Tag Archives: Social Commentary

Retro Movie Review: François Truffaut’s FAHRENHEIT 451

Oskar Werner as Guy Montag in François Truffaut's "Fahrenheit 451"

Oskar Werner as Guy Montag in François Truffaut’s “Fahrenheit 451”

François Truffaut, the champion of children and misfits, was the perfect writer/director to lead the way in bringing Ray Bradbury’s classic, “Fahrenheit 451,” to the screen. If Bradbury had tapped into the anxiety and conformity attached to the dawn of the television age with the publication of his novel in 1951, then by 1966, Truffaut was making the case with all the more evidence. To make the point in a fresh way, for the time, we begin with various close-ups of TV aerial antennas superimposed upon brash colors.

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Filed under François Truffaut, Movie Reviews, movies, Ray Bradbury, Sci-Fi, science fiction

Review: ‘Wide Awake in Slumberland’ by Katherine Roeder

Winsor McCay with Gertie the Dinosaur

Winsor McCay with Gertie the Dinosaur

What will today look like one hundred years from now? In the world of comics, we have no choice but to include DC Comics’ upcoming “Teen Titans #1” in a time capsule, filed under “sexism.” Many of us today see through a glass darkly. But not all of us. One hundred years ago, Windsor McCay was at the top of his game as America’s preeminent cartoonist. Attempting to see what McCay’s world was like one hundred years ago could provide some interesting perspective.

There were certainly other big name cartoonists and plenty of newspapers but there was only one Winsor McCay. He could dazzle his audience. He was part of the zeitgeist. Much like Chaplin, he did what he did with far more distinction than his competitors. In a new book that attempts to place McCay in context, we get some insights about Little Nemo, Gertie the Dinosaur, and Dream of the Rarebit Fiend, and how they reflected the American dream. And, among the findings, we confront a problematic character named, Impie.

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Filed under animation, Comic Strips, Comics, Winsor McCay

BALLARD COMICS: Drawing Ballard in 24 Hours, #2


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October 12, 2013 · 5:27 pm

Keef Knight’s First Live-Action Comedy Video: UNIQUE ANTIQUE

KEEF KNIGHT‘s hilarious and insightful comic strip, “The K Chronicles,” is a prime example of how to speak truth to power and get people thinking and taking action. Now, Keef has a hilarious video for your consideration, with more to come, no doubt. But, first, this one is definitely going to make you think…and laugh.

More essential info directly from Keef Knight:

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Filed under Comics, Humor, Keef Knight, Protest, Satire, Social Commentary, The K Chronicles

Movie Review: ‘The Bling Ring’ and ‘Combat Girls’

Talk about girls in trouble. Two current films tackle the subject in very different ways: Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring” and David Wnendt’s “Combat Girls.” While these two films are miles apart, they also share some distinct similarities. In both cases, these are stories of young women adrift. When you are lost, you just might grab at anything that will make your life work, whether it’s joining a gang of thieves or joining a gang of skinheads. What we expect to see is these girls wise up as soon as possible. In both of these films, the young women must do what they do and let the consequences follow.

“The Bling Ring” is now in theaters. “Combat Girls” becomes available on DVD, VOD and Digital Download for the first time ever on July 9.


Emma Watson and Katie Chang in "The Bling Ring"

Emma Watson and Katie Chang in “The Bling Ring”

Let’s start with Sofia Coppola’s latest excursion into disconnected youth. Each of her films seems like a light and delicate soufflé. They are a treat, no doubt. But you always wonder, since “The Virgin Suicides,” if they might fall flat or require an added bit of indulgence. Ultimately, you leave savoring your meal, don’t you? That’s the thing to keep in mind. Like Wes Anderson films, there are certain ingredients that go into the mix and it’s best to be patient and see what happens.

A few years ago, a band of bratty kids from the San Fernando Valley went on a crime spree breaking into the homes of Hollywood bratties like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. They were ultimately caught and their story was immortalized in an article published by Vanity Fair. All this raw material was just waiting to become the material for a Sofia Coppola movie. All the characters in this story defy any sympathy. And that’s the point of this story.

