GRAPHIC NOVELS YOU SHOULD READ/SHOULD BE MADE INTO MOVIES RIGHT-FREAKING-NOW… #277 LOBSTER JOHNSON: THE IRON PROMETHEUS BY MIKE MIGNOLA & JASON ARMSTRONG

lobster2

Fun Fact Y’All: If reading Graphic Novels has taught us anything (besides how to rock a mantle or successfully build a functioning yet self-effacing alter-ego) it is to temper our expectations before we pick up a new one.  That sounds incredibly pessimistic we know and oh, how we wish it wasn’t true but the sheer number of books we’ve picked up, butterflies flapping wildly at our midsection only to realise they are trite clichéd productions built around formula and reusable tropes, would quite possibly blow your minds.

 

And yet.  When Lobster Johnson caught our eye in the local comic book store, Mike ‘Hellboy’ Mignola’s name stamped across it in black; with its pulp noir cover and aura of supernatural menace we just couldn’t seem to help ourselves.  The butterfly’s were back in swarms and our hands kinda shook with anticipation as we handed some of our hard earned queen’s pounds across the counter.

lobster6

And after all, how could things go wrong with all that visual goodness we thought?  How could we not get excited given its author’s pedigree and its claims of offering up a shadowy kind of pastiche on classic authors like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler?

 

How indeed.

Well dear readers, we’re afraid to say that somehow, someway they managed it.  They did the impossible…

So yeah, sad face emoji.

lobster4

To be fair, there were parts to the GN that we liked; this wasn’t an absolute shit-parade.  The idea of beginning each chapter with almost identical panels and using these to set the scene (with a few subtle differences thrown in for the eagle eyed) is a small but smart idea employed by the author and artist.  It actually lent the story (convoluted though it turned out to be) a much needed sense of continuity and grounded the multiple storylines whenever they threatened to throw the whole thing into entropy.

 

The storyboard artist Jason Armstrong’s use of light and shade in the work (that’s chiaroscuro for the pantaloon wearers among you) also gave the narrative a gravitas it might not have had otherwise;  the novel’s muted colour scheme doing the same.  In fact, the grimy steampunkish artwork was probably the best part about the whole affair, containing a vibrant sense of motion in its thin lines and a sinister set of subdued visuals that fit perfectly with the rundown setting and noiresque plot.

lobster5

However, that’s pretty much where the compliments end unfortunately.

 

The plot itself, a mishmash of scientific/religious horror quickly became way too convoluted to be admired, the inclusion of multiple foes (the Devil, Nazi’s, policemen on the take) confusing us every time we tried to get a handle on what was happening.  It didn’t help that that the similarity in look of the different monsters was bewildering either.  More than once we even found ourselves having to flip back a few pages to work out who our heroes were fighting this time, which is really not something that endears you to a novel, you know.  It’s great for the author we guess, as it forces their reader to spend more time with their work, delving deeper into it but in terms of pace and sustained threat it’s an absolute killer.

lobster1

Hell, even the characterisation was lacking (unusual for a Mignola production) and you know that you’ve hit a problem when you find yourself much more intrigued by a side-character (Mr Sacks) than the protagonist himself (Lobster J.)  We actually feel kind of mean saying all this given the fact that the authors took the time to include their original sketches and comments at the back of the book.  This was a generous gesture incidentally, as it allows you to see the evolution of the concept, and the levels of collaboration and commitment offered up by everyone involved.  The problem is that the overarching story they drew up together after months of discussion and revision just wasn’t engaging enough to hold the interest, at least for us.  As much as we’re fans of ambiguity and leaving narratives unexplained, Lobster Johnson seemed to take this idea way too far- leaving a messy, chaotic conclusion behind in its wake.  And for all it’s street smarts (the true history sections will undoubtedly raise a smile especially the running gag about Guillermo Del Toro making a Lobster Johnson movie), any sense of good old fashioned fun or enjoyment just isn’t sustained throughout.  It drops away after a few pages only to re-emerge again later for a few minutes.  It’s a natural consequence of valuing set piece over character motivation we suppose (are you listening, Michael Bay?)  You get all the spectacle you could want but not the heart and even worse, you risk severing any emotional connection that you might have forged with your reader.  Which to us is just a big old bag of nope unfortunately.
In terms of reworking this for the big screen, it does have potential of course.  Del Toro would indeed bring some beautiful clockwork/steampunk visuals to the affair and his rich vein of inner darkness would bring the American cityscape to life in a new and compelling way.  Script duties could go to a number of talented people in Hollywood- Jonathon Nolan perhaps (who gave Batman back his pain) or indie-god Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter/Midnight Special) ; writers who could inject some emotional peril back into proceedings.  Casting wise, someone who gives good stony-face would also be required: we were thinking maybe Fassbender or Elba but given that old Lobs rarely takes his headgear off, the floor’s wide open on this one.  Maybe you even have your own ideas on this?  If so, we’d love to hear them.

