Movie of the Day : Netflix’s DEATHNOTE (2017)

DEATH NOTE – less horror than action-fantasy, prolific director Adam Wingard continues to prove himself one of the most innovative and exciting genre directors working; making this adaptation of the lauded manga and anime its own thing, that works beautifully for a feature film.

Great casting, great performances, and a compelling and exciting take on the DEATH NOTE source material, makes for a film that I personally like quite a lot. No it is not the manga, and no it is not the anime, if you want just that… that already exists, rewatch to your hearts content. What this is… is the concept of DEATH NOTE turned into something that works at a feature, rather than episodic, length. Job Done.

Also while I liked the anime, beyond a point I found it a bit long in the tooth, and all the characters while intriguing not exactly.. gripping. With the live action Wingard gets to flesh out the characters with really talented actors.

Nat Wolff’s Light Turner imbuing the relatively cold and calculating character of the anime, with a humanity and likability and relate-ability that makes you care. It is a fitting change to make, and it is a strength of Wingard’s recent films such as THE GUEST, to give us characters who, like most of us, are somewhere between sinner and saint.   Shea Whigham is always compelling, and brings to the role of James Turner, Light’s Dad, a warmth and strength and conviction, and nearly palpable love for his son, that is lacking in the anime.

Lakeith Stanfield, the actor who plays the quirky, candy loving, ‘L’ for my money makes that character even more compelling and interesting than in the anime. It is an inspired bit of casting and his performance largely steals the show.

And speaking of genius casting,  Dafoe’s voice as Ryuk… GENIUS. 

All the pieces of performance,writing, direction ends up with a DEATH NOTE feature film that deserves to be on your keep list. It joins THE GUEST and YOU’RE NEXT as Adam Wingard’s best films so far.

Grade : Strongly Recommended. B+.

 

 

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MUST LISTEN Audio Books for BLACK HISTORY Month and every other month! :) Part 2 of 2

The 2nd must listen audio book for Black History Month or any month is the mind breaking MUMBO JUMBO by the great Ishmael Reed.

Ishmael Reed, who was honored with the MacArthur “genius” award, is a Pulitzer Prize finalist and two-time nominee for the National Book Award. Mumbo Jumbo, a literary masterpiece, is an ironic and unconventional detectivestory infused with African-American cultural heritage. A strange psychic epidemic called “Jes Grew” is spreading through the country, affecting millions. PaPa LaBas, a HooDoo detective, is trying to find the origins of the JesGrew – not because he wants to cure it, but because he’s ready for a new kind of society.

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Composed of the memorable personalities and the little remembered tragedies and triumphs of the roaring 20s, MUMBO JUMBO weaves these truths into an overarching fictional narrative that goes from the beginning of civilization to the fall of man.

But the fiction is so peppered with essential truths, like the best of all fiction, that it will change fundamentally how you look at everything, from museums to curse words to bull fights. If MIDDLE PASSAGE is my favorite audio book, MUMBO JUMBO  I think , in opposition to its name, is the most enlightening and powerful audio book I’ve ever listened to, for the  way it opened up my mind to… broader definitions of history and broader definitions of ourselves. Magnificent.

Version:

Unabridged
Author: Ishmael Reed
Narrator: J. D. Jackson
Genres: Fiction & Literature
Publisher: Recorded Books
Published In: July 2005
# of Units: 8 CDs
Length: 8 hours, 30 minutes

Get your copy here:

 

Mumbo Jumbo

MUST LISTEN Audio Books for BLACK HISTORY Month and every other month! :) Part 1 of 2

I first became familiar with these two novels, both by master writers, as novels proper. And both blew my mind in ways both stunning and lasting. Later I listened to the Audio Books. Audio Books, if you get the right reader, for the right work, can be rewarding experiences, even to lovers of the novel.

I love me some Walter Moseley EASY RAWLINS mysteries, I’ve read just about everyone of them, and I have to tell you the pairing of Moseley’s iconic words with a formidable actor such as Michael Boatman, is to have those works enriched, and nuances discovered that may have been skimmed over by even the most loving reader.

A great Adaptation, a great marriage of words and performance can do that, can alchemize into something more than the sum of its parts. Something magical. And an audio book avoids the constraints of time and budget and indeed visuals, that a film or TV show runs into. An audio book has the biggest theater of the world, and the biggest budget, in which to breathe life into the writers words,… the theater of the mind.

