Link’n’Blogs – 2.9.18: The Story behind a Song Most Catholics Know… Here, I Am, Lord


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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.

A question for my Catholic friends (or for my friends who are not Catholic but who have attended a Catholic mass or two over the years): how many times have you sung the song Here I Am, Lord? Ten? Twenty? Fifty? More than you can count or care to remember? In America Magazine last October (I just came across the article this week), Colleen Dulle tells the story of the song’s composition and it is a story worth reading! You might never listen to and sing the song the same way. Click the image for the story and enjoy the video of writer Dan Schutte singing what is, arguably, his most famous composition.

Here I am Lord

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Countdown to INFINITY… The Avengers


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ONE A WEEK UNTIL Avengers Infinity War opens in May!

Captain America: The First Avenger | Iron Man | The Incredible Hulk| Iron Man II Thor | The Avengers | Iron Man 3 | Thor: The Dark World | Captain America: The Winter Soldier | Guardians of the Galaxy \ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 | Avengers: Age of Ultron | Ant-Man | Captain America: Civil War | Doctor Strange |            Spider-Man: Homecoming | Thor: Ragnarok | Black Panther

Week Five: AVENGERS

the-avengers-mondo-poster

This is the grandaddy of them all: Avengers is the one that made the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe come together. Loud, audacious, bombastic, over-the-top and incredibly fun, Avengers made put together the Marvel heroes in a movie where the sum is better than its parts (and its parts are pretty damned good). Before the Joss Whedon blacklash of recent years, he was regarded as something of a genius, a nerds’ geek and a pop culture hero. Watching Avengers, it is easy to see why. Almost every choice he makes pays off in this undeniably entertaining superhero team up.

Avengers remains one of the best of the Marvel movies and perhaps the most enjoyable on repeat viewings. The chemistry among the characters is easy and fun. The stakes are appropriately high. The set pieces are thrilling.

The only quibble (and it is a minor one) is the final battle. It literally plays out over the final forty minutes of the film. That is a long time. And, by-the-way, as a fan of the DC movies and a critic of the critiques, I note that the wanton destruction and willful loss of life in Avengers rivals anything in Man of Steel but that is a different post. One final point: it is sad to hear Chris Connell’s vocals on Live to Rise, the rock and roll theme of the movie…

Avengers premiered before I was blogging reviews, but it receives FIVE MEWLING QUIMS out of a possible FIVE.


KEY INTRODUCTIONS:

  • Maria Hill
  • Thanos
  • The World Council
  • The Battle of New York

CONNECTION(S) TO INFINITY WAR:

  • Thanos is, obviously, the big bad of Avengers: Infinity War. His introduction in the mid-credit sequence, however, is underwhelming. Only the geekiest of geeks would know him.
  • The World Council played a significant role in Captain America: Civil War, a movie that put many of the Avengers on the wrong side of the law were they remain until Avengers: Infinity War.
  • The movie establishes heroes, villains, aliens and gods in the world and people just seem to accept it. I guess it will not seem that crazy when Thanos comes calling in Infinity War.
  • The Other, the minion of Thanos with whom Loki deals, is going to show up in Guardians of the Galaxy.
  • Tony Stark’s heroic deposit of the nuclear bomb into Chitari space has major repercussions for the character, repercussions that will, likely, influence Infinity War.

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The Best Sequential Art I Read Last Week: January 31 – February 6, 2018


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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:

 

1.31.0

 

The best comic I read last week was DC Metal #5

Writer: Scott Snyder

Artist: Greg Capullo

The penultimate chapter of DC Metal is just as INSANE as all the issues leading up to it and, man, if I do not love it! Promised to be a rock’n’roll, dinosaur fighting, wild ride through a new understanding of the DC Universe, man do Greg Capullo and Scott Snyder deliver!

I have written about this book month-after-month with good reason: it is fun! And should comics not be fun?