lobster3

In fact we’d love to hear your thoughts on Lob John as a whole.  Did you love it?  Hate it?  Get bored and use it as a small uncomfortable kind of pillow?  Either way let us know.  Because we need some distraction from our own sense of disappointment on this one and some hate mail/agreement would do nicely.

 

Cheers.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THEY DON’T JUST MAKE GEESE YOU KNOW…

We all know that Canada is awesome, right?  Their Prime Minister is a ridiculously handsome tattooed dude who openly hangs out at Toronto Pride and knows how to dance Bollywood style.  They have the worlds smallest jail cell (24sq metres fact-nerds) and they have a restaurant chain called Tim Horton’s where you will almost always hear a who.

But did you also know that right now in the global shit-storm that is 2016 they’re pretty much number one at kicking ass in the entertainment industries too?

No?

We know what you’re saying.  What the hell are we talking about?  How can they compare with towering US imports such as Westworld and American Horror Story or even Good Old Blighty’s more restrained offerings like The Night Of and The Fall.

 

It’s a fair question.  But luckily you’ll find listed below all the reasons why the Canucks are leading the way in artistic innovation, so sit back and strap yourself onto your moose because here comes the good stuff, friends….

carm1

  • WEBSERIES: OK so first off, purely in terms of output Canada is knocking it out of the park when it comes to webseries produced in the last year.  And yes the quality can be mixed at times but overall the general standard of the scripts, acting and cinematography is pretty darn impressive. haunted From crowd-funded thrillers such as Haunted or Hoax to professionally produced uber hits like Carmilla or Inhuman Condition (both made by Smokebomb Entertainment/hosted by KindaTV) these Internet based shows are offering up high concept stuff complete with quality visuals. inhumanAnd if you don’t believe us, just try asking the hundreds of Creampuffs who turned up to New York Comic Con simply to get a glimpse at the actors/producers on the Carmilla panel.  A panel you should note, at a major Comic Con event not for a movie or TV show with an outlandish advertising budget but for a humble Canadian webseries that gained momentum simply through word of mouth.

wayhaught1

  • LGBTQA+ REPRESENTATION: Yup, not surprisingly the Canadians are also leading the way in promoting and representing the queer community- offering us not just gay and lesbian characters to love/hate but bisexuals, pansexuals and non binary ones too. The Carmilla series mentioned above is a great example but on top of this you also have fantastic show creators like Emily Andras mapping out a new more open-minded TV terrain (check out her newest offering Wyonna Earp where one of the central relationships involves two women) and other writers such as R J Lackie who continue to add to the LGBT fun in digital media hits All4One and Couplish.  gaycationNot good enough?  Then how about big league actors such as Ellen Page throwing their weight behind the movement; her latest TV docutainment series Gaycation garnering positive responses worldwide and bringing issues of homophobia and heteronormitivity to the attention of the masses.

lala

  • THE QUALITY OF THE ACTORS: And yes we know, the world seems overflowing with American, Australian and British names on the billboards not Canadian ones at the moment, right? Are you sure about that though?  You want to put some money down.  After all, what about the cheeky charmer himself Ryan Gosling?  He’s already hit our funny bone with The Nice Guys this year and will soon be seen changing it up in La La Land, an old school musical from the director of Whiplash.  What about Twitter Maestro Ryan Reynolds?  He was main man Wade in Marvel’s sarcastathon Deadpool back in February and a month later rocked it out serious style in Kevin Costner spy thriller Criminal.rache  And what of the women? Rachel McAdams, say?  Last known for her sober role in the real life drama Spotlight she’ll soon to be blowing minds in Scott Derrickson’s superhero debut Dr Strange.  And this ain’t just a big budget thing, folks.  Even on the small screen the acting master-class given by Tatiana Maslany in Orphan Black (where she plays so many different roles that no-one can actually remember how many there are) won her a primetime Emmy this year (and deservedly so.)tat  So anyone who tells you Canada ain’t a major player on the acting scene… you have our full permission to ninja kick them in the face, yeah?

