Filmish. A Graphic Journey Thorugh Film- Review

Filmish_coverTaking a trip through the history and impact of films, in an appealing and creative fashion. Edward Ross’s “Filmish. A Graphic Journey Through Films.” brings to life a fascinating text book of film theory through the wonderful world of comics.

Filmish provides an intriguing and stunning escape for any interested in the study of film, as well as the casual reader. Well written and deeply insightful, Ross delivers a fascinating journey through a medium that has become a deeply important part of society as a whole. Unlike the typical film textbook, Filmish does exactly what it states in its title, It takes you on a journey through the films as well as each piece of history and subject matter. With subjects ranging from how the camera is a stand in for our own eyes, Architecture and even how films play on our own fear of technology. Its use of examples range drastically from ‘Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory’ (1895), ‘Metropolis’ (1927), ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971) and ‘Birdman’ (2014), provide a look at just how varied the world of film can be and how multiple subject maters can be addressed through the medium.

Using images that are both unique and referencing several key films, allows the reader to create a greater connection to not only the words on the page but attach the meaning to important films and enhance the point being made. The art style, while delightfully simplistic, provides an excellent representation of multiple genres and settings as it is incredibly versatile in its use. Ross uses all of these techniques to his advantage to bring us something that is incredible unique in its execution, bringing a subject that can and occasionally has been displayed in a dry and dull fashion and giving it one of its most visually and academically stimulating spins in recent memory.

A must read for anyone interested in the field and especially for first year film students.

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Bakuman – Review

BAKUMAN_GN01_coverWhat does it take to achieve your dream? How far are you willing to go for what you love? And how long are you willing to wait for the one you love? Spanning 20 volumes, Bakuman chronicles the journey of two 14 year old boy in their quest to become successful Manga artists and writers.

While a talented artist with a number of possibilities ahead of him, at the age of 14 Moritaka Mashiro is reaching the end of compulsory education with no idea what to do with his life. Content to sit in the back of class and sketch his classmate, Azuki, in the back of his notebook, Mashiro decides to follow the path that’s expected of him and to lead a ‘normal’ life. When coming back to retrieve said notebook one day, he finds fellow classmate and noted school genius Akito Takagi waiting for him, holding the notebook. While Mashiro suspects that Takagi will tell him to leave Azuki alone, Takagi has something different in mind. “Don’t Worry, I’m giving the notebook back to you. And I won’t tell anybody about what’s in it. However. I do have one condition. I want you to team up with me to create manga!”. Despite Mashiro’s admiration of his late manga artist uncle, he turns Takagi down, stating that the only people who can truly be successful at it are “geniuses, born with that kind of talent. The others are nothing more than gamblers.” With this, Takagi finds a way to convince him by dragging Mashiro to the house of his crush, and proclaiming to her that they will both become Manga artist and be as successful as they can be. Azuki reveals that her goal in life is to bakuman-02-25-26become a voice actress and that if they all succeed in their dreams she could voice a character of theirs when it gets a television series. seemingly out of nowhere, Mashiro proclaims:

“So if that dream ever comes true … will you marry me!?”

In a moment of silence Azuki runs back into the house, only to say through the intercom, “yes.”

This one day changes the life of the boys, and those around them, in ways neither could imagine.

bakuman-350250Bakuman takes the reader through a 10 year journey, traversing the lives of two young manga creators on the road to achieve their dreams. Their numerous attempts to break into the industry. The friends and rivals they make along the way. Dealing with editors and fans and the ever changing industry. Bakuman chooses to show just how hard the life of a comics creator can be, as well as displaying the pressures young minds can receive from those around them to lead a normal life. Following your dream is never easy. Showing the boys at various stages of their life, dealing with illness, ever increasing deadlines, depression, as well as the prospect that sometimes you might never get what you want.