Today, I want to focus on the amazing art of Capullo and collaborators Johnathan Glapion and FCO Plascencia. What these three have done in terms of wide-screen battle is one thing. What they have done in terms of character design in something else all together. I have lost track of the amount of new characters that have crept into the pages of Metal. Forget the simulacrums of the DC heroes (or do not forget them, because they are very cool) and focus on the incredible array of characters here, how they are differently rendered, realized and dressed.

It is really something else.

DC Metal is a tour-de-force. I wish more comics were like it.

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Darkest Hour – A Movie Review


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DarkWe have known that Gary Oldman is good for some time, have we not? We have known he is an amazing actor, yes?

But did we know he is great?

Let us put that question to rest. Gary Oldman’s performance – the performance of a career – in Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour is the kind of work that will be referenced in film lore, likely, forever. Oldman is that good as Winston Churchill. One can apply whatever measure one wishes: he vanishes into the role, he becomes Churchill, he makes the character his own. All of this – and more – is true. Darkest Hour is worth seeing simply for Oldman’s work. He is Academy Award nominated for a reason: his work deserves that recognition and, quite frankly, he deserves to win. There is not a more magnetic, engaging performance this year.

Oldman is the overwhelming strength of the movie and overwhelming is the right term. He is so good, so much better than everyone else on screen (and they are very good, too) that, in some ways, he sucks the life out of the rest of the performances. Perhaps this was by design as Churchill the man must have done precisely the same thing but I could not shake the fact that the movie felt like a professional sports team that invested all of its money in one player to the detriment of the rest of the squad. Again, everyone is good, but Oldman is shockingly great.

The movie is told over a very compressed timeline – a series of days when Churchill is first named Prime Minister. His objective is nothing less than trying to save western civilization from the advance of the Nazis. Against almost impossible odds and embroiled in battles foreign and domestic, Churchill stakes the fate of the British Empire on his own understanding of the spirit and resolve of the English people. It is a wild gambit.

The surprises found in Darkest Hour have less to do with the outcome of World War II (spoiler alert: you are not reading this review in German), rather the tension is found in watching Oldman’s Churchill attempt to hold together an empire on the strength of his intelligence and wit. I am a fan of movies about smart people doing smart things, and Darkest Hour has that going for it for sure.

It is a great companion-piece to the likewise Best Picture nominated Dunkirk and viewing both gave me a far greater understanding of on just how thin a thread the Allies were dangling. In fact, I would advise viewing these films together. Darkest Hour is a far better character study; Dunkirk is a far better war movie.

Because the film takes place in war cabinets and the floor of the House of Commons and in various throne rooms and board rooms, it can be very dialogue heavy and while it is well written and well delivered dialogue, there is an overabundance of it, especially at the end of the second and the beginning of the third act. The movie slows under the weight of it, despite Oldman’s brilliance.

But Darkest Hour is surprisingly funny and more engaging than not. It is also a vehicle for one of the greatest recent performances committed to film.

It is more than worth your time.

DARKEST HOUR receives FOUR CHOMPED CIGARS out of a possible FIVE.

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The Shape of Water – A Movie Review


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WaterAs the closing credits came up in the darkened theater, a patron to my right said “that wasn’t very realistic.”

While I cannot disagree with this opinion, I am not sure realism was precisely what writer/director Guillermo del Toro was going for in his brilliant, lovely and lyrical The Shape of Water.

Part fable and part fairy tale, The Shape of Water tells the story of an unlikely romance between night maid Elisa Esposito (played by Sally Hawkins in an Oscar nominated performance) and the Amphibian Man (played by Doug Jones in a performance that should have been likewise recognized). When agents of the US government bring a strange, aquatic creature to the lab where Elisa works, the immediate fascination she feels with the being – and his with her – quickly passes from intrigue to friendship to more.