So Audio Books when they get that mixture right, become part of a sacred line of story and storytelling, going back to the cradle of not just Black History, but all history.

 

This 2 part post, honors two of the best, that should be loved and listened to and cherished by everyone.

They are:

Charles Johnson’s seminal and National Book Award winning novel, MIDDLE PASSAGE. It is an American epic, a rousing seafaring saga, blisteringly funny at times, deeply harrowing at others, both poetic, prosaic, and magical all at the same time. As someone who has read Melville, and Dickens, and Hemingway, and Crane and Poe and Bradbury and King and Baldwin, all the quintessential American masters, this is the novel I would save when everything else is burning.

 

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I give the hardcover out as presents. I consider it, in an imperfect world, an arrow toward a more perfect union. So having it on a pedestal that high the audio book has to bring it. It was made into an audio book twice, the first was an abridged and hence flawed cassette version, but read by the author himself, I quite liked it. He brought something… wonderful to it.

The 2nd time was on CD, unabridged thankfully. The performer Dion Graham, gives a different performance than Charles Johnson, that I slowly warmed to. And as the story drew you deeper so did his voice. It’s a wonderful way to be introduced to this great novel.

I would say both audio book versions are indispensable. Start with the unabridged CD version, and then follow up by listening to the Abridged version. And have a copy of the paperback or hardcover, to read over especially loved passages.

In an America where folly holds sway, the words of men who both remember history and learn from it, is of the highest value.

Check them out at the links below:

Middle Passage Cassette Audio Book read by the Author!

Middle Passage Audio CD Unabridged!

By Charles Richard Johnson Middle Passage (Reprint) [Mass Market Paperback]

 

If you like this blog please support it by using the links above and by leaving comments! And come back for the 2nd part where we discuss the 2nd, must own, Black History Month (and other months) Audio book!

Fanfare for a Death Scene (1964) and best Cinematographers!!

Today’s recommended movie FANFARE FOR A DEATH SCENE (1964)

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This is a forgotten little 1964 made for TV movie, that sports the phenomenal camera work of the great Conrad L. Hall. The opening sequence alone is reason enough to view this film.

You can view the film courtesy of Amazon Prime.

Click here for Fanfare For A Death Scene

When it comes to the great camera men of cinema, Conrad Hall, in terms of bravura visual styling and seminal impact, is right up there with the best of cinematographers.

The best of them being Karl Freund (the father of cinematography in many ways, creating much of the visual techniques and language of cinema in ground breaking films such as METROPOLIS and DRACULA) Karl Struss (SUNSHINE) and Freddie Young (LAWRENCE OF ARABIA), James Wong Howe (SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS), Vilmos Zsigmond (two great collaborations with Robert Altman, IMAGES and THE LONG GOODBYE), Geoffrey Unsworth (2001, SUPER MAN), Bradford Young (MOTHER OF GEORGE, AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS, PAWN SACRIFICE, A MOST VIOLENT YEAR, SELMA), Guy Green (GREAT EXPECTATIONS), Lisa RInzler (MENACE II SOCIETY), Sergey Urusevskiy (I AM CUBA), John Alton (his wonderful collaborations with Anthony Mann, such as T-MEN, RAW DEAL), and Yoshio Miyajima (particularly with his collaborations with Masaki Kobayashi in films such as HARA KIRI and KWAIDAN).

For more on FANFARE FOR A DEATH SCENE there is a wonderful article on the production by Stephen Bowie here!

Come back next time for more VOD picks and reviews!

KICKSTARTER OF THE DAY : Worthy Causes!

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REFOUNDRY – Sports a worthy goal of combating the explosive and unsupportable rates of incarceration in the United States. I think the rewards could be a bit nicer, and priced less steeply, but that said I can see putting a frame on the HAND MADE HAND and using that as a bit of art, and the $25 Door Stop would make a memorable paper weight; and above all that… the funds are going to a needed cause. With 56 days to go this is well on its way to meeting its goal.

selfjournal
SELF JOURNAL – Making lists, writing down your goals I find indispensable to productivity, But I find myself often using an awkward combo of sticky pads, and computer apps. I think the SELF JOURNAL is an artful way to wean myself off the sticky pads.At $26 it is a might on the expensive side, but if this gets you in the habit of journaling you can always transition into more affordable journals. Also this project has been fully funded.

laptopstand

BEST LAPTOP STAND – I am not an Apple user or fan, but man this is a nice stand. And it appears it will support my Dell Latitude in the open position. And this serves the worthy cause of getting rid of hunched over the laptop syndrome. At under $50 it’s not bad. Plus this kick-starter is already completely funded. Sold!