 

  • DIRECTORS: Canada’s always had a surplus of great director.   Atom Egoyan, David Cronenberg (fantastically known as the King of Venereal Horror) and Sarah Polley to name only a few.  But this year has seen a surge of talent return to the big screen with full force.    Denys Arcand (Oscar Nommed for Les Invasions Barbares in 2003) is finally behind the camera again working on documentary short Burghers of Vancouver after a hiatus in the industry. cameron James Cameron is currently working on Avatar 2 after lighting up the silver screen with last years (uh, divisive) Terminator: Genisys.  Denis Villeneuve is following up the big hit Sicario with 2016’s Arrival and then the super mysterious eagerly awaited sequel Blade Runner 2049, due in cinemas next year. reitman Add to that Ghostbusters Legend Ivan Reitman producing his ass off with five new projects in the work while his son Jason (already having completed short film Roast Battle) currently films Tully, a Diablo Cody scripted comedy starring Charlize Theron  and you basically have one big visual tsunami of Canadian talent heading our way.  Surf’s Up Bitches.

 

  • MISCELLANEOUS AWESOMENESS: Eh, we kinda feel like we’ve already made our point to be honest. However, if you were still umming and ahhing like a Bible Belt Voter right now then as a kindness to you we also proffer the following as evidence of Canada’s greatness:

atwood

  1. Margaret Atwood and Nathan Fillion’s hilarious put downs on Twitter to their haters (see @MargaretAtwood and @NathanFillion for deets)
  2. Leonard Cohen’s newly released Album You Want it Darker coming out to great applause from Rolling Stone and other music critics.
  3. The cutest and most polite social media battle of this year between Daniel Munro and Ian Mendes over Donald Trump’s comments about women.tweet
  4. And the fact that at the beginning of this month a man in Ontario was charged with impaired driving after running HIMSELF OVER with his own car. Not someone else.    So who pressed charges?!

 

Anyways that’s it.

Canada 1, Rest of the World 0.

 

*Drops the mic (Myers) and walks off stage*

 

*Exeunt chased by a freaking bear*

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GRAPHIC NOVELS YOU SHOULD READ/SHOULD BE MADE INTO MOVIES RIGHT-FREAKING-NOW… #918 JUPITER’S LEGACY BY MARK MILLAR & FRANK QUITELY

jlcover

You know what, we had high expectations for this- after all, it’s a creation of Mark Millar, author of classic Grov’s like Kick-Ass, Kingsman and Nemesis to name but a few.  But truth be told we were more than a little disappointed with the end result because Jupiter’s Legacy felt like a chaotic mish mash of a hundred other comic book stories all trouser-pressed into one.

 

We read somewhere that Millar came up with the story after reading Carrie Fisher’s autobiography and it seems like a rumour that has some plausibility to it given the echoes of Star Wars mythology that permeate the novel (for that read: children not living up to their parents expectations, right and wrong duking it out in far flung locales etc etc.)  We know some will argue that the novel actually tries to flip the usual superhero trope of the tragic past/murdered parents on its head, eschewing the orphan loner origin story for something different but to be honest all we kept thinking when we were reading it was how formulaic things felt.  How clichéd the family dynamics seemed despite the author’s best intentions.

jl3

Which is not to say that there aren’t some prescient ideas hidden within the narrative regarding the insidiousness of global surveillance and the current trend of glorifying celebrity and hedonism.  Comparing the modern economic position of the USA to the post 1929 years is actually an interesting idea… the problem is that it quickly gets buried under a slew of mechanical rescues and fistfights.  And every subsequent glimmer of any kind of intelligent concept peters out in the same way finding itself replaced by tiresome family drama and well- worn angst.

jlclean

We will say this though.  Frank Quitely’s artwork truly is the star of the show, outshining the story it is trying to tell.  The fine detail on the characters faces (especially the older superheroes) is fantastic and actually it makes a nice change to see the physical consequences of a life dedicated to heroism shown in such muscular close up.  The openness of the panels where the lead artist has clearly resisted the urge to overfill the space given to him is also a delight and brings a visual freshness that the tired story wouldn’t have had otherwise.