Created in the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump, Bakuman is written and drawn by the creators of Death Note, Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. Drawing heavily on both of their lives in the industry, the piece as a whole creates a fairly accurate firsthand account of life in the comic book or manga world. The art by Takeshi Obata is notably less realistic then the style he brought in Death Note, though uses just as much detail in unusual ways. Rendering every book in the studios shelves with as much bakuman-1331700detail as he possibly can, as well as showing his full range of abilities with the drawing style of the multiple artists throughout the story. Noticeable different yes, but equally strong. Tsugumi Ohba also departs from his previous style of serious writing to portray the characters in as accurate a manner as he can. While some lines of dialogue, particularly the odd line between Azuki and Mashiro, can be seen as corny, he uses this to his advantage by having other characters express what the audience may think of it. Creating a believable world and events.

Bakuman is a strong story, full of memorable characters and empathetic situations. Weather part of the comic book industry or just a casual fan, Bakuman is worth your attention.

The Graduate – Review

mandomsprovet-(1967)-large-pictureSome experiences are universal. At some moment in time every person has had some variation of this one thought. What the f*** am I doing with my life? While the thought may occur at any time, ranging from trying to find your place in the world, or figuring out just how you got to this point, it’s a scary thought that can have life changing repercussions when action is taken upon it. The 1967 film ‘The Graduate’ explores this notion from multiple angles in both a humorous and realistic way. The realism of the film is not only shown through the story and characters, but reflected through its choice of music, creating an honest portrayal of life in multiple senses.

Despite the films initial comedic plot and set up, the characters motivations and dialogue seem genuine. Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) begins the film as a recently graduated twenty year old, at a complete loss with what to do with his life, getting mixed signals from multiple directions, some telling him to dive head first in to work while others encouraging him to enjoy his youth and relax. While wrestling with his social obligations and need to isolate himself to just think, he ends up making a number of rash decisions just to feel somewhat in control. As the story unfolds, we discover, even if some are only hinted at rather than blatantly stated, just how universal this feeling really is. The iconic Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft)  even uses this thought as her driving motive behind the film, displaying a desire not only for control but for her daughter, Elaine (Katherine Ross), to never have to settle for the same choices forced upon her. The film displays a view of an overwhelming lack of control throughout life and that the choices we can make, we are ultimately stuck with. And yet shows this in its own strange sense of humour.

fishThe over arcing theme can even be felt through its use of camera shots and music. With its use of cinematography, the camera will frequently display a first person perspective, placing the viewer in the shoes of the subject. Forcing us to look through the characters eyes at defining moments, pushing the weight of these decisions on us and dismissing them as a passing thought with the change of perspective. This can also be felt in the music throughout. The film forgoes a traditional score, instead choosing mostly popular pieces from Simon and Garfunkel, the most notable of which being “The Sound of Silence”. Played at three key moments of the film, reflecting the character at all times. The rest of the film falls mostly silent music wise, mimicking our everyday world, creating situations that can be identified with more deeply.

The Graduate provides an interesting portrait for the importance of choice in our lives that can be identified with by almost anyone. An important film at any time of life.

The King of Comedy (1982) – Review

250px-KingofcomedyCelebrity status is something many strive for, even five minutes of fame is seen as something worth attaining. However fame comes with many responsibilities and drawbacks to the individual, a complete lack of privacy, expectations to keep a public persona at all times, and even the occasional crazed fan, sometimes taking their obsession to new heights and even becoming a danger towards the object of their attention. All these ideas and more are given a humorous and compelling spin, in Martin Scorsese’s 1982 film The King of Comedy. In a contrast to both Scorsese and DeNiro’s regular dark and gritty, unflinching looks at humanity in the city. The King of Comedy provides a strange comedic look at arguably another gritty industry, entertainment. With so many of Scorsese’s films considered classics, Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull to name a few. It’s easy to overlook The King of Comedy as just a second rate side project for the director. However King of Comedy provides not only a release from his usual tone, but a equal release from their popular persona and a chance to express the boundless creativity both Director and Actor are capable of, a trait the films main character is desperate to share.

