Movies You Can Watch: A Retrospective Look at the Films of 2011

While I completely dropped the ball when it came to pursuing new music in 2011, my theater attendance was at an all-time high. Even while I lived in the U.K., where the price of a movie was roughly $20.oo after the conversion, I somehow managed to see just about everything I thought was worth seeing, and some films that might pass for entertainment if they were playing in the upper corner of Hell’s waiting room. Is there anything I can say about the year in movies as a whole? I suppose.

Actually, I do think Tin-Tin represents the future of blockbuster entertainment, and I hold The Artist and Hugo  in high esteem for gilding film history and incorporating it into entertainment. Then there’s the success of  The Tree of Life, which demonstrates how far people are willing to like something even if it is dense beyond comprehension… But otherwise, this was not the most remarkable year for the moving pictures. Speaking generally, the budgets of 3D action-adventure flicks continued to expand into the grotesque, and 3D technology itself became more engrossed in the production process, gaining the support of beloved American directors (Spielberg and Scorsese each made 3D films this year to much critical acclaim and equal audience satisfaction); even so, there was nothing really “innovative” or urgent about the movies of the past year. So why even talk about ’em?

Despite being cynical toward the future of the industry, there were plenty of things to enjoy on the big screen. Sure, nothing was absolutely life-changing, but after I shelled out my ten bucks for admission more often than not I left the Cineplex satisfied that neither my time nor money was wasted. I do think it’s sad that we’ve probably exhausted the grammar of popular film making to the point that entertaining innovation seems impossible, but let me say this: 2011, I ain’t mad at ya’! You reminded us of the charm of Woody Allen’s comedies; you lifted Ryan Gosling to the prince-like stature of a young DiCaprio; and you soiled the jeans of many fanboys, as Marvel completed their set of Avengers “prequels” with the promise of the biggest cross-over event in blockbuster history! This wasn’t the zeitgeist of twenty-first century movie making, but it certainly wasn’t a year to avoid theaters. Continue reading Movies You Can Watch: A Retrospective Look at the Films of 2011

Bad Sports Fans, Shut Up.

I’m getting a little tired of dealing with this. I’ve been analyzing the phenomenon for years now, and have blamed everything from Jim Rome to the internet to fantasy sports (discovery: they’re all partly to blame). But, my friends, it’s time to be more vocal about it: stop tolerating bad sports fans. Facebook is full of them. You know who I’m talking about. The know-it-all ESPN addict who changes his profile picture to a Saints logo hours before the divisional playoff game (and then swiftly changes it back to his grinning mug seconds after The Catch III). The sorority girl whose first sports-related status update in years is “let’s go Packers!!!!!!” (with additional exclamation points) but follows it up with zero admission of an end to her suddenly adopted sports season. The violently curse-laden sports expert who loves nothing better than telling you that your team is going to lose, but whose own allegiances seem to revolve weekly dependent on likelihood of success.

You see them all over the internet, where it’s easy to talk shit or feign expertise. You know where you won’t see them? In the real world, where fans gather to root for favorite teams, or in local stadiums where hometown pride actually means something. It seems to hinge very simply on the difference between who you think is going to win and who you want to win.

Let’s make this clear: there are two types of people for whom the think can take precedence over the want. The first is the professional (or habitual) gambler. This person needs to rely on whatever sports knowledge he or she has gleaned from watching and following sports. This, however, isn’t fandom. The gambler would be the first to admit it. That think  turns into a want solely because of a placed bet, and not because of any kind of genuine interest in the teams or players involved. Continue reading Bad Sports Fans, Shut Up.

Ghostmann’s Top 5 Cats!

In the current issue of DC’s Animal Man (one of the best of the New 52), there happens to be a talking cat, which naturally got me thinking about doing a top 5 list of cats in fiction that talk (or in some cases drive).

#5. Fritz the Cat

Ever see that documentary Crumb? About the underground comic book creator Robert Crumb? If so then you know that that dude was a little on the fucked up side. Crumb is responsible for the creation of Fritz but it was Ralph Bakshi’s 1972 animated film adaptation that made Fritz a star. The only cartoon cat to star in an X-Rated movie. See for yourself… Continue reading Ghostmann’s Top 5 Cats!