jlold

On a side note, we’re definitely not a fan of the slutty clichéd costumes that he gives to some of the female superheroes but we guess that’s probably forgivable when the rest of Quitely’s work is so enjoyable.  And though surprisingly gory (Jupiter’s Legacy is not one for the faint of heart by the way) we love that the novel pulls no punches with its bloody reveals.  In fact the scenes describing Walter’s mental manipulations/cerebral attacks are an absolute standout and the artist’s decision to design these panels in a kind of unfinished drawn-by-hand style (representing a false constructed world) shows both talent and smarts.  Hell ,if you want an example of the novel’s gruesome nature and of Quitely’s innovation then all you need to do is check out the page showing Grace’s death- it’ll kick you neatly and violently in the nads (or tubes.)

jlgrace

That’s it for the high points though we’re afraid.  Unnecessarily jingoistic and predictable the story ends with the introduction of the superheroes kid and their genetically passed on powers- somehow managing to tell this chapter in an even more earnest way than the events that came before.  And to wrap things up with such a cheap over-used narrative device (and we really can’t express how much we hate it when writers insert a child into their tale to add a sense of peril or emotional drama) just left an overwhelming sense of dissatisfaction with the whole endeavour.

jlkid
We’re talking some serious despondency here, people.  Not something we ever thought we’d say about a Mark Millar offering.  But the world is full of disappointments so they say and I guess we’ll take this one on the chin for now.  And who knows, maybe if it makes it to the small or the big screen the sciptwriters can fix some of these many flaws.  It’s not outside the bounds of possibility.

But damn.  You know?

 

Just damn.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WTF Did I Just Watch/Some Handy Questions you Might Want to ask if you see The Neon Demon (SPOILERS WITHIN)

Neon5

So, you know that thing where you go watch a movie and don’t really know much about it beyond the fact that you like the director and the trailer was kinda trashy & cool?

 

That’s pretty much how we ended up seeing Nicholas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon- we loved Drive after all and the trailer had a weird Black Swan vibe to it, so off we moseyed with barely any expectations but looking forward to seeing something a little different, a little off kilter.  A film without superheroes, explosions or apocalypses (is that the plural?  Apocalypsecees?  Apocalypticons?)

neon1

Anyways Holy Bejeesus…were we thrown for a loop.  Because The Neon Demon turned out to be an absolute gaudy brain-rape of the highest order; an unconventional horror of the kind you’ve never seen before.  Like,seriously.   And after a gorgeous and relatively comprehensible 80 minutes of bitchy rivalry and catwalk showdowns, the film’s third act just goes absolutely balls-to-the-wall batshit crazy.  To be quite honest there really are no words to describe exactly what happens in its conclusion beyond… kjdsfhsdfkjdfkjsdfkjjsdfkjhkjshdfksjhdf.

 

Isn’t the film pretentious, though?  Well, sure.  Self-indulgent?  A little.  Just a case of Style over substance?  It did seem like it at first.  But actually the more we thought about proceedings, the deeper down the garish gory rabbit-hole we fell.  So in an attempt to try and ease you into your own viewing of The Neon Demon, out of the goodness of our hearts we’ve decided to offer you some questions you might want to ask for yourself if you go see this.

neon2

And those questions happen to look a little something like this (deep breath everybody):

 

  • First of all- is the film a satire or a jet-black comedy? It’s obviously trying to comment on the excesses and darkness of the modelling industry but with its influences in colour and design appearing to stem from directors like David Lynch (Mulholland Drive) and Dario Argento (Suspiria), is Refn looking to create his own entirely new genre or simply continue their trend of surrealist horror?
  • Due to its polarising nature (the film got both laughs and boos at Cannes) is it destined to be cult classic?
  • Though the dialogue seems to be the weakest part of the film, is there actually more to learn from the script than you might think? For example, when Ruby asks Jesse, “Are you food or sex” while discussing lipstick names and Jesse doesn’t know how to answer, does that mean that she’s neither?  Or both?  Judging by what happens to her in the end, the answer might be more important than you first thought.

Neon3

  • Question number 4: How large a part does Colour play in the film? (Even though the director is by all accounts colour blind!!) Some eagle-eyed viewers have interpreted the palette as follows: green represents peace/serenity, pink as innocence or naivety, blue as narcissism and red as the seductive demon/danger.   Is this intentional or just purely for aesthetics? (Especially given that one of the main players name is Ruby)
  • Also why is Alessandro Nivola uncredited when he has more screen time than the other male characters?

 

And now, it’s time to get knee deep into the deeper, darker shit….

