Even while in Israel, word reached me of the latest endeavour of Paul Pope (100%, Batman: Year 100). So does the book live up to the hype? Mmmm…
Battling Boy is the story of the book’s title character, a 12-year-old boy of godlike origin (not unlike Thor…) who is sent to Earth to save the city of Arcopolis from a bunch of mysterious monsters after the city’s Batman-like hero Haggard West is killed in battle. ‘Mr. Boy’ is loaded up with a bunch of magical T-shirts and a number of other resources to help him in his mission – a sort of traditional coming of age ordeal – and also has a hand from West’s daughter Aurora West - though she’s suspicious of him and makes her feelings quite obvious.
As is clear, it’s not the most original story; every aspect feels like it’s been pulled from another familiar source. But admitting that, it all works fairly well. The problem is that nothing makes it more than that – nothing particularly interesting is done with the characters and there’s no edge or twist given to the story or the way it’s told. By the end of the book, one simply wonders what was the point of retelling such a familiar tale in such a familiar way.
As for the art, Pope’s work is playful and at least provides some character to the proceedings, but it isn’t unique or amazing enough to make up for the over-familiarity of the story. Battling Boy is by no means a failure of a graphic novel, and Volume 2 may well take this origin story to new and exciting places, but as a stand alone work, it simply lacks anything special enough for which to recommend it.
I first heard Japanese electronic/synth-pop artist Yukihiro Takahashi last week when Alex Low (Hellaluya) was DJing Jef Barbara‘s show and he played Takahashi’s “Drip Dry Eyes”. I found out the song using Shazam and later looked him up online.
Turns out Takahashi’s greatest claim to fame is as drummer and lead singer of the influential Japanese electronic band Yellow Magic Orchestra. However, Takahashi’s been putting out solo albums since 1978, apparently most notably Neuromantic, a solid collection of English synth-pop songs that includes the aforementioned “Drip Dry Eyes”. Though not particularly incredible or unique among the era’s many synth-pop albums, it’s aged fairly well and in the light of 2014′s reassessment of 80s sounds and styles feels like a minor lost treasure.
If anyone wants to recommend other Takahashi (or Japanese rock) works for me to check out or post about in Obscurity Points, let me know in the comments.
The other night some friends and I went to see Gia Coppola‘s Palo Alto, playing as part of the TIFF Next Wave Film Festival. Based on a book of short stories by James Franco – who also stars – and directed by Francis Ford Coppola‘s granddaughter, the film is the interwoven stories of a couple characters, but mostly focuses on April (Emma Roberts), a teenage female soccer player who attracts the attentions of not only her older soccer coach (James Franco), but also the film’s other lead, Teddy (Jack Kilmer, son of Val, who makes a cameo appearance), a directionless juvenile delinquent who’s had a crush on her since forever.
Though those I saw the film with were less impressed, I respected Palo Alto as an understated, interestingly shot film with a wonderfully dreamy soundtrack by Dev Hynes (Lightspeed Champion, Blood Orange) and Robert Schwartzman. However, a major flaw of the film is its conclusion, which fails to satisfactorily tie up the various narrative threads.
In the final scenes of the film, April apparently returns Teddy’s feelings, but for no apparent reason other than the fact that the two are the same age. There’s nothing particularly endearing about Teddy, nor is he ‘cute’ or anything. Admittedly, April doesn’t prove herself to be so great or likeable a character either, but at least she seems to want something of depth from the world and her life. As creepy as Franco’s premature-”I love you”-ejaculating coach character was at times, at least his character hinted at a level of depth that made sense of the connection between them.
Palo Alto is less than a success as a film, but as other reviews have noted, it is a somewhat promising debut for the newest director of the Coppola family, and another interesting work of the ever-intriguing James Franco.
So check it out: Gold Soundz 2.0! Hopefully you – whoever you are – reading the site like the new look. We’re still tweaking things so hopefully soon everything will be perfect, until then…whatever. I made this mix last week because I had some old playlists for this kind of stuff but I felt it was time to put together something new. Also, soon I’ll be posting mixes of recent mp3s (just like back in the old days!) but I haven’t posted many new mp3s lately because of all the getting out of the army-coming back to Toronto-redoing the site stuff.