Idle Time: A Look Back, Part 1

Those of you in the know are already aware that we have a big anniversary coming up. With any luck our annual Best Of music list will publish on that very anniversary date, thus kicking off in a very formal fashion The Year of Idle Time. Looking forward always forces us to look back, so this first peek into the Institute’s origins takes us all the way back to 2001, and a blog post that was originally published in Justifications on June 26, 2006:

In the spring of 2001 a friend and coworker left a CD on my desk at work. We were (and are still) in the habit of recommending music to each other constantly, labeling every new find and must-listen as the best thing since the last record we swore would save rock and roll. This CD had a different sort of note attached; it was a different sort of record and required a more appropriate hook to give it a place atop of my need-to-listen pile.

The note reads (I’m not insensitive to the photo’s lack of clarity or the hundreds of readers who visit from outside this community and are looking at a duct-taped Suicide Girl rather than a CD-R and its memo): “Mike, Turn off the lights and curl up with this record. It will wreck you like a ninth grade romance. Keep a hankie close by. – Will. Oh, Inverted World!”

The album was, of course, Oh, Inverted World, the sublime debut by New Mexico’s The Shins. And it is a record with a place.

I listen to a ridiculous amount of music. Tuesdays are my Fridays and the latter half of the week is spent in frenetic caffeinated states of stereophoria. Oftentimes a record gets one chance to grab my attention before it’s relegated to the back of the pack and has to wait for a window in the cycle of new releases and mood-specific mixes for a second shot at roping me in. Gone are the days when every CD in an undergrad’s backseat carried a story, a memory, a reflection of a time and event and place. Blame the internet, blame my attention-span, blame Bush, blame whomever you please… that’s just the way it is. Continue reading Idle Time: A Look Back, Part 1

Avengers vs X-Men! Time to Vote!

This April Marvel Comics is getting some payback on DC by releasing Avengers vs X-Men, a twelve-issue series written by Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction and Jonathan Hickman — and drawn by Olivier Coipel, Andy Kubert, and John Romita Jr. Marvel is billing this thing as the biggest event in comics history. Not sure about that (DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths will always hold that rank), but it will no doubt be huge and I’ll be buying the fuck out of it.

Along with the twelve-issue main series, Marvel will be doing a tie-in series called AVX: Versus. These will be one-shot books that feature one Avenger and one X-Men fighting each other – and as Connor Macleod of the Clan Macleod once said, ” there can be only one.” This is a fanboy’s wet dream come true. All those hours spent debating with your nerd friends on whether Colossus could beat up The Thing will now be answered – by writers better than you.

So let’s get to it! Who’s gonna come out on top? Let’s vote!

Continue reading Avengers vs X-Men! Time to Vote!

Ghostmann’s Top 5 Zombie Movies!

1. Dawn of  the Dead (1978)

I was about twelve or thirteen when I first saw this movie and dude, when that zombie took a bite out of that woman’s neck! I had never seen anything like it. Holy shit! I mean I was a big fan of horror movies and loved the Christopher Lee Hammer films and whatnot, but this was gore on a level that was LIGHTYEARS away from anything I had seen up to that point. I watch the movie today and yeah, the gore isn’t as shocking as it once was and the color of the blood is a bit on the flourescent side, but it is still an awesome zombie movie which set the bar high enough that few movies since could top.

Continue reading Ghostmann’s Top 5 Zombie Movies!

Ghostmann’s Comic Book Legends: Frank Miller

Ah my comic book loving friends, welcome to ghostmann’s time-machine. Step on in and let’s take a trip through time. Today our journey will follow the incredible career of Mr. Frank Miller. Now, sit back while I calculate our first destination here in the time-machine computer console. Yes, there, all set out first stop in time is…..

January 1981
Daredevil – Issue #168
Frank Miller’s first job as Writer and Artist came in the form of Matt Murdock. Daredevil at the time wasn’t selling that great so Marvel had no problem handing over the title to a young upstart with no experience. But Miller seized this opportunity and forever changed the character of Daredevil and himself as a comic book creator. The stories he wrote over thirty years ago still have resonance in the Daredevil comic being published by Marvel in 2012. What Miller did has rarely been duplicated – adding to the history of a comic book character and having that history become part of the legend. Oh, and he also gave us ninjas.

Continue reading Ghostmann’s Comic Book Legends: Frank Miller

It’s the End of the World as We Know It…..

…and I feel fucking great! 2012 is shaping up to be one apocalyptically fantastic year for dorks to be alive – including myself.

