Saturday, August 17, 2013

Marvels: Strange Tales #101

"The Human Torch" by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers
(October 1962)

The Human Torch was, I guess, the breakout character from Fantastic Four, hitting square at the teenage audience. So he was given his own solo stories as the new lead feature in Strange Tales. Like Thor and the Ant-Man, the Torch will have shorter adventures, with the rest of the book devoted to short stories with a science-fiction twist.

The Human Torch's solo series is no Fantastic Four, but it has fun moments. It's pretty silly; even though it's years too early, it tends to remind me of your average episode of Scooby Doo.

Johnny Storm, when he isn't at the Baxter Building, apparently lives and goes to high school in Glenville. And, to see the way this series unfolds, Glenville is apparently one of the Eastern seaboard's high traffic areas for crimes, shenanigans, and spy nests.

In this story, Johnny faces someone calling himself The Destroyer. He repeatedly sabotages an amusement park that's under construction. The Torch saves people from the deadly sabotage a few times, tracks down the Destroyer, figures out that he's destroying the amusement park because (seriously) people at the top of the roller coaster will be able to see a Soviet sub parked out in the cove, and then unmasks the Destroyer as the editor of the local paper.

And that's the end.

Not much to it.

Hey, I said it was fun, not exciting.

A couple of notes:

:: Much of Johnny's difficulties here stem from him trying to hide when he turns into the Human Torch, because no one in Glenville knows who he is. (The narration assures us that four of Johnny's high school friends knew his identity, but they've all graduated.) I don't know exactly whose mistake this is, since the Fantastic Four are clearly well-known celebrities. Readers will point this out to the bullpen and there will actually be an in-canon explanation for this in a future issue of Strange Tales. Nice touch.

:: There's another one of those neat Jack Kirby diagrams explaining Johnny's house.

Interesting that Johnny's reading up on pyrotechnics. I guess it pays off, as his powers develop. (In this issue, he turns his flame white hot to weld metal. He can also make a flame duplicate of himself which he can manipulate. Not bad for a guy who, last month in Fantastic Four, forgot that there's no oxygen in outer space.)

Note that his bed is asbestos. In another panel, we see his bedspread, carpet and wallpaper are asbestos, and his furniture has been chemically treated to be fireproof. So, clearly, Johnny Storm has some pretty bad cancer.

:: There's a cameo by the Thing. Just thought I'd mention it.

Next: it's the Ant-Man's turn to fight commies.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Marvels: Journey Into Mystery #85

"Trapped by Loki, the God of Mischief" by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers
(October 1962)

Not the greatest of introductions for one of the greatest villains of the Marvel Universe, but that's okay, it's still early. Everyone's still feeling out the characters and the concept. I mean, to be fair, they don't even have a handle on Thor's character yet, other than being Superman.

(Roger pointed out to me in the comments of my last installment on Journey Into Mystery that the Donald Blake-Jane Foster-Thor love triangle was more or less the Clark Kent-Lois Lane-Superman love triangle, and after he pointed it out I was almost embarrassed not to have realized that. I think understanding that is pretty key to seeing the direction they take Thor in at first; he's very much like Superman.)

This issue does introduce to some of the Norse mythology as it will be used in the Marvel Universe, and that mythos is one of my favorite things about this comic. We see Asgard, and the rainbow bridge Bifrost, and when we meet Loki he's trapped inside a tree. He's been able to master the tree, and jostles it just enough to force a leaf into Heimdall's eye, causing him to shed a tear, which means he gets out of his woody prison on a technicality. (Loki's great at exploiting technicalities; he's like those internet commenters who think the best jokes are literalisms that start with the words "Well, technically...")

Loki seeks vengeance on Thor, which is always easy for him to do, even though it's always temporary. Here, he uses the sun to hypnotize Thor (clever in a silly Silver Age way) and tries to get him to hand over the hammer or throw it away. Of course, Thor is unable to give up the hammer to anyone (by the will of Odin), and if he throws the hammer away, it always returns. So Loki cleverly conjures up a double of Thor, and Thor hands his double the hammer, dropping it to the ground.

In the best tradition of villainy, it's here where Loki really defeats himself. He doesn't know about Donald Blake yet, so he doesn't know that when the hammer is out of Thor's hand for more than one minute, Thor reverts back to Blake, freeing him from Loki's hypnotic spell.

