Monthly Archives: February 2017

The Best Sequential Art I Read Last Week: February 22 – 28, 2017


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I am a comic book collector and happy to be one. I might say “proud” if I hadn’t, over a year ago, switched to reading digital as opposed to print comics. I feel a bit robbed of the tactile sensations of the hobby – of the turn of the page, the sneaking look to the panel a page over, the bagging and shorting and stacking and filing. Though I read my comics in a different medium than I used to, I still treat each Wednesday (comic book delivery day to specialty shops around the country) as different from the other days of the week. I subscribe and now, rather than go to the comic store to be handed the books pulled for my “Hold Slot,” I click a button on my iPad and watch them download.
Then I read them.
Rare is the week that I don’t read them all between Wednesdays and some weeks I have, well… let’s just say more comic books in my digital downloads than a grown man should. Comic book legend Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) is one of the most influential men even to put pencil to drawing board in the pursuit of making comics. So influential was he that the industry awards (think the Oscars or the Emmys or the Grammys) are named The Eisner Awards. He called comic books “sequential art,” perhaps because he became embarrassed by his profession when he had to admit what he did for a living. This is my weekly reaction to the comics I read.

COMICS I READ LAST WEEK

The best comic I read last week was Black Panther #11.


Writer: Ta Nehisi Coates

Artist: Chris Sprouse

 

What Ta Nehisi Coates has done with Black Panther has been truly remarkable. It is unlike any comic book on the stands today and not just because it is the only comic I can think of that only features people of color (though there is something inspiring about this). No, it’s unlike any comic on the stands because of the deeply complex narrative Coates is telling. He’s taken the superhero concept and trappings and has all but rejected them instead using the character of Black Panther to weave a story of politics and family intrigue that feels far more like literature that sequential art.

Frankly, since its relaunch and in the hands of Coates and brilliant artists Brian Stelfreeze and Chris Sprouse, Black Panther HAS BEEN literature.

This issue wraps up a Wakandan civil war, a reflection on what it means to be a king and a mediation on the responsibility of family. It does so incredibly affectingly and incredibly well.

Black Panther is not a comic one can blithely read and set aside. It takes some commitment. That’s an impressive achievement and this is, consistently, an impressive book. Other vaunted writers have come to comics as though it was a part time, second class gig for them and, frankly, I wondered if the same would hold true for Coates. That has, happily, not been the case.

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Moonlight – A Movie Review


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moonlight
I really love stories with something more than a straightforward narrative structure. And, though Moonlight, told in 3 vignettes in the life of Chiron (its protagonist), does not boast the most complex of narrative tricks, I appreciated and enjoyed this part of the film very much.

Landing on 3 separate parts of his life, his childhood, adolescence and adulthood, Moonlight tells the story of a man who, at an early age, realized he was gay. The first two chapters of the film deal very directly with the challenges of a poverty stricken African American growing up gay in a brutally harsh and unforgiving environment.

As a child, Chiron, called “Little” during this time of his life, is mentored by the strangest of all people – the most well meaning and least menacing drug lord recently put on film. His mother, played by a strong and Academy Award nominated Naomi Harris, descends into addiction and Chiron, terrifyingly bullied at school turns to Juan, the drug lord, after a chance meeting. The reasons why Chiron’s mother becomes an addict are never made clear (and, perhaps, that’s the point), but the void in his life is filled by Mahershala Ali as Juan.

Ali is mesmerizing and goes left whenever the audience assumes he will go right. He is quiet when expected to be loud, calm when expected to be wild, comforting when expected to be demeaning. His role is the talk of critics and his Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role is almost assured. His chemistry with Alex Hibbert, who plays the young Chiron, is undeniable and I found myself wanting more of this story as the movie moved into the other parts of Chiron’s life. Of all the great scenes on film this year, I defy anyone to find a better one – one that is more thematically and metaphorically central to the movie it is in – than the swimming lesson scene. What a beautiful moment.

The first chapter is, far-and-away, the best chapter of the film.

In the second chapter, Chiron is a high school student still struggling with his identity. It is clear, though not shown on screen, that Juan wanted to shield the boy from a life on the streets – the life of Chiron’s mother – and we encounter Ashton Sanders in the role now. Sanders is good and takes the audience through more of Chiron’s story, but the impression of Hibbert remains strong. Too strong. As new revelations – terrible ones – are unfurled, Chiron is left at a significant crossroad. What happens next is lost to a decade long break in the movie.

The third chapter picks up with Trevante Rhodes as Chiron and revealing much about this chapter would take away from the surprises the film has in store. Suffice it to say that Chiron as an adult remains very affected by the events of his early life.

