instead of properly ending, it just sets up for a sequel.

I know!

There are, Wikipedia tells me, two sequels, each shorter than the one that preceded it. Which is not how these things usually work. And which might make them sufficiently tempting. Although who would buy them for me? And would I live long enough to read them both?


In brief, an otherworldly creature has been breeding witches for twelve generations, all with some great plan in place. (Much of the spiritual whatnot, incidentally, sounds strikingly Mormon, which is rather bizarre as it clearly is not.) There is terrible violence and exotic sex and---

Oh, yes. I just remembered. Part of the reason I became leery of reading the book was because one of its main themes that reviews at the time dwelt on was incest. And yes: certainly plenty of that. I guess you can fit a lot of anything into 1000+pages if that's what you want to do.

I guess I just have a hard time believing this book will stick with me. Which is disappointing, given how much time I gave it. And, given how long it's been since I read her, I can't well say how it compares to her other books. Who knows what I would think of any of them were I to read them again?

Anyway, Merry Christmas!
eighty-four days



I may not be doing much for my intellectual reputation, but some!


109) True Grit by Charles Portis, finished December 9

We found this audiobook in a Little Free Library earlier this year and we finally took a trip wherein we could fit in, no problem, its Six hours.


It's still awesome. And even though I had forgotten how violent it is, I'm very pleased my kids got to experience it.

A great, nearly lost, American classic. And short. You have no excuses.
friday and sunday


110) The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin, finished December 11

This was nominated for a National Book Award and somehow it caught my attention. The library hooked me up and I'm so glad it did.

The book alternates between three points of view: that of an omniscient narrator, a series of letter from the head of intelligence to the Elfin king, and a series of images, the provenance of which is not immediately clear; at first I thought they two were "omniscient" (pictures feel that way), but they most certainly are not.

In short, this book lied to me. And it did so remarkably well. At first I was confused by the lies, thinking there was a flaw in the craftsmanship. How did this get Nation Book Award notice, I wondered. Then the pieces began to fit together. And I began to realize I was being lied to. Not all these characters are who they seem---sometimes because they are lying and sometimes because they are being lied about.

I highly recommend this book if you want to see a genuinely innovative mix of words and images. I recommend this book if you would like to examine bias and prejudice and propaganda. I recommend this book wholeheartedly do your children. But I'll bet you have the more thought-provoking experience.

One last note: I don't have any idea how this novel could be turned into a film without simply throwing out all the elements that make it remarkable. I'm not saying it's impossible, but it was would take a dedicated (and brilliant) creative team. I would love to see what such a team would come up with. I would not love to see the lazy version of this book-as-movie which would feel derivative and pointless and boring, even if done excellently. Brangwain is a terrific example of how using the form of a medium well can make a work of art unique and wonderful.
almost three weeks


111) Captain Marvel: In Pursuit of Flight by DeConnick/Soy/Rios, finished December 11

I think this might be my favorite of the Carol Danvers books I've read recently. It's got a bit of time travel, a bit of vintage girl power, a bit of true dialgue between characters....

Reading (most of) the small-time bio in the back of this volume helped me get a sense of the character's in-universe history which is long and complex and richer than I had known. Fine stuff.

But, all that said, I think I'm done reading Carol comics. I'll just wait for the movie now.
a few days


112) Strong Female Protagonist by Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag, finished December 13

I think I picked this up, for some reason, because I was disappointed in Witch Boy. Now I'm disappointed because my library does not have volume two.

Although I love me a good Batman movie and much of Marvel's recent movie run, the fact is that what I really want is a superhero movie that does not obey the rules. I want an Iron Giant or an Unbreakable or a Chronicle. Something new and fresh. I also really want more media that explores the lives of regular people in a world with superheros.

This book gives me both. Although it's painted in Marvel/DC colors, it has some smart thinking about what a superhero world might really be like and it's found some new and startling issues I've never seen dealt with before. The book's art and writing get better as it goes along (the erstwhile mouseover text does not). Man. I hope someone makes this movie.



113) Why Art? by Eleanor Davis, finished December 18

To look at the title of this book, to look at its cover, to read its backcopy or reviews, you might expect a manifesto of some kind. And that's what it is, yes, but it doesn't take that many pages to lose the form of your typical manifesto and to then dissolve into something metaphorical and mad. Which may well make it all the more effective, but which does make it much more difficult to effectively quote in your own dissertation.

I'm still puzzling over just hat this manifesto has manifested to me. And, if I had figured it out, putting it into my own words to tell you would be a lie and a misrepresentation. To know just why art, according to Eleanor Davis, you would have to read the words and look at the pictures yourself.


114) Captain Marvel: Rise of Alpha Flight by Fazekas/Butters/Anka/Smith, finished December 22

Found another from the library lying around. It would be top half Captain Marvel-read.
maybe three days



Lotta Marvel comics, mindbending French kids books, our old pal Willie Shakes


099) The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag, finished November 19

My nine-year-old read this five times and loved it. Keep that in mind.

This is a nice book. It has pretty decent characters and the worldbuilding is fine. The story is a solid metaphor for LGBTQery. My problems with it are very adult in nature. I just don't like how it is not, in fact, merely metaphorical, merely symbolic. Nope. This has crossed the line into straightup allegory. And while there's nothing wrong with allegory, per se, it is by its nature simplistic. I want a little bit more.

But remember my son, the targeted age for this work, liked it very much.
not long


100) Vacation by Blexbolex, finished November 20

This beautiful wordless book kept startling me. It's a young child's vacation with the choas of love and violence and jealosy and fear and bliss inherent with being a child.


101) The Mighty Captain Marvel: Alien Nation by Stohl/Rosanas/Garland, finished November 20

The Big O, allegedly to prepare for the movie, checked out a Captain Marvel volume one. Of which there are several. This didn't seem to be the best as there's a lotta balls in the air when it begins. Regardless, it's full of the worst kind of comics pseudoscience and the jokes are pummelly (thus unfunny) and ... while not by any means terrible, this is not the book to convince your friends comics can be literature.


102) Rocket Raccoon & Groot Vol. 1: Tricks of the Trade by a hole slew o' guys, finished November 28

I first started buying these a year or two ago when my buddy Jake Parker took over art duties on Rocket Raccoon. Biggo checked this collection out of the library and says it's his favorite of the superhero collections we've had around of late.

It as pretty good.

The Skottie Young influence is deep (I mean, he did write every Rocket and draw a good chunk of them) which I find a bit exhausting, but enough voices show up in the collection of a whole that I feel we get a bit of triangulation on these characters. Groot really comes out as the most interesting character overall.

But enough about them.
a few days


103) Ballad by Blexbolex, finished December 2

Okay, Blexbolex, you wild and crazy (*checks with Google*) guy, you did it again. Lulled me into a pleasant little story for children then proceeded to shock and startle me for a couple hundred pages.

You have to check this Blexbolex guy out, everybody. He is something.
not long


104) Seasons by Blexbolex, finished December 2

This one, like the first I read by Blexbolex, are catalogued in the JUNIOR PICTURE BOOK section of my county's library system. Yet they qualify for this list.

Alos, I've never read something from the picture-book section quite like these. Of course, there are many wondeful picture books written by incredible writers. But Blexbolex is really changing the rules. Take this book, for instance. It's not that different from any picture book taking us through the seasons. One word per picture per page. Very simple. But this book takes us through many years and it finds the beauty even in the weird and ugly attributes of the seasons. The facing pages hitting DROUGHT and BLAZE certainly caught this Californian offguard.
also not long


105) The Comedy of Errors by Wm Shakespeare, finished December 4

This play is straight-up bonkers. No wonder it's Shakespeare's shortest! Any longer and it would completely fall apart. It already strains credulity, but it moves quickly enough that I can see how, staged properly, the audience would never get a chance to notice.

Really, some dang funny lines though. It's easy to imagine a hilarious production.


106) Spider-Gwen: Greater Power by Latour/Rodriguez/Visions, finished December 4

I've been hearing about this for a long time, but unlike other recent female-led titles (eg, Ms Marvel or Squirrel Girl), this volume one is very in media res. And although I largely caught up to the story, it was complex and required a lot of Marvel knowledge. My kids "liked" it but they don't feel like they understood it. And I'm only a couple steps ahead of them here.
a week


107) Captain Marvel: Higher, Further, Faster, More by DeConnick/Lopez, finished December 6

This one was much easier to drop into and enjoy. And this Carol Danvers is a very easy Carol Danvers to like. It's clearer why she's a beloved character.
two days maybe


108) Legendary Star-Lord: Face It, I Rule by Humphries/Medina/Williams, finished December 6

I like Peter Quill as much as the next guy but Kitty Pryde deserves someone way, way better.
two days maybe