Killer’s Kiss (1955) Written & Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Specific names in filmmaking have power & weight to them. Stanley Kubrick is one of them. In the last decade or so, I’ve noticed a backlash of sorts about Kubrick’s place in the pantheon of great directors. I get that, though. The prevalence of some names over others allows lesser-known, yet equally deserving directors to be overshadowed. I would counter that I think part of what has led to this annoyance with Kubrick is that he intentionally made films that created division in audiences. Furthermore, his influence on the craft of filmmaking resonates across time, and I suspect will continue into the far future, should humanity survive and keep making movies.
It feels like the year both just started and has been going on for an eternity. I have to say that I wasn’t planning on producing this much content in the first half of 2020, but ending up quarantined at home while working allowed me to essentially get a jump on reviewing. By mid-June, I’d gotten through everything I had planned to put out over the summer, so it was pretty exciting to see what I could do for the rest of the break. Here is my plan for July through December with the additional note that if I end up working from home again, there’s a good chance I’d be able to crank out more content than usual. My state has seen a frightening spike in COVID-19 cases, and our governor just extended the state of emergency to the end of August. The other educators in my state and I are now waiting to see what this means for schools, which are scheduled to open back up around August 6th. In the meantime, here’s what you can look forward to on my site from now through December.
The Assistant (2020) Written & Directed by Kitty Green
The #MeToo movement of the last three years pulled a lot of masks off a situation that almost everyone knew was happening, but there had been a collective silence due to the fear of losing jobs and wealth. One of the biggest revelations was the uncovering of film producer Harvey Weinstein’s habitual abuse and outright rape of women for decades. Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years in prison for sexual assault and rape in New York City with additional charges pending in Los Angeles. As much as it we want to celebrate his convictions, history tells us wealthy men who abuse their power don’t often serve those full sentences and have the wealth to make prison a very comfortable place while they are there. Justice for the victims of the powerful is a rare animal indeed.
Young Justice Book One (2017) Reprints Young Justice: The Secret, JLA: A World Without Grown-Ups #1-2, Young Justice #1-7, Young Justice Secret Files and Origins #1 Written by Todd Dezago, Peter David, and D. Curtis Johnson Art by Todd Nauck, Mike McKone, Humberto Ramos, and Ale Garza
You are likely familiar with Young Justice as the animated series, which aired on Cartoon Network from 2010-2012 and then revived on the DC Universe platform in 2019. That title and most of its characters had their start in this comic book series from the late-1990s. Young Justice in response to the Teen Titans being aged into early adulthood and thus leaving a vacuum for a youth-oriented super-team. A new name was chosen based on the popularity of Grant Morrison’s JLA run, and so we had Young Justice starting as a trio of characters and growing its roster from there.
How Long Til’ Black Future Month: Stories by N.K. Jemisin
This is a beautiful melange of fantasy & science fiction told from a black perspective. Some stories feel like a red hot bullet right between the eyes in our current context. There’s a story about the spirit of a city becoming aware she not merely a human walking its street with the idea that these city spirits travel and awaken their kin across the world over time. We’re presented with a Jim Crow-era story of a black witch and her children encountering a demonic fey-like entity posing as a beautiful blonde white woman. There are stories of secret agents from an alternate universe Haiti sneaking through New Orleans to take out a white cabal. You get the transformational narrative of a young chef introduced to alien ingredients and becoming a sorceress who can create food that radically affects her customers. The most resonant for me was the opening story, “The Ones Who Stay and Fight,” where a beautiful utopia is described, a place where all prejudices are gone, and humanity lives in beautiful harmony and follows a path that parallels and reflect our own. You can read that story, and you most certainly should here.
Uncle Buck (1989) Written & Directed by John Hughes
Uncle Buck will forever be associated with John Candy. When you see the actor, you almost always think of this picture. In turn, it signals the end of an era for filmmaker John Hughes. This was the first film he did as part of a multi-picture deal with Universal. Hughes had already signed with Universal in the early 1980s after the success scripts for Mr. Mom and National Lampoon’s Vacation. After The Breakfast Club, Hughes soured on the deal, he was known for being very contentious with studios. Uncle Buck was his return to Universal after a four-year sojourn, and about a year later, he would be trying to get out of the contract already. Uncle Buck is a movie that exists as both a pleasant piece of nostalgia for millennials but is also a moment when a great mainstream director’s career began to wither.
Search Party Season 3 (HBO Max) Written by Sarah-Violet Bliss & Charles Rogers, Craig Rowin, Andrew Pierce Fleming & Matt Kriete, Starlee Kine, Jordan Firstman, and Sabrina Jalees Directed by Sarah-Violet Bliss & Charles Rogers, Jay Duplass, and Carrie Brownstein
Search Party feels like a tv series than an indie film franchise with each season’s supporting cast changing to fit the direction of our four millennial mains’ lives. The stakes of the series have ratcheted up with each iteration. Season one was a reasonably light, missing person mystery that ended on a surprisingly dark note. Season two was a study in PTSD and guilt, veering the series into some bleak territory while still finding humor in the situation. Now season three gives us courtroom drama and such a massive development in our protagonist’s persona that it is downright chilling in moments.
Who’s Harry Crumb? (1989) Written by Robert Conte & Peter Martin Wortmann Directed by Paul Flaherty
Certain films are made to challenge the audience’s expectations of an actor or allow them to stretch their acting chops in a new direction. Who’s Harry Crumb? seems like it is that sort of film, existing to give John Candy a chance to play more characters and play a confident idiot. The result is something that, in moments, plays to his strengths but so often falls flat and is ultimately a waste of talent and resources. This was a movie intended to create a new comedy franchise but did so poorly with audiences and critics that it’s become another forgettable 1980s comedic footnote.
Joker: Killer Smile #1-3 & Batman: The Smile Killer one-shot Written by Jeff Lemire Art by Andrea Sorrentino
I have enjoyed Gideon Falls, the independent comic by the creative team of Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino. I started reading and review the series in March of 2019 and followed up a year later with a look at the second and third volumes. Be on the lookout in December for another update as I am reading through the current issues. This led me to become interested in the duos Joker mini-series and subsequent Batman one-off for DC Comics. Lemire is no stranger to DC Comics having penned Superboy, Animal Man, Green Arrow, and other work. Sorrentino has also dabbled at DC, illustrating Lemire’s Green Arrow run as well as the New 52 I, Vampire series.