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The 1st season of THE TERROR, the 1st season of Amazon’s BAD BOYS, and the 1st and only season of BBC’s BODYGUARD on Netflix were my favorite television shows of 2019.
4 episodes in and I am absolutely loving Netflix’s South African action/thriller series SHADOW.
Part EQUALIZER meets WALLENDER meets STRIKEBACK, the other part is its own unique texture and vibe; this series is hitting all the right notes… the actors are fantastic, plots Baroque and strange and compelling, the action riveting. Took a while for me to actually give this series a try, however now it (along with Netflix/BBCs DRACULA) is an early contender for one of my favorite tv shows of 2020.
I really hope both these shows eventually get a Blu-Ray release, complete with special features/director’s commentary. The best of any year deserves the permanence of DVD/Blu-Ray. That said I’m still waiting on season 2 of Luke Cage to make it to Blu-Ray… looking at you Netflix. 🙂 .
If my house, god forbid, was being evacuated, and after family, pets and other essentials, they told me “here is a box you have room to bring 15 of your artbooks” ; REBUS by James Jean, would be one of those books.
Now to clarify, I have a lot of artbooks, and if I do say so myself I only own what I consider GREAT and ESSENTIAL artbooks, so to narrow that down to 15… is difficult.
But here for your list reading pleasure, is one of those 15!
I actually love the design and construction of this book, more than the actual content. Don’t get me wrong, the artwork is great, very beautiful, and I like it quite a bit, but I do not love it. It is not quite my style, but the stunning construction of the book, with the red gilded pages, makes it such an art object in and of itself. It is the only James Jean book I own, and it is because of the beatiful construction and design of the book itself.
You can get your copy of REBUS here!
After 22 movies, THE AVENGERS is still the movie I saw the most in the theaters, a record three times (I almost never see a movie in a theater more than once), and the one I had the most fun with. And that is because Director Josh Whedon delivered the film of his career, the writing was brilliant, actors and effects phenomenal, and the characters… literally the stuff of Myth. And the most memorable scenes of a very memorable film revolve around Tom Hiddleston’s completely crowd pleasing performance as Loki, that sets up such memorable lines as ‘Mewling Quim’ and ‘Puny God’.
Like the best of all Villains, the two other names on this list; the Loki character while wrong, there is something compelling and seductive, and relateable in Loki’s mania. Driven by some hurt he seeks to fix, some reason that reason knows not of, that makes him more than a stock villain, but someone more complex, and someone that in moments… seen from some angle, is understandable, if not approvable.
BLACK PANTHER is a film that I loved the action in, loved the fight scenes, loved the story, loved the scale, but what really sets it apart from every other MCU films before it (with the exception of THE WINTER SOLDIER, which did it in a smaller way) is the sophistication of how it is told. The murky grey areas where good and bad become… unsound. It’s a great film, that becomes stronger every time you watch it. Like leather curing in the sun.
It is a 2 film culmination of a 22 film, 11 year unequaled and un-thought of cinematic achievement, and it sticks the landing. And Thanos quite rightly gets catapulted into the conversation of most iconic cinematic villains of all time, up there with Darth Vader, Dracula, Dr. No, Dr. Mabuse, Khan, Hannibal Lecter, Joker.
So that is it guys, the 3 best villains of 22 movies, and 11 years of cinematic gold!!!
And for Honarable Mentions:
Thanks for looking, feel free to comment with your favorite villain or villains, and if you enjoyed this post give some love to this installment’s sponsor:
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Completing (Yay! Finally!!) the list of 15 favorite DVD commentaries!! Here are selections 11-15.
THE LION IN WINTER- A seminal film, the finest performances of all involved and commentary by the director, Anthony Harvey. The Lion in Winter
T-MEN/RAW DEAL- Not a commentary per se, the excellent 2 part DARK REFLECTIONS audio/video essay by mystery writer Max Allen Collins is a must listen as it examines two of the best films by the legendary team of director Anthony Mann and Director of Photography John Alton. Very, very informative covering film noir, Dick Tracy, Eisner’s Spirit and more.Anthony Mann Film Noir Double Feature: Raw Deal/T-Men
DESCENT- 2 director commentaries, one with cast, one with crew. The crew commentary is more than a bit bland, the cast commentary is definitely more lively with a bunch of giggling, possibly tipsy, actresses, and it takes a bit to determine who is who, but still an enjoyable insight into this fantastic film. The Descent (Original Unrated Widescreen Edition)
SEVEN- no less than 4 great commentaries to choose from! Seven (New Line Platinum Series)-this is the only version that has all four commentaries
KING OF NEW YORK- great commentary by maverick director Abel Ferrara.King of New York (Special Edition)
Well that’s it! The wrap up of the 15 Favorite Commentaries!! The links to previous sections are below, and feel free to suggest your own favorite commentary!