While the subject and the story may seem light, the overall effect of this film is actually pretty potent. A story like this one that subverts the conventional path to redemption is not at all shallow. It reminds me a bit of Gus Van Sant’s 1995 “To Die For,” starring Nicole Kidman, as an aspiring TV personality who will kill to gain the spotlight. While these girls aren’t killers, they are well on their way.

Rebecca, the ringleader, played by Katie Chang, is the most unlikely of leaders, ready to betray her friends and easily distracted. Nicki, played by Emma Watson, is a fine example of the rest of the gang in her ability to disconnect from reality. She does such a good job of it that she manages to create a good distance between the crime and herself. She ends up serving very little time and, in the end, it’s like it never happened, just a growing experience on her way to becoming an upstanding leader of society. I has to be said that Emma Watson “steals” the show in her role.

While the girls in “The Bling Ring” are not exactly rewarded for their bad behavior, they find the consequences to be minor at best. It’s almost like it leaves them hungering for yet a bigger thrill. Perhaps, years from now, that will be the material for another Sofia Coppola movie.

“The Bling Ring” is now in theaters. DVD Release Date is estimated to be November, 2013.


Alina Levshin and Jella Haase in "Combat Girls"

Alina Levshin and Jella Haase in “Combat Girls”

When we first see the band of hooligans take over a train and dominate the passangers, for a fleeting moment, they appear capable of anything. The posturing, the thumping and hypnotic music in the background, and the wild aggression make for quite a scene. But we quickly see they are cowards and only capable of inflicting pain. Director David Wnendt is a rising star and “Combat Girls” is his breakout film in the United States.

This film takes a more traditional route to redemption but does it with such a palpable urgency. This is a remarkably elegant and artful film, considering its rough subject. It is so lean and well paced that it casts you under its spell of intrigue, that rises to the level of Hitchcock. You may not be expecting so much going on in one film but this one is working on many levels.

Lost youth. The sins of a nation and its people. The burden of the past. Director David Wnendt’s goal, much like Sofia Coppola’s in “The Bling Ring,” is to speak on many factors all at once. As much as the past is the past, it haunts us and, given a chance, it will, like a virus, attach itself to new hosts. The legacy of Nazi Germany becomes the burden shouldered by two young women, one rich and one poor. The poor one, Marisa, played by Alina Levshin, is entrenched in all the rituals and life of the neo-Nazi: her boyfriend, her friends, her whole life. At 20, she is looking forward to nothing else.

For Svenja, at 15, she has many advantages open to her. She excels in school and has a bright future amid an upscale background. However, she has a creepy stepfather who dominates her life. He is so bent on having her quit smoking that he forces her to smoke a whole pack of cigarettes in his presence. As much as a lark than an outlet, Svenja takes up with one of the local skinheads. It’s only a matter of time before she has to prove her mettle to the relentlessly demanding Marisa.

And then there’s some twists of fate. First, Marisa’s thug boyfriend is hauled off to prison leaving Marisa untethered. This leads to the turning point in her life that happens abruptly but ends up having plenty of time to fester. Marisa has done something very bad but she doesn’t know to what extent. The only person who can provide her with any solace is her grandfather who is dying in hospital and has contributed far too much to Marisa’s fragmented life.

What happens next is extraordinary. Marisa, at still a young age, learns there is more to life than she has ever known before. It seems like it’s never to late to turn a page but, in Marisa’s case, the consequences of change may prove too severe.

Artsploitation’s release of COMBAT GIRLS will arrive on DVD, VOD and Digital Download for the first time ever on July 9, 2013. The DVD extras include an interview with Alina Levshin and an 8-page booklet.

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Review: ‘Failure’ by Karl Stevens


I certainly hope that artist Karl Stevens never abandons what he’s accomplished in the pages of his latest collection, “Failure,” simply because he might feel compelled to rip apart what he’s done up until now and strike out fresh. He can do whatever he wants, for sure. But I hope he continues to build on what he’s accomplished so far. “Failure,” I dare say, is a success. This collection shows growth but it’s consistent growth. There isn’t a weak page in the whole lot. It’s more an evolving viewpoint: the angry young artist keeps pushing and pushing until he gets what he wants, a reaction; afterward, he finds he’s pushed his way into new terrain and he finds himself breaking new ground.