The rest of the issue is a fight between the brothers, with Loki just basically running amok and throwing a temper tantrum, knocking stuff over and getting angry like an errant child. I do like how Loki uses a flock of pigeons to fly away on, and then brings the Pegasus from the Mobil sign to life (Mobil isn't named, natch). Thor stops a subway train from being destroyed in a very Superman sort of fashion. And then he sends Loki back to Asgard on the magic hammer express, followed by the customary closer: Jane cooing over how wonderful Thor is while Blake winks at the camera.

It's a lot better than the previous issue of Journey Into Mystery. With the introduction of the Asgardian mythos and Loki, Thor's on much better footing as a character. I really prefer these kinds of stories to some of the other situations he'll wind up in.

Other stuff:

:: This is the first time we see Heimdall, the guardian of Bifrost. We'll see him with several looks before his most famous is settled on, so here's the first one:

:: Also, can I just say how hard it is to read Loki and take him seriously sometimes? I know he's really supposed to be more of a bratty child here than a cunning, evil devil, but it's hard to take him seriously, especially just given how much he's been parodied elsewhere over time. I keep imagining his voice as the voice of the Monarch from Venture Bros., which really cuts down on his ability to menace.

Panels like this one don't help.

"Nyaaah! Nyaaah! Swoooosh!"

That said, Roger's Superman comparison gives me a new way of looking at Loki as Superman's arch villain. As we've all read and said before, one of the keys to being a great, lasting villain is being not just the opposite of the hero, but being someone similar with similar opportunities whose way of thinking took them down a different path. Look at what we've seen so far in the Marvel Universe. Doctor Doom is the greatest villain because he and Reed Richards are two sides of the same coin. They're both geniuses who build a lot of technology. But where Reed has used it to better humankind, Doom wants to use it to enslave humankind. Reed may be highhanded occasionally and may come across as an arrogant jerk, but he doesn't demand worship and tribute like Doom does.

Loki and Thor, then, are also the same dual personality. They're both Asgardian gods, they both have powers that seem like magic, but where Thor uses his powers to protect the Earth, Loki uses his powers to create havoc and mischief. It does remind me a lot of some of Superman's villains. There's a lot that's been said about how Lex Luthor is the opposite side of Superman--the side that is mentally powerful rather than physically, the side that also looks down at humanity from a great height and reacts differently than Superman would. But he also has a lot of villains like, say, Toyman, who are meant to be the opposite of Superman's dignity and nobility. I mean, how do you fight Toyman when his goal really seems to just be the humiliation of Superman and the puncturing of his great dignity? Loki comes out of that Toyman tradition, at least until he really starts endangering people. It's an interesting motivation to think about. He wants to enslave Thor, but he also just really wants to humiliate Thor because their father loved Thor better.

:: Why does Loki need a human disguise like Donald Blake's while on Earth in order to fool Thor? First, would Blake even recognize Loki? What Loki really needed was just a cheap suit or something.

:: At one point, Loki turns some humans into living photo-negative versions of themselves. Thor returns them to normal by spinning his hammer fast enough to create antimatter particles. Didn't know he could do that one. Wonder if he ever does it again. Neat twist, though. Oy, no pun intended. (This is also the issue where we find out that Thor's hammer is made from enchanted, unbreakable Uru metal.)

:: The first time Jane Foster sees Loki, she says, out loud, how romantic and dashing he is. In this issue, the part of Jane Foster is played by Tumblr.

:: Thor defeats Loki by throwing him into the harbor, because, according to Norse mythology, Loki's powers don't work if he's wet. I wonder if this fact is ever used against him ever again. Of course, it would become pretty stale to just throw Loki in a river or have Thor whip up a rainstorm every time Loki comes causing trouble, but it is something to keep in mind, isn't it? Not having that as a backup is a bit like Lex Luthor deciding never to use kryptonite because it isn't sporting.

Like I said, there's some really good foundation being laid in this issue. Loki is an annoyance right now, but he's also Thor's first real threat. The problem with sending Thor against communist dictators or gangsters is going to be finding ways to separate him from his hammer or to have his nobility used against him. It's not always as interesting as putting him against a villain who either has an equal amount of power or who doesn't have the same regard for human life and has the power to back that up.

