Archive for the Comics Category

The Sunday Intertitle: DAVID!

Posted in Comics, Dance, FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2018 by dcairns

“The only trouble with this show is they keep shouting “DAVID!” says Fiona.

“Well, how do you think *I* feel?” I ask. “I even get it in intertitle form.”

The show is Legion, which is a Marvel thing, and it’s very stylish indeed. Occasionally I feel too much of the style comes from 2001 and CLOCKWORK ORANGE (plus that ever-popular STRANGELOVE-ADDAMS FAMILY font), but there’s a wide ranger of influences for the snazzy visuals. It’ a superhero show, nominally, but very psychedlic and tonally skewed, so that when a good guy and bad guy meet, they’re more likely to have a dance-off than to punch each other through walls.

This show, brought to the screen by Noah Hawley of Fargo, could be paired with the very different Jessica Jones to suggest that superheroes could become the new westerns, a genre with some constraints, maybe, but allowing filmmakers to tell all kinds of stories in all kinds of modes. The movie versions don’t have that variety, I’m afraid: they’re basically all about good guys saving the world. Apart from maybe LOGAN?

Jessica Jones varies the formula by keeping things small-scale and making the heroine’s powers an afterthought. The powers of the opponents have more dramatic weight, but work as metaphors and dramatic intensifiers: a manipulative abuser who can do mind-control is still an abuser, a mother with anger issues and super-strength is still a mother with anger issues.

 

Legion is also smaller-scale than the movie versions, though more cosmic. It has astral plane stuff like DOCTOR STRANGE but makes this much more eerie and weird, the way the old comics could by actually changing the media used (those photo-collage splash pages blew my little mind as a kid: Legion comes close to that effect with its bizarro musical numbers). Dan Stevens (as the intertitular David everyone’s always shouting for) and Rachel Keller (as Syd Barrett [!]) ground the show in believable emotions as two damaged people whose psychic abilities blur into their mental issues.

Legion has a measure of phildickian “What is reality?” stuff and lots of psychic powers and goofiness: it seems influenced by Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles far more than the style of original author Chris Claremont (never liked his stuff), it has fantastic production design and cinematography, and amazing actors. Too many to mention. But I’m very keen on Hamish Linklater’s inappropriate smiles, which can be ironic, chilling or heartbreaking. Plus he plays a villain who turns out to be gay and a loving partner and father, and then a hero.

And then there’s Aubrey Plaza, with her tics and smutty grins and eyeballs the size of Phobos.

And Jonathan Demme alumni Bill Irwin (Ham Gravy in Altman’s POPEYE).

We’re near the end of season 2 in our viewing and there’s a serious lull of interest going on right now — but I think things are about to kick in big-time. I trust the creators. Will probably be able to confirm this in the comments section later.

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The Many Dogs of Ann Miller

Posted in Comics, Dance, Fashion, FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , on August 18, 2018 by dcairns

One of the purposes of EASTER PARADE is to dazzle us with design and colours as well as music and dance. Also, dogs.

Ann Miller plays a shallow showbiz star, first encountered coddling this cute little dach-cessory.

But, a few scenes later, we see her on the titular parade, for which she has selected canine companions more suited to her new outfit. Looks like a couple of silken windhounds to me, but heaven knows I’m no expert. The good thing about black and white dogs is they go with any outfit. Though Ann’s furry sleeves and the light-and-dark contrast of her skirt and jacket suggest an attempt to coordinate with her canines.

There’s a disappointingly dogless scene with Ann and Peter Lawford in a swank eatery where I guess there must be a no-pooch rule, but for her next appearance Ann sports her most ridiculous doggie yet, a chic chihuahua, cushioned comfortably on her muff.

He puts me in mind of a Dick Tracy wrist communicator, so that Ann might raise him to her lips and speak with HQ: “Send more dogs!” She knows nothing is calculated to impress Fred, leader of THE DOBERMANN GANG, than an ever-replenished supply of random hounds.

We are not meant to visualise a smelly back room in Ann’s elegant apartments where she keeps all these dogs. The suspicion must be that they are simply worn once and discarded, perhaps donated to the needy, or perhaps, like Burberry, she destroys them in order to prevent cheapening of the brand. In this way, the constant alternation of housepets quietly characterises Miller’s character not as a warm animal lover, but as a ruthless Cruella DeVille type. Boo! Hiss!

Still, she can dance. And, with subtle, mesmeric hand movements, she seems to draw in and push back Robert Alton’s camera (weirdly, choreographer Charles Walters directed the film but had another choreographer to direct the musical numbers). Fiona remarks, “I’m just beginning to realise what factories the old studios were!”

The Sunday Intertitle: Where the Worst Begins

Posted in Comics, FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2018 by dcairns

WEST OF HOT DOG is a (1924) silent Stan Laurel comedy, produced by Joe Rock, where Stan plays a sissified city gent all at sea in the sagebrush. Seeing Stan in a carriage with a girl at the start made me wonder if Keaton’s OUR HOSPITALITY was an influence, but Stan being a character player where Keaton was a star, he takes the tenderfootedness a lot further — into full-on effiminacy in fact. As if the glasses and camp manner weren’t enough, he’s also (the shame of it!) reading a book, entitled Let Brotherly Love Continue.

 

When the stage is held up by desperadoes, Stan retorts, “I shall see my attorney about this.” Which is funny without making much sense, since he’s the victim of a crime, not someone accused of one. Banditry was rarely tried in the civil courts out west.

The whole thing seems to be happening in the 1920s (note the cloche hat), but an alternate universe ’20s in which stagecoaches and stick-ups still characterised the wide-open spaces. But the enclosed space of Stan’s head has no room for such concepts. This temporal confusion reminds me of the Scottish cartoon strip Desperate Dan, which always seems to be set simultaneously in the Wild West, 1950s Dundee and, occasionally, contemporary Dundee. The ’50s thing is just because the writers and artists at DC Thompson got stuck in a time-warp of their own, deep in the shadowy confines of Scotland’s first reinforced concrete building.

Titles written by future director Tay Garnett. Some great “special effects” when Stan hits his thumb with a hammer — scratches on film for cartoon effect. When he’s shot in the bum, a huge white question mark whorls out of him like a tail, or escaping gas.

And yes, I’m tentatively interested in the forthcoming biopic STAN & OLLIE. Having seen some brilliant impersonation/embodiment of the boys onstage in Tom McGrath’s play Laurel and Hardy, I have high standards, and Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly will have to not only make us see the characters, but erase all trace of their own familiar selves. Coogan is an impersonator of genius, so Reilly will be the big unknown factor here, but he’s an excellent actor and comic…