There’s all that explaining for a couple of pages at the start of the book about how the Boston Phoenix yanked the comic strip in 2012, after an illustrious seven-year run. All because of a joke that maybe went too far. Well, does it really matter at this point? Nope. What matters is the artist and man, Karl Stevens, and his work. He’s had some success with critics with three previous books and, with “Failure,” we can observe an artist evolving with these final installments of his comic strip.


It’s a process all of us artists most go through. There’s a time when you’re acutely sensitive to the fact only a few people will ever get you. They will never get art and so they will easily never get you. It’s a very real time that some artists never get over. This can lead to despair or, if all goes well, it can launch a career, likely to be mingled with despair too but you can’t have everything. Getting back to the point at hand, it is a time filled with one’s first overwhelming feeling of complete uncertainty that will stick with you (cause you never forget your first). You start to think that cats and dogs have a better shot at getting you than your fellow humans. Thus, we find a good share of eloquent cats and dogs in this strip.


Then we get a little comfortable and settle into something but we don’t want it to become too easy, a phoned-in gimmick, something that has already been done in The New Yorker or observed by Douglas Coupland. The above strip is a good example of finding your way within the long history of social satire. The humor is broad and yet there’s a sense of the specific. The young woman claims she was “nerding out” to Chekov. This is an annoying, and perhaps disturbing, prospect to her older friend who wonders out loud about what has become to simply being “intellectual.” The artwork is a refined crosshatch that itself harks back a hundred years ago which just adds to the joke, the tension between the proper order of things and the brashly new.


So, you do keep at it. Listen to your own special blend of neurosis. And it will come out. Stevens has mastered that play between the old and the new, the high and the low. “Failure” offers us a very funny look at an artist growing up. It’s a pleasure to see that evolution, that special blend of Karl Stevens come out.

Visit our friends at Alternative Comics. Visit Karl Stevens HERE. Purchase a print edition of “Failure” HERE. And, now, you can purchase a digital edition of “Failure” at ComiXology HERE.


Filed under Alternative Comics, Art, Comics, Comixology, graphic novels, Humor, Karl Stevens, Satire


A night at Sorrento Hotel Henry Chamberlain 2013

A NIGHT AT THE SORRENTO AND OTHER STORIES is a quirky batch of comics that is steadily gaining ground as the subject of a fundraising campaign at Kickstarter. It launched on April 3 and has reached the 30 percent mark in pledges. The campaign runs through May 6. You can view it HERE.

Now, here’s the thing about this one, it has a raw honesty to it that it shares with other Generation X artists. That’s where this artist, Henry Chamberlain, dates back to. That sort of blunt honesty has been refined over the years although an outsider’s view still remains. Think of Charles Burns, for example: acerbic, alienated, yet very heartfelt and authentic. You can find that in this collection of comics. That’s important to bring out here because this book includes the graphic novel, ALICE IN NEW YORK, which is an older work and very much aligned to that spirit. The other part of the book collects recent work, done in the last three years, that originated with 24-Hour Comics challenges. Altogether, you get one artist’s vision over a span of many years.

So, let’s focus in with a few more words about the graphic novel, “Alice in New York” that is part of this collection. What makes it share a Gen X sensibility has to do with the main character’s feeling of being at a loss. For many of a creative and intellectual bent, it just felt like we were in for a long stretch of lowered expectations. Sure, that’s pretty shortsighted. But, growing up in the ’80s, with Reagan and Thatcher running the show, with the Baby Boomers having hogged the spotlight for so long, with a perpetual rehash of pop culture, it didn’t look so good. Of course, we all knew things would change one way or another but it fostered a healthy sense of cynicism and self-deprecation.

You have the main character, Henry, a young man on his first visit to New York City still holding on to dreams of previous generations, from the myth of the Great American Novel to the lure of fifteen minutes of fame. Is it any wonder the boy is a wreck? But, he stumbles upon just the right circumstances and meets the right people to help him out. Is he too lucky? Well, sometimes you make the most of what you get, create your own luck. Add to that a little magic from Alice in Wonderland, and you have a story that transcends any generation which is what you want to do in the end!