Neon6

  • Since Nicholas Winding Refn chose to film a large portion of the film at the Paramour Mansion (because it’s allegedly haunted), is the idea of a supernatural presence worth keeping in mind when things start getting mondo bizarro?
  • Don’t believe us? Then consider some of the following….
  • Dotted all around the mansion that Ruby stays in are large impressive statues of big cats. Does Ruby then have anything to do with the cougar in Jessie’s bedroom (threatening her safe space to make her turn to Ruby for help through using the supernatural motif of predatory big cats?)

Neon4

  • And what of all the Occult Symbolism littered throughout the film- the ‘face on the mirror’ sigil that Ruby draws to signal the start of the final act. Or the electric pink triangles that Jesse sees when she takes part in her first show.  Consider maybe Jesse’s midnight drive with Dean where she describes the moon as a giant baleful eye.  Or Ruby’s hidden esoteric tattoos that we only see when she is naked?  Does this mean that there is a mystical element to the proceedings that we hadn’t considered before?
  • At this point perhaps you might want to take a look around when Ruby is lying in the rose garden towards the end. Are those other graves around her?  Has she done this before, maybe even multiple times?  Is she then the instigator of everything that happens- is she in fact more than the woefully human make-up artist she seems to be?
  • Do premonitions or dreams have a part to play here, as Jesse seems to foresee her fate at the motel and locks her door as a result, passing her fate onto her thirteen year old neighbour instead? And where did this presentiment come from?  Could Ruby have sent it to her in order to keep her for herself?
  • You might in fact want to think a little harder about the mythological side of things as a whole. What do you think the link between the moon and the menstrual cycle means for the scene with Ruby on the floor of the mansion?  It certainly seems ritualistic in nature, doesn’t it?

Neon7

  • And in the same way that in primitive mythology warriors often became cannibalistic, eating the flesh of their enemies in a bid to absorb their powers. Is this the reason that Sarah is finally able to shine and be noticed at the end?
  • You know, they always say that there’s power in a name. Bearing this in mind, taking ‘The Neon Demon’ as a title then- what exactly is this referring to?
  • For example, is Ruby the demon- the supernatural mastermind of everything that happens?
  • Or perhaps it’s Jessie that is the demon, bringing out the worst in everyone around her –sins such as lust, jealousy, possessiveness?
  • Or moving away from the literal, is the neon “demon” simply an idea?  A feeling. Lights and Glamour. The attention and adoration of those around. The craving of the spotlight. The intoxicating feeling these women are flooded with when they are admired?
  • And when Gigi throws up the eyeball at the end (!), is she rejecting that feeling of finally being someone in the spotlight? Or using that ‘shock and awe’ cannibal finale is the director trying to give us his own take on the eating disorders that seem to be so prevalent in the modelling industry?
  • In a nutshell; is all of the madness on screen metaphorical or is it in fact…good old-fashioned witchcraft?
  • And in the final shot, where Sarah walks into the wilderness; is this implying that only the strongest and soulless survive in that world? Or is it nothing more than a great visual to close things out on?

 

It’s worth noting at this point that a great deal of the move was improvised as Refn himself only wrote a bare bones script to film from.  This means that when he created the idea for the film, he was striving for a mood rather than actual plot.

 

It’s also useful to remember that Elle Fanning was sixteen at the time she filmed this and so if you’re hoping or gratuitous shots of nudity from her then you will probably be disappointed.  This doesn’t affect the film’s potency FYI and trying to justify Jessie’s appeal to the audience never seems to the goal of the director.  You just have to understand that to the other characters around her; she has that intangible thing that turns every head in the room.  So to all the naysayers claiming that Ms Fanning isn’t pretty enough to carry the role off, we really don’t want to hear it.  Take your body shaming elsewhere, pal.

 

Of course, with this blog post it’s possible that this is nothing more than a case of The Emperor’s New Clothes and we’re guilty of reading way too much into this thing.  If nothing else though hopefully we’ve given you guys some food for thought for when you give The Neon Demon a watch.  We’re not going to answer any of the questions above either- we have our own opinions on these things obviously, but as fans of personal interpretation we want to leave with the chance to make up your own mind.

 

As always though- please hit us up with thoughts and answers.  We’re big sharers here at Off the Record and look forward to all the love/hate you’re willing to throw our way.