Thanks for viewing and if you like this post, take the time to give a ‘like’ and also take the time to purchase using the links provided.
“She loved me. That’s the root of the business. But she knew… she knew I thought more of my wife’s footprint in the mud, than I did of her body and soul.”
— A fantastic performance by Ciaran Hinds as Jim Browner, telling Holmes about the sister-in-law who connived to destroy his marriage, with tragic results. From THE MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES adaptation of THE CARDBOARD BOX.
Specifically Director’s Commentaries.
As a rule I don’t purchase DVDs/Blu-rays, unless it is a movie or series I intend to watch more than once. And as such a director’s commentary is an essential part of the DVD for a film fan such as myself.
I can watch the DVD once for the program, then go back and watch it for the cast/crew insights into the film. So that said, what are the best DVD/Blu-ray commentaries?
Best is a problematic designation, so let’s go with favorite… here are my 15 favorite DVD commentaries:
Robert Altman’s IMAGES/THE LONG GOODBYE- I put these two films together as one, because they are Robert Altman at his most experimental, and to my mind, while not his biggest or most lavish or most acclaimed films, IMAGES and THE LONG GOODBYE are his most interesting and stylish and surreal films (and they also sport two of the most amazing, experimental scores).
They are my favorite Altman films. And while endlessly watchable on their own, the excellent special features push them over the top. While not really a commentary, the films instead sport brief interviews with Robert Altman, but such informative and formative interviews. Altman gives a great insight into the division of labor between Director/Writer and Actor, and how as a writer a work is 2D, and it is incumbent on the actor and others to make it 3D, to bring it to life. Between the film and the interviews, it’s a class on film-making, for the price of a DVD.
Michael Mann and Tony Scott are two of my favorite directors, they make fantastic films, and their commentaries are full-on clinics in film-making. So just about any movie they make, I purchase as much for the commentaries… as the film. So you can easily fill a top ten or twenty list with just these two directors.
But for the sake of brevity we’ll limit each director to just one:
Michael Mann’s MANHUNTER [There are numerous DVD and Blu-ray versions of this film, but the link below is the only DVD that sports the Michael Mann DVD commentary.]
Manhunter (Restored Director’s Cut Divimax Edition)
[And as honorable mention check out Michael Mann’s COLLATERAL, from covering using the digital camera to the landscape of mercenaries, to the actors, it is just a riveting commentary. Collateral (Two-Disc Special Edition)]
Tony Scott’s MAN ON FIRE showcases two excellent commentary tracks.
Man on Fire
Another one of my favorite directors is Werner Herzog, and his commentaries are always things of high drama and art onto themselves. Everyone of his films are worth owning as much, and in some cases more for his commentary. Just a fascinating director, and a fascinating man.
Like Mann and Scott, every one of his commentaries could fill a best of list, but again for the sake of brevity we’ll narrow it to one.
AGUIRRE WRATH OF GOD- cause it’s always entertaining hearing him discuss Klaus Kinski
DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS- Put together a novel from one of my favorite writers, a few of my favorite actors, and one of my favorite directors in Carl Franklin, and you have a movie that makes anyone’s purchase list. Add a riveting commentary from director Carl Franklin, and you have DVD as film and film-experience.
And rounding out the first five for this list of 15 Favorite commentaries is
THE COMPLETE FARSCAPE- People who are fans of this show, a show that at its heart is this great love story, are fans because they are so connected to the characters that the actors and writers bring to life. Outside of possibly BABYLON 5, FARSCAPE is the most emotional and best acted show of the fantastic (Browder giving wrenching, award worthy performances). So the chance to reconnect with these shows, especially by listening to Ben Browder and Claudia Black, who obviously have as much chemistry off screen as they do on… is just a joy. Even lukewarm episodes of FARSCAPE, rare but they do exist, are made ‘must-haves’ by the commentary. A fantastic series, adorned with fantastic commentaries.