Movies, Comics, Television, Internets, all have something huge descending on us in the following 12 months – like a 170 kilometer asteroid heading straight for the Yucatan peninsula unleashing a tsunami of radness!

You’ll notice there is one genre missing from my list above there…. music!!! 2012 looks to be one of the shittest years ever for music fans. Well, I mean music fans that have good taste. If you like: Insane Clown Posse, Brett Michaels, Linkin Park, Matchbox 20, No Doubt, The Offspring, and Wilson Phillips then hey, things are gonna be okay pal. BUT, for the rest of us 2012 is going to be a tough one to get through.

There are only a few releases I’m actually looking forward too: The Shins, The xx,  The Wrens, Damien Jurado, and maybe Spiritualized (if I’m in the right mood). Looks like it’s time to break out the back catalog of The Band again and head up Cripple Creek for a few months. Continue reading It’s the End of the World as We Know It…..

Comics of the Year — 2011

One of the more interesting ironies of the new century is that while comics have become more popular in this country than ever before, it is that very popularity that seems to be threatening the existence of comic shops and specialty stores. Most major comics publishers, including the big two, have begun aggressively marketing digital versions of their monthly titles, complete with “smart” readers that zoom in and out on panel transitions like DVD-extra storyboards. Somewhat overlooked amidst DC’s New 52 initiative is the fact that the publisher is now releasing its digital editions simultaneously with print copies. Batman fanatics don’t need to hit their saver bin for a first peek into the mysterious Court of Owls. In fact, digital subscribers can download, read, and post spoilers on an issue before the local comic shop even opens for business.

Meanwhile, publishers of book-length graphic novels, as well as the cartoonists and creators responsible, are finding that their works are being embraced by mainstream bookstores and online vendors. The New York Times has a “Graphic Books” best seller list that includes volumes from pioneering indie comics publishers like Drawn & Quarterly and Fantagraphics. A backup story in Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve #12 addresses the painful realization that we’re likely never to see a staple-bound comic from the likes of Chester Brown, Peter Bagge, or Jessica Abel again. He includes a soundbite from a Daniel Clowes interview on NPR: “Nobody wants to sell some floppy thing that, you know, gets all bent on the shelf… No bookstore wants to carry it because the profit margin is so low…”

Continue reading Comics of the Year — 2011

Books Of The Year — 2011

I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution by Craig Marks & Rob Tannenbaum

I don’t know if he invented it, but writer Studs Terkel certainly perfected the concept of an “oral history.” He would go out and interview a wide variety of people who created or influenced an aspect of American culture, and piece together a book on that topic out of their own words. In recent years, two landmark works of oral history have been published — 1995’s Please Kill Me told the story of the rise and fall of punk rock in America and Britain in the words of the scene’s (surviving) participants, and 2002’s Live From New York dealt with the seemingly unkillable NBC late night comedy show Saturday Night Live. Marks and Tannenbaum acknowledge the influence of these two books in the introduction to their own (yes, I read the introductions to books), which gathers recollections from hundreds of artists, directors, executives, and on-air personalities (“VJs”) to explore the glory years (1981-92) of the revolutionary cable network Music Television.

MTV was a huge part of growing up for me, both through childhood and adolescence. In its early years (1981-85), my older sister and her friends would sit and stare at it for hours. It was a time for them to socialize, yes, but often they just watched, sometimes offering a little pre-Beavis & Butthead commentary. Occasionally, grade-school Holy Bee would join them as a welcome guest. Other times I had to sneak down after dark and hide behind the couch, half-listening as they talked about incomprehensible high school things, and watching images of Van Halen, Madonna, Lionel Richie, The Thompson Twins, The Eurythmics, and many others unspooling before my eyes as I peeked out through the crack between the couch and the wall. (I’m pretty sure they knew I was there now.)

Then, when my sister went off to college and my family moved to a rural area with no cable — no more MTV. As a result, there’s a noticeable gap in my knowledge of music and pop culture from 1986 through the first half of 1989. When people bring up the likes of Rick Astley or Frankie Goes To Hollywood (as they often do), I go a little blank. I wasn’t missing much, though. Evidently, ’86 to ’89 was hair metal’s time to shine, and the two biggest VJs were the absolutely odious Downtown Julie Brown and the pompous blowhard Adam Curry. (Want a quote from Curry straight from the book? “I called MTV ‘The Big M…’ I thought that was genius of me.” He’s serious. It’s on page 375.) Continue reading Books Of The Year — 2011