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BATBAND Earfree Headphones – A headphone that uses the scary sounding vehicle of Bone Conduction to bypass your outer ear to deliver sound to your inner ear. It’s like LaForge’s visor from STNG but for your ears rather than your eyes!

At $149 it is not even remotely cheap, and while a woman may get away with wearing this as a fashion statement, I think it will look silly on most guys. But as the first stab of an idea, it definitely has promise. It just needs to be designed so it is less obtrusive, and i think it will be ready for prime time.

It’s implications beyond simple music playback could be staggering. Does it work better than conventional headphones? Can an evil super-villain use it to remotely turn your brain into jelly? Who knows, but boy I’d like to try it. It is projects like this that reminds me in a good way, that we are living in the 21st century. 🙂

GREATEST SHORT FILMS OF ALL TIME : THE LAST TEN (2011) by Director David Higgs

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THE LAST TEN- I love short films for the same reason I love short stories, at their best they can deliver a pure moment, unhampered by filler or setup or dressing or fluff, and therefore a memorable moment to the core of us, in a way which only the most masterful feature films can equal.

Dickens was by far the more lauded author of his day, but it is the short fiction of his contemporaries Doyle and the American Poe which remains the mainstay of our cultural obsession to this day. And it is because of their short fiction’s power to completely live in us and be remembered by us, in their entirety; and the very nature of this construction is one of icon-ism rather than specif-ism.

Therefore the characters are ever very personal and close and fleshed out by us; are as part of their brevity ever ruminations on us. Indeed, even Dickens, who while the writer of many long form works, made his livelihood in the serialized market, and arguably his most beloved work, is his short form A CHRISTMAS CAROL, more novelette than novel.

When done well, a short film in a minute or two minutes or five minutes, or in this case under 14 minutes, can present a beginning, middle, and ending that almost all live completely on this razor edge of climax, and satisfy you before your attention wanes.

David Higgs’ THE LAST TEN is short film done as well as it can be done. A premise Hitchcock would have adored, a locked off camera, a single location, and creeping dread. I went into the film knowing nothing about it, as i suggest to you, and was blown away. Writer/Director/Producer David Higgs along with Cinematographer Nicole Heiniger in under 14 minutes creates one of my favorite short films with a haunting final shot.

You can view it courtesy of the Roku channel VIMEO. We all know short fiction is oft seen as a stepping stone to feature film, but the truth is they are two distinct animals. Clive Barker’s short fiction is miles ahead of his long form fiction. If THE LAST TEN is anything to go by, David Higgs is a fantastic short film maker, and I for one would love to see more films by him. At least enough that he could put out a DVD or Blu-Ray complete with special features and monetize some of his excellent work.

Last word on THE LAST TEN? HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION. A+.

 

Pick up the following books if you enjoyed this post and are a fan of what it covers:

Edgar Allan Poe Annotated and Illustrated Entire Stories and Poems
– There are tons of Edgar Allen Poe collections, but only a few sport illustrations by the great Gustave Dore and only one is this affordable. Get the hardcover version while you can.

Major Works of Charles Dickens (Great Expectations / Hard Times / Oliver Twist / A Christmas Carol / Bleak House / A Tale of Two Cities)
-six of his works in this exclusive and sumptuous boxed set of lavish, clothbound editions, designed by Penguin’s own award-winning Coralie Bickford-Smith. Part of Penguin’s beautiful hardback Clothbound Classics series, designed by the award-winning Coralie Bickford-Smith, these delectable and collectible editions are bound in high-quality colourful, tactile cloth with foil stamped into the design.

 

 

Image of the Day : Venerable Benin Ivory Bracelet! Priceless!!

bracelet

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What remains of pillaged cultures. The art and beauty and brilliance, that remains only in the pieces of art to survive colonialism. Beauty remains.