 

And as always-

Vive La Question Grande!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

BOOK REVIEW CORNER: The God of Small Things by Arundrhati Roy (read December 2005)

Wilkommen again gentle readers and welcome to entry part Deux in this book review series; a brief look back at my own personal journey through the literary highways and byways of these foul times.  You might remember that we started with the neon sweat-soaked brain-tsunami that is Burrough’s Naked Lunch and I guess after that mind-melter I must have felt that something a little more elegant was in order.  As a result, I picked up a copy of the Booker Prize Winning debut novel of Indian writer Arundrhati Roy round about the time I turned twenty three and threw myself headfirst into its pages.

thegodofsmallthingsroy

But enough of this tedious back story, let’s get to the real question here… was it any bloody good?!

 

It’s certainly different to the free-form mania of William Burroughs, that’s for damn sure.  Fantastically dense and brimming with unique and realistic character observations, the first (and only) novel that Roy created truly is a story dedicated to the quirks and foibles of the human race.  In fact to be completely truthful its preference for character over plot often threatens to derail proceedings and becomes more than a little overwhelming at times.

 

Which turns out to be both a good and a bad thing.  The good?  Well, every personality in the book feels like a living breathing soul; real and convincingly flawed in all the ways that you hope for when you open up a new novel.  The bad?  This means you find yourselves spending a pretty large amount of time with people who are by turns icy, selfish, racist and empty at heart.  And all of them, from the kind to the cold seem to be involved in an intricately detailed courtly dance where no-one actually seems to touch.  They just slide past each other exchanging words and insults as they go.  Meaning that in the same way that the almost complete lack of familial love in the story is unsettling to witness, it’s also refreshing at the same time.  To see it laid bare without apology.  Without restraint.  That’s a rare treat to be had these days.

thegod2

As I said, this is characterisation central.

 

It’s a lucky thing then that the fractured narrative (one that moves between the district of Kerala, India in both 1969 and 1993) is perfectly paced to balance all this character observation out and breaks up the large paragraphs of description to give some much needed relief.  It’s worth noting as well that the time jumps the author uses so frequently actually end up mirroring the short attention span of the main protagonists, twins Rahel and Esthappen, especially in their younger years.  Which let’s face it, is a neat authorial trick in and of itself.  But also shows how instinctively the entire book reflects the sibling’s experiences and thoughts.  It is after all, their story through and through and the author never strays from this mantra.

thegod3

You can’t deny either that the book is pretty epic in scope.  Exploring problems such as the relationships between the classes, the idea of forbidden love and the damning effects of betrayal, The God of Small Things is a wonderfully ambitious novel.   Although it’s based in rural Ayemenem, its themes are much larger, much more universal than its humble setting… which is probably why it garnered so much attention from the critics when it was first published.   Indeed from a lowly reader’s perspective its combination of lushly drawn Indian landscapes and fragile human connections make for a powerful experience once you fall under its spell.  Not an easy one, mind you.  But a worthwhile one.

And from a writer’s point of view; yes it may be cluttered and clogged with descriptions but it’s also a finely crafted book with narrative intelligence and a wide ranging eye for the frailties of man.

thegod4

So there you have it.  Sound like your kind of thing?  Or something that you’d burn without a second thought in a fairy circle at midnight?  Either is fine.  Both might be a bit much… but to each their own.  Live and let live and all that.

 

Just let us know if you do end up reading TGoST because we’d love to hear your thoughts.  Message, email, carrier vole us in all the usual ways.

 

CONCLUSION: An important portrait of Family Life in all it’s barren glory.

MARKS: 8.5 out of 10.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK SEASON FOUR: A RUNDOWN

So season Four of Netflix’s acclaimed prison drama has well and truly landed and as the TV adventurers we are here at Off The Record we thought we would offer you some maladjusted thoughts on the latest series.

 

Of course these are just our opinions and we’d love to know if you agree or disagree with any of them but as the usual caveat goes, there be BIG FLASHING NEON SPOILERS within me hearties, so if you haven’t binged the season yet you may want to avoid this post.

Go eat some oat bars or something.

 

Cool?  Cool.

 

Ok…well, what are the hits and misses of OITNB this cycle?  Is it ten dead flies or a cute little baby mouse in a cup?  This is what we thought…

OITNBrace

  • HIT: The racial tensions between the ethnic groups finally erupting into violence. The divisions between the whites, blacks, Hispanics and other cliques inside Litchfield was always present in the previous three series, offering a palpable overarching sense of threat.  But in season four these stopped being background noise and finally reared their ugly head to go front and centre in the action; showing the series’ proven commitment to plot development and slow burn drama.