Generation X’s way of life is not for everyone. You basically had to be there. Just saying that is so Gen X. If you’re looking for something to read that is a voice of a generation, while stubbornly refusing to be labeled, and ending up being so much more, then check out this work at Kickstarter HERE.

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Filed under Art, Books, Comics, Comix, Culture, Generation X, Kickstarter, New York City, pop culture


“The Devastator” is the kind of quarterly humor magazine I had always thought of putting together back in college. My best friend and I did put out an issue of something that was a combination of his aspirations towards sytle and my aspirations towards wit. In a lot of ways, I see that tension, which can work really well, in the pages of this 56-page magazine. This is what people in search of stylish snark are really looking for and this mag pulls it off nicely.

In this issue, the theme is “Indie” and what that means. It will mean something different to each new generation. But, as R. Sikoryak and Michael Smith’s parody of “American Splendor” makes clear, whatever batch of 18 to 35-year-olds you belong to, you can be just as clueless as the one that came before.

I’m from the Gen X batch and, as is fully documented, we are a good-natured but uniquely alienated group, always demanding authenticity from others. Same darn thing can be said for the latest crop. In “Stat Attack!” by Lesley Tsina, a mock survey of college radio listeners reveals that the most compelling reason to tune in to college radio is to “fight the powers that be.” In Noah Van Sciver’s comic elegy to those who haunt indie bookstores, again, some things never change. That same baby soft cutie with her fingers crumpling up the ends of her sweater is still not going to give you the time of day. But the weirdo covered in aluminum foil will stick to you like glue. Such is the life of the young artist with a shit job.

How better to soothe the pain than to be a poseur? This activity is explored by Micki Grover and Matt Taylor in “Barry’s Time Machine,” where it’s not good enough to know all the names of obscure techno bands but you need to hop into a time machine and literally be the first to “discover” Nikola Tesla, right after his birth, and be the first to declare dinosaurs are cool. For an even closer look, we get a detailed analysis of the many, yet limited, facial expressions of the hipster. You can find that in “Ace of Face,” by Amanda Meadows, with art by Bryan Wolfson (see above).

And if you look way above, you see the cover art by Andy Ristaino, the lead designer on Pendleton Ward’s “Adventure Time,” seen on Cartoon Network. I feel it necessary to give that long description because what Andy Ristaino and Pendleton Ward, and all the other great talent that bring you the animated adventures of Jake, a magical talking dog, and Finn, the human boy, are saying something important. They’re talking about a whole new generation of chill people (no haters allowed) who are sensitive and enlightened souls. These are the grandchildren of John Lennon. And the brothers and sisters of Michael Cera. They’re flower people without the flowers, since flowers have feelings too.

I think that sentiment carries over significantly to something like “The Devastator.” It’s got a vibe like “National Lampoon” and “The Onion,” which is a good thing and makes sense, but it’s definitely cultivating its own unique laid back voice. It has tapped into the all the good stuff coming from the punk and zine scene from yesteryear and found itself quite relevant and much needed. Sweetness is cool and sweet, especially when sprinkled with just the right dash of sarcasm.

You can get your copy of “The Devastator #6” starting on October 16 for only $8. Save with a subscription by getting four quarterly issues for $30. Visit our friends at The Devastator.

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Filed under Entertainment, Hipsters, Humor, pop culture, The Devastator, Youth Culture


What is a geek? The question seems simple enough but it is in that simplicity that lies an utter complexity. I’m sorry but, for instance, you’re not truly a geek if you “geek out” on discussing your favorite Merlots. Even if you get really nerdy about discussing letting your wine breathe, it doesn’t guarantee you’re a geek. In “Sideways,” Paul Giamatti gives a star turn performance as a miserable guy, at middle-age, with little to show for it. One thing that gives him solace is his encyclopedic knowledge of wine. He’s not trying to be a geek or even aware of the term. In his case, he has a passion that, by default, makes him a, well, wine “geek.”