Fun stuff this issue.

On the next Marvels: the Human Torch's first solo adventure!

I Would Love to Have One of These

I'm missing out on so many wonderful collectibles anymore. Oh, well.

I went to see Return of the Jedi probably more times than I have ever gone to see any movie in the theater. (Especially with re-releases.) When I was six, something about it really captured my imagination like no other movie.

See, as I may have mentioned before, when I was a kid, I was all about creatures and comics and special effects and Muppets. So the scenes in Jabba the Hutt's throne room really just pulled me in and fascinated me. I tried to recreate it as much as I could. I had so many of the action figures from Jabba's palace, as many as I could ask for that people would gift me with. I had a model kit of the throne room with all the various figures. I used other toys to create elaborate set-ups with Jabba at the center, Salacious Crumb always by his side.

There was also a TV special that I watched repeatedly: Classic Creatures: Return of the Jedi. It was all about making the creatures in the movie and about how they were created and operated. I was fascinated by it, the same way I would later be fascinated with gigantic books about Industrial Light & Magic or the Muppets.

When I was a kid, I really envisioned being some kind of creature maker. I wanted to do something in special effects. I loved to draw as a kid, and I really wanted to do creature conceptual designs. Or maybe I would build models for special effects shots. Or create sound effects. Or do cartoon voices. Or be a Muppeteer. Or something, anything to do with that whole world. That was my passion, and that's why I still get so high on fantasy movies, even today when it's all computers. Computer effects are less interesting to me, but when someone (like Peter Jackson) uses them to just free the imagination, I do enjoy them.

So seeing this Salacious Crumb up here just makes me think how much I wanted that guy in my collection when I was a kid, and how much I wanted to do that kind of work, making kids' eyes light up with wonder or laughter or even terror at special effects wizardry and puppet magic. The guy makes me smile every time.

(As you can guess, I'm hugely looking forward to The Making of Return of the Jedi coming out this year.)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

EW's Greatest Movies in 1999

Nearly a month ago, I commented on Entertainment Weekly's new list of the 100 All-Time Greatest Movies. I commented after seeing Roger had done so. Now Roger has put up (with comments) the list of movies that EW had on the list in 1999, but which had fallen off the list by 2013. It's a surprising amount of films! EW is a surprisingly fickle lot. This is part of the reason why those "of all time" lists always baffle me: nearly half the list changes in just 14 years.

So, naturally, here are my own comments on them.

5. Raging Bull (1980)
I was surprised but also not surprised when it wasn't on the 2013 list. Critical consensus for a long time was that this was Scorsese's masterpiece, the one that should have won Best Picture in 1980 (and, for a lot of people I've read or talk to over the years, whose loss shows the overall meaninglessness of the Oscars). Apparently, EW has decided Scorsese's true masterpiece is Mean Streets, one of his earliest films. For most people, though, the label seems to have shifted to GoodFellas, another film that Was Robbed of the Oscar. (For the record, I don't think either film was the best of its year, though I do think GoodFellas was second best.) Raging Bull is a great, powerful film. I'd like to see it again.

7. The Godfather, Part II (1974)
I was surprised not to see this one on the 2013 list, too. Honestly, I'm not a huge fan of this one. It's a great film, but it's not, well, The Godfather. I think it's because I find the scenes with the young Vito very compelling, but not so much of the stuff with Michael, not until he gets run out of Cuba. It's because in the first film, he has that whole journey, that whole descent into evil. In this picture, he starts evil and then just stays there, until suddenly becoming, I guess, more evil. More ruthless. I've just never been as into it with all that Hyman Roth stuff. Great picture overall, but not a true favorite of mine the way the first is. But I've had a lot of arguments with other film buffs over the years about whether or not it should have won the Oscar. (My pick: Chinatown.) Or should I say, I've had variations of the exact same argument.

16. Star Wars (1977)
Another surprise omission from the 2013 list. I'll be honest, The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite of the series, but Star Wars is the real deal, if you catch my meaning. It's the genuine masterpiece.

23. Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Indeed. Roger mentions this being scary, which it certainly is, but which is one of my favorite aspects of it. It's why my favorite Disney movies are the earliest ones, before they started shying away from fairy tale darkness and genuine fantasy weirdness.

24. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Very funny, very cute. I love Katharine Hepburn in it. My wife is very annoyed by this movie. This is like the keystone to half of the Coen Brothers' female leads.

27. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
I've always liked this one, but--and this almost never happens--when I read the novel in college, my estimation of the film went down just a little. The film is sanitized in comparison. The novel really burrowed deep inside me and stayed there. I wish I could write something with a third so much power. None of that takes away from Jane Darwell's touching performance, though.

28. Sunset Boulevard (1950)
A masterpiece.

33. Jules and Jim (1962)
Also a masterpiece. I wonder why this was suddenly dropped. I wonder why any of these films was suddenly dropped. Having spent most of July with Truffaut, I can say he made a lot of great films, but this was probably his best.

34. Sherlock, Jr. (1924)
Fantastic Buster Keaton film, with one of his classic chase scenes.

35. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
When I saw this in high school, I thought it was silly and dated. Then I just suddenly wound up watching it on cable about six or seven years ago with Becca, and I really enjoyed it. Not just enjoyed it, but loved it. Becca loved it, too, which surprised me.

36. 8 1/2 (1963)
Excellent film. I'd love for TCM to do a Fellini spotlight the way they did Truffaut last month. As I said on the last one, my favorite Fellini film is Nights of Cabiria.

42. Aliens (1986)
Aliens is a fun movie, but Alien is a masterpiece.

46. The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957)
I first saw this movie on video on a day when I stayed home sick from high school. I was very sick that morning, almost delirious. I was just in the early stages of what ended up being three years of seriously pursuing the big, famous films and giving myself a real base as a film buff. By that afternoon, the breeze was coming in the window, I had a refreshing Pepsi, and I suddenly became very lucid. I put this video in the VCR (got it from my library, which had only just started carrying films), and I had one hell of an afternoon. This is a great film from a maker of great films.

51. Children of Paradise (1945)
What a beautiful film to simply drink in and enjoy. I know that in the 90s, the consensus among French critics was that this was the greatest film in French history. I wonder if that's why EW originally included it.

53. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
Someone always gets pissed off at me for saying it, but I like the 1978 version better.

59. The Lady Eve (1941)
I've never liked it. Preston Sturges just leaves me cold.

62. Henry V (1944)
Not bad, but I prefer Branagh's version. More passion, more mud and blood.

65. The Third Man (1949)
I like it, but I also think it's overrated.

67. Airplane! (1980)
I'm sorry to see this one get dropped. One of the funniest movies I've ever seen.

68. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
A masterpiece. I would've dropped Frankenstein before dropping this one.

69. The Conformist (1970)
This is the first one here that I haven't seen. I really need to see this.

70. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
I do love this one. Of the films from the "Disney Renaissance" era (generally considered to be 1989-2000), this one is my favorite. Cried and cried and cried when I first saw it; one of the most emotionally affecting movies of my life.

71. To Be or Not to Be (1942)
Another of the funniest movies of all time. "Heil myself." And sometimes, for no reason, I'll suddenly say "So they really call me Concentration Camp Ehrhardt?" because I know Becca will laugh.

72. M (1931)
Yes, absolutely. An early sound masterpiece, utterly chilling.

73. Great Expectations (1946)
Another great David Lean film. (Incidentally, I have Oliver Twist on my DVR.)

74. Funny Face (1957)
I haven't seen it. I'm just not a big fan of Audrey Hepburn.

75. Tootsie (1982)
This one's on my DVR, too. I want to do an 80s Revisited on it. (Though I have a couple of others that I still haven't written.) I've never really warmed to this movie (except for Bill Murray), and now that I'm nearly 40 (Jesus Christ!) I'd like to see if it speaks to me differently.

76. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
This is an excellent, excellent film. Angela Lansbury is amazing in this thing. I was never sure what to expect, but when I got there... wow.

77. Battleship Potemkin (1925)
It's an important film, but I always wonder if people putting this on a list like this are doing so academically or out of a sense of historical obligation. I mean, it is a great film--I saw it in high school when I was seeing The Great Films--but I never see anyone talking about how it's a great film, just about how it's a Great Film. So... maybe I feel that despite being a powerful, important film, it's also a bit overrated?