OITNBJudy

  • MISS: As much as we appreciate new characters and new arcs, some of the latest additions had way too much screen time, taking the limelight away from already established and fascinating personalities. Judy King (a remarkably unsubtle take on that well known middle class crime-bomb Martha Stewart) is overused and obnoxiously simplistic.  And if we never see another threesome like her again we can pretty much die happy.  The number of new guards introduced in one go is also jarring and threatens to unsettle the balance of the narrative.  Piscatella for his part is an intriguing addition especially in his battles with the long suffering Caputo but to change almost the entire cast of CO’s under him and the entire way they treat the inmates felt heavy handed for the most part.

OITNBLolly

  • HIT : The treatment of mental illness. Now, this may well be an unpopular opinion because there seems to be a backlash on the old Interweb at the moment against characters like Lolly and Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren.  Viewers seem to have been ok with the two of them acting kooky and adorably messed up on the outskirts of the story but as soon as their mental health issues led into real world, genuinely upsetting/dangerous situations, they seemed to become a turn off for many.  We however totally disagree with this.  We think it’s more important than ever to show that while mental health can be entertaining, its dark side and negative consequences have to be shown too, so that its impact on society at large stops being brushed under the carpet.  Hell, you only have to see what happens to Healey and the inmates he tries to help to see what mishandling these kinds of conditions can lead to.   And kudos too to both the writing staff and Lori Petty & Uzo Aduba by the way ; they blew us away with their acting in this series.  Keep it up, all of you.  You’re doing important work.

OITNBNicky

  • MISS: Nicky’s storyline. Again don’t misunderstand us- like Big Red we love Nicky, she’s the unofficial truth teller of Litchfield and has a beautifully tragic air about her.  However it would have been nice if the writers could figure out a new storyline for her, rather than falling back on the old addiction/quitting arc that’s already been done before.  She really deserves better than that.

OITNBPouseey

  • HIT: Poussey’s flashback. Just plain fabulous.

OITNBDaya

  • MISS: Daya. After presenting her as one of the most innocent and naive inmates in the show previously, there were plenty of narrative opportunities to offer to her this series especially with her mother being released and giving her a chance to carve her own niche.  Having her wander about for most of the thirteen episodes as a non-entity simply to allow her to fall in with Ruiz’s Dominican Gang and set up the chilling finale felt uneven in terms of tone and patchy in terms of storytelling.  To go from a nothing figure to the focus in one minute is a ploy that very rarely works on screen.

OITNBBlanca

  • HIT: Blanca (or Bianca if you’re a lazy racist old white woman.)  Her backstory was short but oh was it sweet and beautifully fleshed out.  We love ya, unibrow!

OITNBSkinhead

  • MISS: The Neo-Nazi Girl Band. It was funny for a brief period but quickly became tired and unrealistic.  (Although on a side note: Skinhead Helen as a character name is genius.)

 

  • HIT: The dialogue. Some of the lines this season were fantastic, even though as usual they were blink and you’ll miss them.  Lines like Morello’s, ‘You know the girl whose name sounds like that Phil Collins song’ (meaning Kikudio) .  Or Lolly: ‘Come on! Shirt up, bra down, floobies out, face slack. Dead girl porn. Cosby dream shot!’ when trying to get Alex to pretend to be dead so she can take a picture made us laugh out loud.  Just outstanding.

 

  • MISS: The Guard initiated fight scene.  Sure it was dramatic but we just couldn’t get over how distasteful and gross the whole thing was.  It left a very sour taste in the mouth.

 

OITNBTaystee

Orange is the New Black

  • HIT:   She is and always will be one of our favourite characters.  And not only for her sweet moves.

OITNEnd

  • MISS: The Ending. Now before you pitch a fit yes, we’re not gonna lie, we cried.  Yes it was dramatic and horrifying and truly memorable.  All of which you want from a series denouement.  ..the pacing was just kind of off you know.  Tragedy requires build up and the quick succession of events in the last two episodes seemed rushed somehow.  Which is not to say it wasn’t mesmerising, it just felt a little hurried and unplanned in terms of action.  And what should have felt dehumanising and soul crushingly poignant didn’t quite hit the emotional mark.   Which is a real shame.

 

Anyways, there you have it, our thoughts on the pluses and minuses of season four.