still-of-robert-de-niro-in-the-king-of-comedy-(1982)-large-pictureJerry Lewis, known in film as Jerry Langford, essentially plays himself, with a number of scenes inspired by actual events that transpired in Lewis’s career. Langford, the comedy corner stone of live television, spends most of his off screen life dealing with the numerous crazed fans, anxious for his attention, including the insanely fanatic Masha (Sandra Bernhard). In an attempt to meet his idol, Rupert Pupkin (Robert DeNiro) acts as a make shift bodyguard one night and ends up sharing a car with Langford. Pupkin essentially uses this meeting as fuel for his delusions of grandeur, believing himself worth of stepping in to Langford’s shoes despite any actual proof of his comedic abilities.

the-king-of-comedy1Pupkin displays many of the traits that the extremist fan is known for, creating a character that may even be more dangerous than previous DeNiro character’s such as Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver) or Johnny Boy (Mean Streets). His delusions, many of which visible to the audience, become his driving force, as he becomes more and more obsessive and believes that he is doing the world a favour by going to some of the lengths he does, including resorting to kidnapping, extortion and blackmail. Even when the truth is screamed in his face, he refuses to believe it, instead seeing Langford’s actions as jealousy towards him. The true genius in the films portrayal of Pupkin, is the hiding of his comedic material. The audience is given no evidence other than his fantasies throughout as to whether or not Pupkin is deserving of any form of public recognition, leading to a truly well done and smile inducing payoff in the final act. His need for attention, especially from his long time crush Rita (Diahnne Abbott), creates one of the most honest, painful and intense view of humiliation and denial shown on film.

thekingofcomedy-lewisdeniro.gifWhile many would consider The King of Comedy as a minor Scorsese film, especially compared to the director’s other pieces like The Wolf of Wall Street or Casino. Its importance and impact has only grown over time. It’s view of celebrity culture and fanatic behaviour rings more true in the social media enabled 21st century than it perhaps ever has before. The rise of applications such as Twitter, provide the general public with a means of equal communication with those that they may idolise and admire. The parasocial relationship is now in a strange gray area, that The King of Comedy shows brilliantly.

A true example that just because a film was poorly received at release, that doesn’t mean that it cannot gain an importance.

“Better to be King for a night, then schmuck for a lifetime.”

Superman/Shazam! First Thunder – Review

Superman_-_Shazam_1“We are born from darkness into the light.. And thus, Humanity, by its very nature, fears the unknown. The Shadows. It fears the dark. Humanity is not driven by rage. It is driven by desire. So, we are easily led astray. But, in that, we can also be led home.”

When the Man of Steel and Earth’s Mightiest Mortal join forces, big things are expected. When both heroes come across a threat that neither can take on alone, it provides a fascinating comparison between the original superhero, Superman, and what was once considered a simple rip-off, Captain Marvel. The Story, while titled for both heroes, seems to take a greater emphasis on exploring the character of Billy Batson and the reality of a ten year old actually inheriting the abilities of the gods, chosen by fate to bear that mantle. Previous explorations of Billy Batson, Pre – New 52, have cared more for the heroic exploits of  Captain Marvel and only displayed Billy as a simple carefree ten year old who happens to be an orphan. While short scenes, his interactions with what appears to be his only friend become quite touching as you realise that these interactions are the closest thing he has to a normal life. Comparing this to Superman, you have a hero that not only had a loving family, a good childhood and the choice to use his power and become his superhero identity, as well as have his entire life to discover his own abilities. By the stories end, both the reader and Clark can see and feel just how much was really thrown at the young boy and the responsibility on his shoulders, with little else for him to fall back on for support.

“My name’s Billy Batson. But maybe it’s too dangerous to be Billy Batson anymore.”

spshft00The quiet conversations between both Superman and Captain Marvel essentially make this story. While physically resembling a full grown adult, Captain Marvel is reduced to a fan boy, taking joy in the private talks, referring to these opportunities as an honour. While Superman is initially confused by the admiration, he finds some form of solidarity with him and leads to some brilliantly played out moments where the two work off of each other beautifully. Bringing a large amount of depth to them both in a short amount of time.

The art by Middleton is wonderfully fluid, displaying not only the heroic nature of the two but introduces many subtle character quirks, such as Billy’s pension for half sticking his tongue out when pondering, or the intense rain of emotion Middleton is able to emote just from gestures. The combination of Winick’s writing and Middleton’s art, brings about a compelling mix of action, tragedy and comradery in a classic Superman Shazam tale.

“I suppose I feel a lot better about this realm of magic, or mysticism.. Well .. Knowing that you’re guarding the gate.”

Silk: The Life and Times of Cindy Moon – Review

ResourceLoaderPortletServletWith the recent events of Spider-verse, the need for more spider based characters has been frequently questioned. In regards to female counterparts to the webslinger, there have been a few before, both in continuity and what if including Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew) and Spider-Girl (May-day Parker). Even with the recently released Spider Gwen (an alternate universe Gwen Stacy, bitten by the radioactive spider in place of Peter Parker), most are simply re-skinnings of the original Spider-Man with a few details changed and the obvious gender switch. What makes Silk stand out from the rest, and why should you care?

While the antics of Spider-man, and his numerous clones, focus heavily on the rouges gallery, jumping from monster of the week ordeals to long multi issue showdowns.  Silk uses the crime fighting aspects as more of a backdrop and a way to establish her existence in the Marvel universe, with the major struggle of the series being her own mindset and the situation forced upon her. The driving force behind her heroism is her determination to find what she left behind. Creating a unique look at a female counterpart to the web-head.

Cindy Moon, brought to life in the pages of The Amazing Spider-man, provides a stark contrast to Peter, as one embraced their powers, while the other hide away from the world in order to protect the ones she loved from her seemingly uncontrollable powers. Having been set free 10 years later, Cindy has to face the world alone, unsure of how to proceed other than the example set forth by Peter and her memories of better times.

Silk-2015-002-013The use of pop culture references are usually a means of dating a work, however Thompson uses this to his advantage in showing just how behind the times Cindy really is. Making references to the Pokemon franchise, in its first few pages to only question if that’s still a thing, and highlighting her preference for paper and pen to the modern day tablet or phone. The inclusion of Cindy’s natural eidetic memory is a breath of fresh air, feeling that she has been “adjusting to powers” her whole life, bringing up just how painful this kind of ability can be especially when you lose something, or in this case people, you love. Combining her natural abilities with her spider powers, creates a new look at the spider based heroes. While Peter puts more focus into being Spider-Man out of a sense of responsibility, frequently forgetting his obligations as Peter Parker. Cindy is unable to forget her driving force, with finding her family being the top priority for both identities. The notion of Cindy working as an intern at a news site may appear as attempts to simply mimic the early career of Peter Parker, however, it makes a lot of sense for her character. Cindy’s need to readjust herself with the modern world as well as find leads to the overarching detective work of the series, plays out beautifully and even leads to some fascinating scenes between both Cindy and Jameson.

Good-TalkThe artwork by Lee is delightfully stylised, with the elegant ability to show both the fast sweeping action of battle scenes , and to slow down seamlessly for the sombre and isolated moments down in the bunker. The use of colour throughout , while not especially focus on delicate shading, is vibrant with a somewhat minimalistic approach. Knowing when to burst with colour and when to fade through the memories. Characters are easily distinguishable and visually striking.

Silk: The Life and Times of Cindy Moon, contains all 7 issues and while some prior knowledge of the events in Amazing Spider-Man (especially the Spider-Island and Spider-Verse events) may prove helpful, they are completely non compulsory to enjoy this largely self contained tale.