78. White Heat (1949)
I saw this for the first time a few years ago and was underwhelmed. Cagney's great in it, but I just didn't enjoy it that much.

79. It’s a Gift (1934)
This is a very funny movie, but if we're talking WC Fields, I think that neither list including The Bank Dick is an egregious oversight.

80. Nosferatu (1922)
Beautiful-looking movie.

82. Diabolique (1955)
Wonderfully creepy.

84. Blow-Up (1966)
When I recently did my underwhelming list of my favorite movies of the 1960s, this was my third. I only saw this in the last two years, but it's easily one of the best and most absorbing films I've ever seen. A real masterpiece.

85. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
I'm surprised this was dropped. It's a powerful movie. It's still relevant. It's always vital.

87. L’Age d’Or (1930)
Powerful, excellent stuff. Bunuel is amazing.

88. The Producers (1968)
Probably still my favorite Mel Brooks film. But of course it is, because it has Zero Mostel. This is one of those films that never stops being funny for me, even when I know all the gags.

89. Wings of Desire (1988)
Jeez, I still haven't seen this, and I've wanted to since I was in high school.

90. Pickup on South Street (1953)
Great flick. For my money, Fuller's masterpiece is The Big Red One, which is more genuine than Saving Private Ryan in every conceivable way.

91. Mildred Pierce (1945)
Excellent movie. The 1940s are honestly not my favorite era of filmmaking, but this is one of the greats from that time period. (So is Mrs. Miniver. Not on either list.)

94. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
Of course this made the 1999 list, because it was so hipper-than-thou to point out thoroughly You've Got Mail ripped it off. I think this movie is okay.

95. Tokyo Story (1953)
Excellent movie.

96. The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
One of my all time favorites.

99. Swept Away… (1975)
I've never seen it and would really like to, it's just never floated into my range. I keep hoping TCM will show this or something. I've seen the godawful Madonna movie. That will not color my opinion of anything except Madonna's awful acting. I don't know why anyone would ever cast her in anything ever again, since that movie is definitive proof that she cannot act.

100. Celine & Julie Go Boating (1974)
I don't know this movie.

Well, there's all that. Roger also lists some of the movies on EW's genre lists that weren't in the main 2013 list, but this post is running long enough with my windbag-ness, so I'll get on those later.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Marvels: Fantastic Four #7

"It Came from the Skies!" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers
(October 1962)

The early issues of Fantastic Four are at their best, to me, when Stan and Jack are treating them like amazing science fiction spectaculars. This issue gets thing going immediately by giving us this amazing splash image of the issue's villain: Kurrgo, Master of Planet X!

Kurrgo is easily one of my favorite Kirby alien designs of all time, and so far we've had some good ones! (Particularly the Skrulls and the Stone Men from Saturn.)

Kurrgo's plan, which he carries out handily, is to send a robot operative to Earth, use a "hostility ray" to turn the public against the Fantastic Four, thus making the FF more amenable to hopping aboard a flying saucer to come to Planet X, where Kurrgo requires their help. A runaway asteroid has entered our solar system and is heading straight towards our hitherto unknown tenth planet, where Kurrgo's civilization will be destroyed (and the Earth, undeservingly to Kurrgo, will be spared).

This seems like a lot of trouble to go to. Really, he probably could've just asked Reed Richards for help and gotten it. Reed's not exactly a hard sell when it comes to doing something nice and science-y to help out someone else. But Kurrgo doesn't ask for favors; he demands them, because that's how he and his gloriously gigantic head roll. Also, the people of Planet X don't care for space travel, so they only have two ships capable of interstellar flight, so they can't just take off for less in-the-direct-path-of-a-killer-asteroid pastures.

Reed has to save five billion inhabitants of Planet X, and he takes the work seriously. Planet X is pretty impressive; they've mastered space travel, antigravity--they've even got a robot made of a metal so impervious that when the Thing tries to punch it, it hurts him! There's the requisite fighting from hotheads Ben and Johnny, but Reed refuses to waste precious time and devotes himself to helping these people. True, Kurrgo refuses to let the FF leave the planet until they've helped save everyone, but you know Reed would've stayed behind, anyway.