This mix is a little on the short side, but whatever, it’s a good starter. Also you’ll notice two of the songs are from middle eastern artists – Lebanese pop star Nancy Ashram and Tel Aviv shoegazers Vaadat Charigim. I guess I’m not totally tossing out the middle eastern interest I’ve tried to inject into this blog since I moved there nearly two years ago. Hopefully it makes your makeout session (should you ever put this mix to use) a little more exotic
Welcome to Torontopia! This is a little feature where I’ll cover a new local release that I’m really feeling. It could be an album, movie, short film, book, or comic, but it’s gotta be a product of Toronto at least in some distinguishing way.
The first release to merit this honour is Poemss‘ self titled album which was recently released on Planet Mu Records. The collaboration between Venetian Snares‘ Aaron Funk and a female artist I’ve known for a long time, Joanne Pollock, Poemss‘ debut album is a tripped out collection of songss(?) that walk the wire between ‘weird as fuck’ twisted synth sounds and classic, shimmering beauty. If you can handle it, there’s a full stream below and you can grab some version of the album here.
Nowhere Men is an Image comic book series by Eric Stephenson, Nate Bellegarde, and Jordie Bellaire. I read the first trade, Fates Worse Than Death, a couple weeks ago.
Nowhere Men takes place in an alternate history timeline in which four brilliant young men start a company called World Corp. that has become something along the lines of a Google or Apple-type company, except better. However, at some point this scientific fab four started breaking apart due to different perspectives and in the present-day, one is running the company, one has gone off and started his own rival company, one is in a coma, and one has been declared missing.
As the comic fills us in on the World Corp backstory, it also follows a group of scientists working aboard a secret space station who are exposed to something that is having a strange effect on a number of them.
While the traditional comic art is sharp and finely coloured, what makes the comic visually very interesting is the constant jumping between traditional panels and sections made to look like book and magazine excerpts. This results in an experience that makes the world of Nowhere Men feel real and believable to a point where one is tempted to Google things that seem as though they could just as easily be pulled from our reality as made up.
The trade collects issues #1-6. A seventh was supposed to come out last month but it appears to have been delayed or something, as it’s not appearing on the Image website. Hopefully it comes out soon, as this is a series absolutely worth paying attention to.
La Grande Bellezza finds director Paulo Sorrentino conceptually remaking Fellinni classics La Dolce Vita and Eight And A Half as his own film, appropriating many of the themes of the originals while exploring a completely different set of characters living in the world of ‘high life’ Rome.
The film follows writer Jeb Gambardella (Toni Servillo), who made his name by putting out a successful novel as a young man, but who has since spent his time writing puffy pieces for a cultural magazine and partying every night with a selection of socialites, artists, wanna-bes, has-beens, and various other characters. Now 65, he continues to enjoy his life but admits that ‘it’s all meaningless.’
The movie progresses almost in ‘flash forwards’ – the connection between one scene and the next isn’t always so apparent, and sometimes surreal images appear as if out of nowhere to be explained later. A number of themes are touched on, but the film’s two main concerns are age and the meaning of life. None of the issues in the film are ever really resolved, but rather, Sorentino plays with them, making wonderful, subtle observations, for example, of the passion of two young students who have been kissing for ten days, and letting things speak for themselves.
Writing about the movie is somewhat difficult as it’s chock full of interesting and important characters – many of whom appear briefly and then are gone, just as we’ve become interested in them and their stories. It would take an extensive essay to properly detail each narrative thread, in addition to talking about the film’s stunning cinematography and ridiculously incredibly soundtrack. But as one of the film’s characters says about poverty, it’s no good talking about it, you have to live it. La Grande Bellezza is a movie that is indeed in many ways lived rather than watched. However, Paulo Sorrentino‘s film is in no way impoverished; rather, it is itself a great beauty and a rare unironic cinematic achievement.