Why does everyone now want to be a “geek”? I’m  not sure they even know. It’s a cyclical thing, you understand. Something is underground, it is co-opted by the mainstream media, eventually everyone is in on it, and, then, when the general audience tires of it, it goes back from whence it came and thrives once more in the fertile underground until it is yanked back out for a whole new feeding frenzy. But that never means that, during this feeding frenzy, the general audience digs deeper into whatever is currently in the spotlight, like, for example, “The Avengers.”

“Geek” has gone beyond entering the mainstream, its tipping point has been reached, as CNN declared in 2009. It is common knowledge. Like George Washington, Babe Ruth and the Dalai Lama are considered common knowledge. However, it’s not like “geek” is as well known as, say, Britney Spears, which is ironic given that geek culture has been touted as being part of the pop culture. “Geek” has been equated with what is hot most fervently by those trying to profit off some part of it. You know that your favorite niche comic has lost something once it’s being featured on G4’s “Attack of the Show.” But, most likely, your favorite niche comic will go unnoticed by these expert show biz “geeks.” And, if they do catch on to something that has an intrinsically cool quality to it, for instance, “The Walking Dead,” then you grin and bear it or you can go all counterintuitive and be happy for a wider audience. Sometimes popularity is a good thing. Sometime everyone wins. But, getting back to my point, most viewers of this zombie show are not readers of the comics that the show is based on.

Is there something horribly wrong with “Attack of the Show”? Well, let’s just say, live and let live. There’s no harm if a show is helping to bring in a new audience. This is sort of a game of survival of the fittest for any media, big or small, that is connected with geek culture. Let the content providers do it for as long as they care to. Some will stay just for the love it and not even notice or care where they stand within current trends.

So, people who are geeks are not trying to be geeks but just are geeks. The term defines someone who is totally lost in a particular pursuit and, because of that, is oblivious to other things. This term neatly fits in with the tech savvy crowd. And it moved on to cover other subjects that attract a niche audience. To be a geek, by this definition, is to be removed from general social circles. However, as marketing departments would have it, it’s actually way cool to be a geek! That is the disconnect. But when has a marketing department been sensitive to the finer aspects of human interaction? That’s up you, my friend. And, really, you don’t have to be a geek. It’s all a bunch of hype, unless you know better.

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Filed under Comics, Commentary, Entertainment, Geeks, movies, pop culture

Krups Coffee Maker For Free

I live in a neighborhood full of disposable quality goods. It’s a combination of the transitory youthful demographic and some extra money to burn. Welcome to Seattle and my neighborhood of Fremont. I don’t know about where you live, but it is very acceptable to leave items out on the curb with a “FREE” sign or not. People know it’s up for grabs. The other day, it was a Krups coffee maker. I can imagine a hipster couple pondering whether or not to snatch it up:

Hipster dude: Hey, it’s a Krups!

Hipster chick: Yeah, but it’s been out in the rain.

Hipster dude: Sure, but it’s a Krups!

Hipster chick: You’re right. It’s a Krups.

So, they take it home. There’s no obligation to keep it. There have been plenty of items that are taken and then abandoned again. No one seems to consider or much care if the thing, whether an inconveniently tall bookcase or a somewhat outdated laptop, ever gets claimed or if there is a sanitation crew that ultimately picks it up. It’s a nice neighborhood. The stuff always disappears. Sometimes a box of assorted books will take awhile to be picked through. But always, always, the stuff finds a home. I suppose no one has to worry that these cast-offs will take anything away from the surroundings since these are quality goods, everything enveloped in a polite and discrete hue.

With just a little effort, I think, most if not all of these little treasures could be done away in a more proper manner. A yard sale is an option and we have our share of those. There’s always someone moving or someone who has reclaimed their basement. With a little more effort, there’s eBay but I doubt too many of my neighbors want to take the time for that. There’s a yoga class to go to or they are finishing up plans to go to the Himalayas, you just never know. Anyway, it adds to the character of the hood. And who doesn’t like finding a perfectly good night stand from Crate & Barrel, ready to be hauled away, just when you least expect it.

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Filed under Comics, Commentary