We’ll begin this with a definition of pulp, pulp heroes, and pulp writing, then get into my list of favorite pulp characters and pulp runs.
The perceived definition of a pulp character tends to be a character that takes place in the 20s to 40s, in an America besieged by the spectre of War, and consists of slam-bam action, and a colorful larger than life hero and outlandish villains.
It’s with the cementing of pulp heroes to a specific milieu, a specific time, that I take issue with that definition. Characters such as THE SHADOW and DOC SAVAGE and the AVENGER were pulp sensations AT THE TIME OF THEIR PUBLICATION because they spoke to present fears and issues, in colorful imaginative ways.
But now the nostalgia bunch wants to calcify the definition of pulp adventure to a particular time frame or particular writers. I don’t think pulp heroes need to be set 80 or a 100 years in the past, that’s not what Marcel Allain, Norvell Page or Walter Gibson or Paul Ernst (writing as Kenneth Robeson) or any of the pulp writers we idolize today, were doing.
Now I’m not saying ignore the pulp heroes of yesterday, or not set new pulp stories in the 20s or 30s if you want. But what I am saying is… you’re largely missing the point of what the pulp writers were really doing. They were putting these heroes in a world that really needed them, the present world.
I am saying the pulp fiction of Warren Murphy’s REMO WILLIAMS or Marc Olden’s BLACK SAMURAI or Don Pendleton’s MAC BOLDEN are far truer representations of pulp fiction, pulp heroes, than today’s current writers who are making nostalgic re-workings of 1920s, 1930, and 1940s stories.
Again I have no problem with modern writers setting stories in that time frame, I quite enjoy and have championed many of them, but there seems to be this faulty conclusion in the minds of modern writers and readers that setting them in a specific past time frame, makes it pulp. No. Nothing could be further from the truth. Setting it in that time frame makes it a pastiche.
If Gibson or Page or Allain were writing today their heroes would be set in today, and their horror and villains… expressions of timely concerns. Allain’s FANTOMAS or Gibson’s SHADOW would be hanging the president of Exxon or Shell out of a window, saying “You want to explain those gas prices to me now?”
That’s why I love books like BLACK SAMURAI and THE DESTROYER because they are the pulp aesthetic continued, and have original things to say and original menaces to say it to, rather than simply the tendency to nostalgia, and aping dead writers.
When pulp heroes of yesterday fought nazis and gangsters, that wasn’t simply kitschy entertainment, that took some balls. Because gangsters were very much real things, and Nazis a very real threat, and nobody wanted to touch these topics. The way no one today wants to deal with topics of Guantanamo Bay, or Middle Eastern massacres, or corporate over-lobbying of representatives.
Pulp fiction of the 10s (the wonderful, and horrifying Fantamos),20s and 30s and 40s… was timely and controversial. Pulp fiction (and pulp heroes) was about giving the common man a hero who could stand up against the evils of the day, be those evils foreign or domestic. That is pulp fiction, not this nostalgic, safe, hermetically sealed, removed from any relevance of today, pastiches that people want to sanctify.
True pulp fiction, is a fantastic, white-knuckled, adrenalin inducing and entertaining tirade against the evils of its time. Sometimes in-dispute evil.
People forget there was a portion of America, the loud vocal right wing that were pro-hitler and pro the nazis, right up to and even after Pearl Harbor. So for these books to come out in the 1930s with Nazi Villains took balls. It was controversial. They got their share of grief from the Rush Limbaugh’s of the day.
So when people say “Well, true pulp fiction/pulp heroes needs to be set in the 20s to the 40s”, to that I say “only if you’re living in the 20s to the 40s”. True pulp heroes are an answer… an answer to the truths and the lies of your nightly news.
So while it’s wonderful we have this resurgence of so many writers doing pastiches in the pulp vein, it’s unfortunate so few modern writers are actually doing real pulp novels ala Warren Murphy or the late Marc Olden or even the late Ian Flaming.
So few current writers are doing books with great, even salacious covers, breakneck speed, thrilling action, and larger than life protagonists in conflict with outlandish villains, set in a present/timely context. That is the definition of true pulp fiction, and true pulp heroes… and what we are in dire need… of more of.
-to be continued-
Part II will bring you the list of 15 favorite pulp heroes. Your jaw will drop!!! 🙂
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