The character arc in Moonlight is well told. And the movie does a wonderful job of wrapping up Chiron’s story without being too pat about the task. The movie, while leaving plot threads hanging, thematically concludes and that closure is most satisfying.

Of all the nominees for Best Picture (and Moonlight has a great chance of winning), this one is the most poetic and lyrical. Writer/director Barry Jenkins has an emotional attachment to this story which is, in part, autobiographical, but, rather than dwell in every event of Chiron’s life, Jenkins lets the audience in on the formative events of that life. He shows, he does not tell, and he trusts his audience to fill in the blanks.

It is an arrangement that works beautifully.

Moonlight is a terrific movie, a potential Best Picture, and one that contained my favorite scene of the year.

MOONLIGHT receives FOUR AND A HALF SWIM LESSONS out of a possible FIVE. 

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Fences – A Movie Review


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fences
Though directed by Denzel Washington, Fences belongs to Viola Davis. I do not understand the intricacies of which category actors fall in for Academy Award consideration and, while he nomination (and her likely win) for Best Actress in a Support Role is well deserved, I cannot help but wonder why she was not nominated as Best Actress in a Leading Role. Regardless, in my opinion Denzel Washington is an incredible actor. In almost any film he is in, when he is on the screen, he almost always the most magnetic personality on it – his performances dominate, his are the character to which the audience is drawn. In Fences, Davis draws attention and energy as Rose, the wife of Washington’s Troy Moxson. She is utterly brilliant in the movie and her work illustrates – again – that she is the best actress of her generation. More roles for Davis, please. Leading roles for Davis, please.

Fences is a very straightforward adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winning play by August Wilson. Wilson, in fact, adapted his play into this film. Washington and Davis had played their roles on Broadway and their familiarity with them and with each other is a tremendous asset to this movie. As one might expect, Fences is a wordy affair and Davis and Washington plow through the metaphor laden dialogue and though its ample poetics beautifully, even when they are saying ugly things to one another. Fences demanded top-of-the-line performances and got them from these stunning actors.

Perhaps it also demanded a director who was less devoted to the staging of the material. Denzel Washington directs here and this is not his first time in the chair. He creates a simultaneously vivid and dour picture of 1950s Pittsburgh but does not explore it. There are very few scenes set outside the Moxson home and yard and, while that is obviously how the play progressed, as a movie, Fences feels boxed in by Washington’s choices. Though the movie looks lovely, it also feels very, very small.

That feeling of smallness is in stark contrast to the thunderous performances of the stars and that contrast hurts the overall film.

Troy Moxson is a larger-than-life character, if not a particularly likable one.  He is a sanitation worker who feels life dealt him and his family (including his World War II wounded brother Gabe played by Mykelti Williamson) a bad hand. He is a man with a dark past whose love for his wife is broadly pronounced by whose love for his sons is tightly controlled. He is wrestling some fairly significant demons and they threaten to consume him, his wife and his children. The manner in which Washington and Davis clash through the various stages of this struggle is riveting to watch.

However, the film overall is not quite as riveting. Whether owning to the directorial choices or the idea that sometimes plays work better as plays, there seems to be something missing from Fences. I kept hoping for a higher gear that did not come. Fences is a movie that has amazing performances which make it worth watching. It is worthy of the Best Picture nomination it received, but it will not take away the prize.

FENCES receives FOUR BRILLIANT MONOLOGUES out of a possible FIVE. 

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Manchester by the Sea – A Movie Review


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manchesterWe are, all of us, in some ways trying to deal with the past events of our lives, trying to understand them, trying to beat them. Manchester by the Sea gives us a very up close, very personal look at one man for whom the events of his life may well be too much to handle. The film is a brilliantly acted, very well directed and intimate portrayal of Lee Chandler, a man whose life has given him far more tragedy than any one person should have to face. It is a surprisingly delicate movie. It is fragile and brittle and, in that very fragility and brittleness, lies the heart of its genius.

I was prepared for the movie to be an incredibly sad affair, draining to watch and, while there are surely moments of tragedy that deeply affect the characters and are deeply affecting to the audience, I was surprised by the humor that writer/director Kenneth Lonergan found in the story. There are some wonderfully entertaining and funny moments in the movie and they break through the proceedings intentionally, reminding us and, to a certain extent, the characters that life, through all its darkness, also has moments of great light.

When his brother dies, Lee is called home from his Boston life and returns to Manchester – a town that holds for him an almost unbelievable pain. His is shocked to discover that he has been named the guardian of his 16-year-old nephew Patrick (a very good and Academy Award nominated Lucas Hedges). The town is populated with people who remind Lee of the terror he left behind when he departed Manchester and the movie chronicles Lee’s reconnecting with his past.