Hawkins’ Elisa is mute and the actress is utterly astounding and captivating. She gains the audience’s attention and compassion from the earliest scenes of the movie and she does not let go. In ways both subtle and overt, Hawkins’ manner grounds the more fantastic elements of the movie; she is the center of the movie and her acceptance of and belief in all that is happening to her and because of her makes The Shape of Water work. Hers is a performance that deserves recognition and it immediately indelible. There is no Shape of Water without Hawkins.

Both Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins rightfully received Support Actor nominations for the movie. They serve as the voices of the film with Hawkins’ Elisa a mute and the Amphibian Man not speaking in a language recognizable to human ears. There is something telling and intentional about the dialogue of the movie being carried, primarily, by a black woman and a closeted gay man. There is something important about that. Jenkins and Spencer are excellent and they are funny. Elisa’s romance is the heart and they are the soul of The Shape of Water.

Antagonist Michael Shannon is at his best here, too and, while his role is fairly black and… black in terms of nuance, Shannon is so good he manages to find and play a few subtle shades of gray. On hand as well is the typically solid and ubiquitous Michael Stuhlbarg – the man who seems to be in every film made in the last five years.

The Shape of Water is a movie about those society rejects, those who exist on the outside and at the margins. It is about how they find purpose and love and faith. It is an undeniably timely film wrapped in a fairy tale-like timeless package.

Typically, movies that layer on symbolism and signs fatigue me. I can become quickly disenchanted by them. That is not the case here. While there is much allegory (the Cold War setting, the movie theater location, the severed fingers, the Power of Positive Thinking tropes, the color and set design… and more!) to ponder, I found – and still find – myself doing just that: pondering the significance of del Toro’s choices and finding more to ponder when I do.

And still, one of the most remarkable things about The Shape of Water is how few surprises there are. The movie plays out as one would expect and hits notes that are familiar and comfortable. There are no mind-bending plot twists and even the end of the movie is so well telegraphed by the beginning that it, too, cannot be considered surprising. So why is The Shape of Water so well regarded? Why is it so good?

It is a gorgeous movie, layered in shades of green (the application of that color means so much to the film). The design is astounding and there are more than a few scenes where I leaned over to The Cinnamon Girl and said “this is really beautiful.” One that remains in my mind is a shot of the Amphibian Man standing, mouth agape, in the center of a movie theater watching a film unspool before him. Breathtaking.

The Shape of Water is the most nominated film of this Academy Award season and it is clear why that is. I would not be surprised – nor disappointed – if it take home most of the trophies. It is that good.

THE SHAPE OF WATER receives FIVE GREEN CANDIES out of a possible FIVE.

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Link’n’Blogs – 2.2.18: How the Orange Crush Changed Denver


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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.

Yes, It’s Super Bowl Week. Yes, the Broncos are out (but making news? C’mom Captain Kirk Cousins!). Yes, I am sad… but remember the original Orange Crush? Click below… this is a GREAT story one of my good friends posted on Facebook.

Broncos

 

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The Best Sequential Art I Read Last Week: January 24 – 30, 2018


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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:

 

One

The best comic I read last week was Doomsday Clock #3

Writer: Geoff Johns

Artist: Gary Frank

All comics should feel as weighty. All should be as well drawn. All should take as many risks. All should be as smart. All should have consequences. All should involve readers as readily.

All comics should be as good as Doomsday Clock.

They are not. I read ten comics this week and none of them came close (though Marvel Two-in-One is pretty damned good). Doomsday Clock is expertly illustrated, brilliantly written and constructed in such a taut, engaging fashion that I greeted the news that (released earlier this week) that it is moving to a bi-monthly schedule with an audible “oh, no.”

It is the best comic I have read in a long-long time. And it is a comic I am already excited to read over-and-over again.

While I am having a very hard time placing it within the confines of the current DC Universe (and that is, likely, part of the point) and while I am sure I do not comprehend all the allusions, twists and turns, I am sure of one thing: it is an instant classic.

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