What's kind of funny is Reed's creation is basically a larger-scale version of Ant-Man's reducing gas. His plan is to use the gas to reduce the five billion inhabitants of Planet X so they can easily get away in one ship. When they've found another world, they can then then use an enlarging gas to get themselves back to their normal size and start civilization anew.

But, this being Stan Lee, there are a couple of twists worthy of Amazing Adult Fantasy.

First, Kurrgo lets it go to his massive head and decides that when they reach their new world, he'll only enlarge himself so that he can truly be master of the five billion. But then, on his way to the ship... he drops the canister containing the enlarging gas and can't make it to the ship! He's left behind! Left behind to die on Planet X!

And second, Reed reveals that there was never an enlarging gas; he only said there was so they'd agree to the plan. But, he points out, when they get where they're going, they'll all be the same size, and "in this vast universe of ours, one's size is only relative, anyway!"

It seems kind of cold at first--like hypnotizing the Skrulls into believing they're cows--but I get it. Time was of the essence, the situation was grim, and at least these people will survive. On the other hand, it's interesting that Reed couldn't create an enlarging gas, but Henry Pym could.

Well, he gave them a fighting chance, anyway!

Other notes:

:: Once again, the full issue-length stories allow for great asides and character development. Some of the best stuff in these issues is just watching the Four hang out and become more of a family. This is what makes Fantastic Four a special comic book: these guys aren't just a bunch of intrepid science heroes and adventurous explorers like the Challengers of the Unknown (no disrespect to that book, which is amazing), they're a family.

Here we get a whole couple of pages of Johnny, Ben and Sue talking about how they're just nervous about appearing at a Washington gala in their honor. Johnny is afraid to speak in public, Ben is self-conscious about his appearance, and Sue feels like she's not important enough for such an honor. You could argue that it's really Reed who's responsible for bringing them out of their shells. Right now, it seems like they'd all be content to hide from the public and their growing celebrity if it wasn't for Reed pushing them to take the credit they deserve. I was actually going to make a joke here about how of course it's arrogant Reed who wants to go and be feted by the Washington elite, but really, he believes they all deserve the honor as a team and doesn't downplay their important contributions as either members of the Fantastic Four, human beings in general, or his closest friends. I give Reed a lot of shit about his arrogance, but in this one... well, I just love how he honors these people and his responsibility towards them.

This issue really does some great work building up Reed Richards as a character.

:: Dig this panel of Mr. Fantastic checking out the vents to make sure everything's working okay.

He can reduce his size, and I love the way he flattens himself to get in and out. That's very imaginative on Kirby's part, and it just looks neat. I love how the creators find ways to demonstrate their capabilities.

There are some good examples of power use, too, after the hostility ray hits the gala and the Fantastic Four have to escape from Washington. Man, that never gets resolved, does it? Not even an apology from Washington for running the FF out of town?

:: I love that Reed is totally wowed by the robot's self-contained portable television receiver (which is enormous). It's so quaint in the age of smartphones. I don't mean that in a jackass way. It just makes me smile to see something we take for granted today that used to be the stuff of fiction. It makes me hopeful for what the future could be like. It all starts with the imagination.

:: In the (poorly typeset) letters page, a couple of guys complain about how the Fantasticar looks like a flying bathtub. Hey, screw you, bunkies! I love that flying bathtub!

My favorite letter this issue: Stan's simple admission of a mistake.

A great issue of old-fashioned, still-exciting sci-fi adventure. This is exactly the kind of 1960s science fiction I love, and worthy of each issue's proclamation of being the World's Greatest Comic Magazine.

Next in Marvels: Enter Loki!

Monday, August 12, 2013

John Carradine, 1982

I just had to share this great publicity photo of John Carradine from The Secret of NIMH, via Gregory's Shock Theatre. Carradine's all-too-brief scene as the Great Owl is one of my favorite moments from one of my favorite movies. I was 5 when I saw that movie, and his booming voice coupled with that amazing animation made a huge impression on me then. It's never left me.

Kristen Bell Mondays

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Haji 1946-2013

Very sorry to hear that one of my favorite Russ Meyer stars passed away yesterday. Did you know her real name was Barbarella? That's wonderful. I loved her. Thank you for contributing to some of my all time favorites.