You have anything you wanna add, then send us a comment.

Or write it down on a piece of paper, attach to a paper clip and slide it under our door.

Whatever works for you.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GRAPHIC NOVELS YOU SHOULD READ/SHOULD BE MADE INTO MOVIES RIGHT-FREAKING-NOW…

#191 SECONDS BY BRYAN LEE O’MALLEY

Seconds1

You ever get that feeling that you’re going to love something before you even pick it up?  It probably wasn’t much of a stretch to be honest given that we thought the Scott Pilgrim comics were fab and Lost at Sea is without doubt one of our all time favourite Graphic Novels.

 

We’re glad to say though that we weren’t disappointed at all with the sophomore effort from the Canadian cartoonist because Seconds is a joyful read, resplendent in all it’s O’Malleyesque goodness.  More than that actually, somehow it manages to offer up a couple of new twists & techniques on an old formula with something that comes dangerously close to good old-fashioned aplomb.  And let’s face, how can you not love a novel that opens with quotes from such luminaries as Italo Calvino and Fleetwood Mac?!)

Seconds4

What is interesting is how quick a read it is.  Sometimes with GN’s you can find yourself going back to the top of the page, re-reading panels just to try and make sure that you haven’t missed any visual details as the narrative ploughs ahead.  But you never have to do that with Seconds.  Because every panel is clean, free from clutter and gives you all the information you’ll need in one take.

It could be argued there’s a danger with that approach that events could spiral into childishness, that the story might lose its grip on your interest by not delving into more detail or backstory than is absolutely necessary.  But luckily for us (it’s not really luck, he’s a talented man-child) O’Malley’s natural wit and ear for snappy dialogue make sure that never happens.  Not even once.  And boy is this thing funny.  Hoo, Man!

seconds6

It also makes a refreshing change to meet a protagonist in a comic who is neither an ostracised teen nor an aimless college student.  To meet one who’s struggling with adult worries like money trouble and the disillusionment of a crumbling dream is kind of invigorating (hormonal crushes on their ex, aside.)  Katie, for her part is a wonderful creation- a selfish prick most of the time actually but somehow still likeable and capable of small acts of kindness when no-one’s looking.  The fact that the author makes her aware of the story’s narrative voiceover (Stranger Than Fiction stylee) and allows her to actually respond to their comments in her own flippant fashion is a fabulous quirk that can’t be praised enough.  We’ve all seen instances of breaking the fourth wall recently (Deadpool, we’re talking to you) but whereas most examples are overdone and beat you over the head in their attempts to show how clever and self aware they are, Seconds prefers to simply bend the rules here and there.  The result being an experience that is equal parts hilarious and ridiculous.

Omal_9780345529374_4p_all_r1.indd

It should be mentioned too, that while Katie steals the show personality-wise, the minor characters are never forgotten.  Everyone who reads this will undoubtedly find a favourite.  Ours was Hazel (which is a little disturbing since for the most part she embodies the awkward outsider vibe that Graphic Novel’s and YA Novels so desperately love to cling to.)  But even the rest have their own role to play, their own motivations above and beyond Katie’s arc.  Sure they’re trapped in her story (one which has a pleasing circularity to it for those of you with an eye for narrative design J) but they also have their own reasons to be there.

SecondsHazel

Overall though, do you know what struck us most about Bryan Lee O’Malleys last offering?  It’s free-form energy.  Yes, there’s a cyclical feel to the plot but if you look at the way it’s laid out on the page-where the panels constantly change size and shape to fit a certain mood or where the details of the character’s designs become more thorough/lose definition as the pace changes, the whole thing feels alive and unrestrained rather than simply being ink on a page.  It feels…unpredictable, even when the story’s message is not.

Seconds2

And while we’re sure some people will say that the constant use of sounds scrawled everywhere in large font and the magical overtones in the plot are more the hallmarks of a juvenile mind, we would have to disagree completely.

 

In fact we’d say that they add to that unguarded child-like energy we mentioned before.  Child-like.  Never childish.  That’s the difference we found as we read it.  And since haters gonna hate (and potato’s gonna potate) we want everyone to know that we hugely enjoyed every moment of the book and would recommend it to anyone looking for their next literary fix.

Seconds3

Oh, and if this does get turned into a movie (and if Bree Larson, is reading this- you need to play Katie, lady) we will officially squee loudly in a corner forever.

 

Fact.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment