Archive for woody allen

odds and ends

Posted in odds and ends with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2012 by Christopher Pearce

Although The Oscars were last weekend, Ellen and I are just now getting a chance to see many of the nominated movies as they are released on DVD. Last weekend, we took in Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen’s latest confection.

Ellen and I enjoyed it- it struck me that Allen was playing fantasy baseball with the great writers and artists of the 20th century, but in an enjoyable, funny way. I think this was aided by Owen Wilson’s lead performance.

Male leads in Woody Allen movies are often hidebound by Allen’s idiosyncratic writing style; most of the times, it seems like those characters exist as stand-ins for Allen himself. Sometimes this leads to actors just doing a stilted Allen impression, but Wilson goes above and beyond here. I thought he made the character of Gil Pender his own by infusing Allen’s dialog with some of his laid-back rhythms and line-reads. It’s sort of a great feat.

My only lingering problem with the flick were the portrayal of most of the female characters They seemed fo fall: into one of two categories: shrill and abrasive (Gil’s fiance Inez and her mother) or overly accommodating to the male protagonist (Gertrude Stein, Adriana, the women who runs the antique shop). The women in Midnight in Pars either exist to slow Owen Wilson’s character up and make him feel guilt… or to praise his abject genius to the hilltops. I thought this was lazy on Allen’s part, especially when we know how much better he can do at crafting roles for women.

I would try not to let that get in your way of enjoying Midnight in Paris though. It’s a beautiful looking movie though, lingering over a cinematic dream of Paris.

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My sister sent me an advanced copy of Derf Backderf’s My Friend Dahmer and it’s amazing. I’m already a fan of Derf’s work- his Punk Rock and Trailer Parks was the best comic I read in 2011 and My Friend Dahmer is on track for “Best of 2012,” at least so far. It’s a fascinating story. Jeffrey Dahmer is one of the most heinous serial killers ever known… and Derf went to high school with him. Further, he was friendly with Dahmer; they weren’t close, but for a time, Dahmer ran in Derf’s circle of friends as a kind of whacked-out mascot.

Derf’s artistic style is sort of hyper-cartoony and reminds me of some of my favorite underground/alternative comics… very appropriate for capturing the unbalanced nature of Dahmer’s teenage years. The author has clearly done his research, and fills out the book with heavily researched anecdotes and first-person accounts of the times where Derf wasn’t around.

Seriously, check it out- very awesome.

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Finally, I direct you to this blog post where Dan Aykroyd admits, once and for all, that Bill Murray will NOT be appearing in Ghostbusters 3.

I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand… I’m elated. I don’t hold high hopes for any Ghostbusters sequels and having Murray eschew the new ones will clearly draw a line in the sand between the old and the new. On the other hand, I’m bummed out that Murray won’t be in the movie… and that they’re even making the movie to begin with.

Seriously, although my gut reaction is “Why make the movie without Bill Murray?” I do understand why a new Ghostbusters movie will eventually haunt theaters. The property remains popular. Many of my students have and wear the “no ghosts” tee shirt.¬†¬†Heck, Blues Brothers 2000 notwithstanding, I have a lot of love for Dan Aykroyd. Come back tomorrow to see just how much…

odds and ends

Posted in odds and ends with tags , , , , , , on December 2, 2011 by Christopher Pearce

I don’t know why, but I feel compelled to point something out about this las week of comics, focusing on my teaching Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky. I don’t especially like it when people who draw comics leave excessive blog posts attached to the work to explain what they’ve written and drawn but I’m going to indulge for a moment.

I hope folks realize that these were four comics focusing on one period of my class, and not a week-long lesson. It would be RIDICULOUS to do a week’s worth of work on Jabberwocky in a high school class. It’s a fun poem, but there’s not a lot of meat on that bone.

I’m reminded of that one Gary Larson cartoon where he drew the dogs playing “cat tetherball” with a tied-up feline. Larson received dozens of offended letters from readers who couldn’t believe what those dogs were doing to that cat… despite dog/cat animosity being a cornerstone of comedy for decades. The cartoonist mused that one of the reasons people were upset is that the comic didn’t resolve itself- you could read it, see those dogs… and then half an hour, pick the newspaper up and still see those damn dogs playing tetherball with the cat!

At any rate. I got an e-mail about it. I wanted to address it. I have. Now let’s talk about books!

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While most people were out last Friday snagging deals on flatscreen televisions and digital cameras, this was my lone purchase:

Dread and Superficiality: Woody Allen as a Comic Strip is a fascinating artifact. Until I ran across this beautiful, thick collection I wasn’t aware the Wood-man had his own comic strip in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s.

Written and drawn by Stu Hample with minimal imput from Allen, Dread and Superficiality rings the same comedic bell over and over again. Woody as the luckless lover, Woody in therapy, Woody being neurotic… the repetitiveness of the comics collected here doesn’t make for a great immersive read. The introduction to the book cops to the problem, wherein Hample admits he kept the strip broad when he should have been going more sophisticated.

As a result of Hample’s creative choice to stay broad, he ends up inadvertently highlighting the difference between the later, more serious efforts from Allen and his earlier directorial efforts. At the same time that Allen was moving toward a less comedic approach with his films, the Play it Again Sam version of Woody Allen was yukking it up in newspapers across the country.

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I just picked up The Leftovers by Tom Perotta this week and have been enjoying it.

Perotta has something of a reputation for documenting the ennui and complexity of suburban living, although this is my first go-around with one of his books. I will freely admit, I picked up The Leftovers based on its’ hooky premise- an unexplained Rapture-like event results in millions of people disappearing from existence. Those that are “left over” must pick up the pieces of their community.

While many authors would focus on the event itself, I loved the way Perotta sidesteps the implications of what he calls “The Sudden Departure” and instead focuses on the aftermath and how it effects individuals. Of course, losing so many people mysteriously is a tragedy and the author plays the effects of the event out well… but people still need to go to work, right? The trains need to run on time and bills need to be paid.

Essentially, the Sudden Depature ravages the communal aspect of the world and the four members of the Garvey family work to restablish community in their own ways- father Kevin becomes mayor of their town, his wife Laurie and son Tom find themselves involved in religions newly created after the departure, and daughter Jill is at loose ends, disconnected from her previous personality. It’s worth reading, folks.