Song of the Week: "She's Gone"

Because it's cloudy and quiet and solitary this morning, and I miss my friend who is gone and, well, I've got to learn how to face it. I don't necessarily love Hall & Oates, but they have about an album's worth of songs that I love out of all proportion. This is one of them.

TV Report: Summer Viewing

I lose track of television over the summer, generally. Not because everything's bad or something like that, it's just that the summer has always drifted lazily for me and I spend more time with the TV off than I do on (which is not how I grew up, actually).

It's nearly the middle of August now, and I'm actually trying to struggle to remember some of the stuff that I was watching back in June.

Let's see. Some of the shows I've watched this summer.

:: Hell's Kitchen came and went, as ephemeral as ever. I never remember or care what happened after a round of that show is over, but this particular round lost my attention an awful lot and really got dragged out. Sometimes I would forget about it while I was watching it. I wonder if this show is ever going to get exciting again, or if it's just become so routine that I shouldn't bother with it anymore.

:: Loved Hannibal, loved Defiance. I've stopped watching Under the Dome. Maybe I'll catch up one day, but despite some good episodes I was unenthused by the announcement that it was renewed. It was already heavy on gimmick episodes and now I just foresee a lot of frustrating dragging out of drama to manufacture excitement and things going like that season of Lost I particularly hated. Hey, maybe I'm wrong, but as a one-summer event, it seemed exciting. As another American TV show that gets dragged on and on to perpetuate itself, I'm a lot less interested. Yeah, I know how TV works, but I don't have to care.

:: Orange Is the New Black was pretty wonderful, I thought. Can't wait to see more. I hope it doesn't get as awful as Weeds did. That show was really great in the beginning, too. No tunnels to Mexico this time, please.

:: I have to admit, I keep forgetting that Futurama is even still on.

:: Only eight episodes of The Venture Bros. this time around? Damn, guys, we waited years. And I'll wait more. This show is worth the wait. Absolutely loved it.

:: True Blood is a lot better this season than it's been in a while. We're finally streamlining all of those goddamn storylines and getting rid of some of the characters. Sookie is still the absolute worst, but it's still fun junk food television and some of the twists this season have been fun-stupid instead of just stupid.

:: Tuesday nights still remain my favorite this summer: Pretty Little Liars and Dance Moms. Not sophisticated for the "Golden Age of Television" (ha ha), but whatever, I enjoy them.

:: This is the point in the season of MasterChef where things start.... dragging.... out... interminably. Is it so much to ask that your summer series actually be over by Labor Day? They're doing a really bad job this year in hiding their scripted twists and turns, and the schilling for Walmart's nasty food is out of control now. Yeah, guys, how about you serve Walmart steaks in your own restaurants and we'll see how you feel about it then? You guys ever looked in a Walmart meat department? It'll put you off eating meat for a while. And the judges, particularly Gordon, are especially pissy this year. Yes, Gordon, sorry I "disrespected Japanese tradition" by not making the best California roll, the most authentic Japanese cuisine. (I actually just hurt myself a little with the force of my eye-roll.)

:: I always like getting caught up in a show on Netflix, and right now I'm watching Mad Men. I didn't like it at first, I have to admit, but when I really started catching on to what the show was about, I found it very compelling. Not necessarily likable, but compelling. The show's main theme is one of the things I'm going through in therapy right now: getting caught in the depressing schism between what life is and what we think (and are told/sold) that it should be. I'm surprised just how dark a show it really is.

I'm going to be wrapping up the third season today. Very pleased to see Jared Harris on this show; I always really like him. Also, someone I love on the show and didn't even know was on it is Bryan Batt. Sadly, he seems to have been unceremoniously dismissed, but he's been excellent and perfectly understated. I loved him back in 1995 in the movie Jeffrey, and I don't think I've seen him in anything since except an episode of TV here and there. Of course, he's been in the theater and I've been in college/farm town, Illinois. It's been nice having this time to enjoy his work.

Very, very interesting show. Gorgeous to look at, of course.

See? I get to things eventually.

:: Very excited that Breaking Bad is back tonight. I can't wait to see how this thing ends. My Mom just ended up watching the whole series last month on Netflix, so we're kind of nerding out about what we think is going to happen.

And there's my exciting life in TV right now. Trying to figure out what to watch when I catch up on Mad Men.