This is an excellent movie that makes very few missteps. In fact, the only thing I did not enjoy about the movie was the score. Whatever Lonergan and composer Lesley Barber were going for, they missed. Each time the funereal notes began to play (typically as Lee drives about Manchester), I cringed and was completely taken out of the movie. I don’t know why, but the music just did not work for me.

Casey Affleck, in a well-deserved Oscar nominated performance, imbues Lee with a haunted desperation so finely tuned that, at times, Manchester by the Sea feels more like a documentary than a work of fiction. His Lee is an unappealing character – angry, withdrawn and off-handedly cruel – and it takes an actor of Affleck’s ability to carry a movie like this. In the hands of a lesser talent, Lee would be an off-putting jerk about whom no audience would care. In Affleck’s hands, Lee becomes a character to care about and to root for. This is one of the best performances of the year.

Affleck’s chemistry  with Hedges is remarkable and the scenes he shares with Michelle Williams (also Oscar nominated, sensing a theme?) are harrowing and clinics in fine acting. In fact, the cast overall (including Gretchen Mol, the underrated Kyle Chandler and Matthew Broderick) seems as though they just stepped out of the Actors’ Studio.

Manchester by the Sea is a complete movie. It creates an emotional texture that is affecting and it does not let itself off any narrative hooks. It also does not take short cuts. Watching the movie feels as though one is stepping into the most intimate and most significant moments of someone’s life.

When the movie ends, it is difficult to step back out of those moments.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA receives FOUR AND A HALF FECKIN’S out of a possible FIVE. 

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And There Came The 2017 Oscars… Best Picture


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oscars-2017

The Academy Awards Ceremony is Sunday, February 26.

Leading up to the event, And There Came A Day presents a predictions for the major categories.

BEST PICTURE

 

best-picture-2017

NOMINEES

  • Arrival
  • Fences
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell or High Water
  • Hidden Figures
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Moonlight

 

WHO WILL WIN

La La Land

I really loved La La Land. I loved it a lot. Saw it 3 times. Own the soundtrack. The movie made a terrific impression on me. It’s sweet, sad and smart. It’s wonderfully acted, beautifully directed and uplifting. I think.

It lifted me up.

The Academy tends to love movies like this. La La Land is a Hollywood tale and it’s a musical. It’s a tribute to old fashioned movies from its widescreen opening to its fanciful ending. It should clean up Sunday night, perhaps even tying a record for the number of Oscars it takes.

I think it’s a Best Picture lock.

WHO I WOULD LIKE TO SEE WIN

Hell or High Water

Hell or High Water was my favorite movie of the year. It was small and unpretentious, wonderfully acted, tautly directed, funny and powerful. Jeff Bridges was terrific but so were Chris Pine and Ben Foster. Pine, in particular, deserves more recognition for the actor he is becoming. I would be very pleased if this movie took home the Oscar.

It won’t but I would be pleased!

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And There Came The 2017 Oscars… Best Director


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oscars-2017

The Academy Awards Ceremony is Sunday, February 26.

Leading up to the event, And There Came A Day presents a predictions for the major categories.

BEST DIRECTOR

 

best-director-2017

NOMINEES

  • Damien ChazelleLa La Land
  • Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge
  • Barry JenkinsMoonlight
  • Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea
  • Denis VilleneuveArrival

WHO WILL WIN

Dominic Chazelle  – La La Land

Big energy. Big music. Big moments. Oscar nominated lead performances. Hollywood Wunderkind.

La La Land is a pretty amazing achievement for a director helming only his second major release. That the film is a love letter to Hollwood won’t hurt Dominic Chazelle’s chances of winning Oscar. Nor will the amazing work he does here. His work was the most inventive of all five nominees. He ought to win it.

WHO I WOULD LIKE TO SEE WIN

Dominic Chazelle  – La La Land

La La Land is a very special movie and, perhaps with the exception of Hell or High Water, the movie I most enjoyed this year. Chazelle is a director whose works seem like they will always be worth watching.

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Link’n’Blogs – 2.24.17 – Best Picture Trailers, HONESTLY


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I loved Lincoln Logs when I was a kid. Though I never entertained the idea that I would be a designer, engineer or architect, something about putting together these wooden and plastic pieces was simply simple fun. Connecting to ideas through the blogosphere seems similar to this pursuit, hence the title of this weekly post. Each Friday, I intend to post something interesting I’ve read out there on the internets. Hopefully others will find these posts as thought provoking as I have.

If you have five minutes to spend laughing at the seriousness of the movies and this year’s Best Picture nominees, click the link below! Honest Trailers put together an, well, honest trailer for this year’s Academy Award celebration and it’s pretty damn funny. There are a few R-Rated moments… be warned.

And be entertained!

HONEST TRAILERS BEST PICTURE CONTENDERS

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