I'm tabling at the Stumptown Comics Fest (Table F6) Saturday and Sunday, April 27-28, at the Portland Convention Center. Come on by. I'll draw you a free sketch, and I'll be selling all this stuff:
PRINTS! I'm debuting two new limited-run 12x12" prints at the Fest: "Super Cosplay Dance Party" and "Pete & Brucilla" (pictured above; click to enlarge). Lines by me. Colors by Bill Mudron. All-ages. Comes in a custom envelope printed with B&W lineart and art credits. Only 10 bucks each.
Oh, and "Super Cosplay Dance Party" (pictured below) is double-sided -- with a different color scheme by Bill on each side.
These are far and away the nicest pieces of paper I've ever put my name on, in terms of production value. Offset-printed in CMYK on nice toothy 100# classic laid paper by Lowell's Print Inn. Only ordered 200 of each. (I should also have a few uncut printer's proofs.) Here's a closeup of the paper. Here's video of the job on the presses.
POSTERS AND BADGES! Bill Mudron and I drew this year's Stumptown Comics Fest poster (at right). Bring one by and I'll totally sign it.
(Bill and I also had a hand in the Fest badges, but you should probably just write your own name on those.)
SHIRTS! I'll be selling the "Spoiler Alert" t-shirt I designed earlier this year for the PDX Browncoats. All proceeds go to them.
BOOKS! I'll have copies of both "Sabertooth Vampire" minicomics, "Santa's Lil' Gimp" and my five or so remaining copies of "Cort and Fatboy and the Secret of the Buried Unicorns."
FREE STUFF! Barring disaster, I'll have giveaways of my "Opera, Drawn Quickly" comics (courtesy the Portland Opera) and Vol. 1 of "Jaxxon's 11," my super-specific spoof (with David Stroup) of 1970s Marvel "Star Wars" comics.
I'm also moderating this Saturday Q&A session with my pal Dylan:
"A Conversation with Dylan Meconis"
Room B117, Saturday, April 27, 11-11:45 a.m.
Dylan Meconis first popped up on the webcomics scene with her French-revolution vampire comedy "Bite Me!" and cemented her reputation with dark historical drama "Family Man." Along the way she's also redrawn the "Danse Macabre" for a new generation and spun her own fable of corruption with the Eisner-nominated "Outfoxed." Mike Russell of CulturePulp.com will interview Meconis about her style and genre-hopping comics, world-building vs. storytelling, coming of age as an artist online, and her influences outside of comics.
Movie review in the Friday, April 19 Oregonian....
In a lot of ways, "Oblivion" plays like a vastly superior second draft of director Joseph Kosinski's previous film, "Tron: Legacy."
(This sounds like faint praise -- given that "Tron: Legacy" was a gorgeous but uninvolving mess full of dangling glow-in-the-dark plot threads * -- but bear with me a sec.)
Both "Oblivion" and "Tron: Legacy" feature polished surfaces, Kubrick-aping compositions, terrific soundtracks by French electronic bands, and digital threats in abandoned worlds where characters question the very definition of "life." But "Oblivion" has a cleaner concept, a (mostly) stronger story, subtler performances, better-shot action, and, as a bonus, actually makes some sort of vague logical sense. It ends quite a bit doofier than it starts, but it's entertaining enough, and it is very, very pretty.
"Oblivion" is cowritten by Kosinski from an as-yet-unpublished illustrated novella the director conceived a few years back for Radical Studios. It's set on a future Earth devastated by an alien invasion that destroyed the moon and buried the human race in the resulting earthquakes and tsunamis.
The only humans around seem to be a two-person maintenance crew (Tom Cruise, Andrea Riseborough). They have a sexy magazine-spread version of WALL•E's job. Cruise goes out in the field to repair lethal robot drones that guard massive factories. The factories pump the water out of Earth's oceans; apparently this will somehow fuel a mass off-planet migration by humanity's survivors.
The postapocalyptic world is stark, gorgeous and crisply designed, and easily the best thing about the movie. Cruise and Riseborough survey a largely buried New York City from a gorgeous Apple Store of an apartment 3,000 feet in the sky, and make love in its glass-bottomed swimming pool in the movie's most beautiful sequence. I desperately want to vacation there; it's like the apocalypse happened except that they somehow saved IKEA.
But then a NASA spaceship crashes nearby. It contains a woman (Olga Kurylenko) who wakes up, barfs, and seems to know Cruise's character by name. Cruise had been having dreams about this woman. The robot drones want to kill her. Riseborough is jealous of her. Notions of history and self suddenly get a little fluid.
From here, "Oblivion" gets all plotty and revelatory and tries for a love story, and it loses much of the haunting quality that made its first half so cool and evocative. The film doesn't completely un-man itself like, say, "Tron: Legacy" did -- but it does go from creating a unique world to riffing, in solid B-movie style, on ideas and images from other, better sci-fi films. Cruise and the rest of the cast (which comes to include Morgan Freeman rocking sunglasses and a cigar) do solid work here, deploying more nuanced facial expressions than are strictly necessary in a popcorn flick, which is nice.
Kosinski has an advertising background and a knack for the clinical frame composition -- though I'm beginning to wonder if he's a really high-end version of Roland Emmerich, who proved with "Independence Day" that you can make an entire entertainment out of nothing but shameless references to past sci-fi hits. I'm wondering this because Kosinski's visual nods to Kubrick get sort of hilariously on-the-nose toward the end -- up to and including making the drones look like armed versions of the "2001" space pod and having one character literally float around in the Star Child pose for a second.
But man, "Oblivion" sure is Moebius-comic gorgeous and it sounds great, especially the loud nervewracking honks the drones make when they're weighing whether or not to shoot you. I suppose that's a surface appeal. But it's a nice surface.
* "Tron: Legacy" is actually a pretty great viewing experience if you just leave it on in the background with the volume turned all the way down while playing the Daft Punk soundtrack CD on repeat -- conveniently removing the expository dialogue that makes the movie so exasperating. "Legacy"'s ideal presentation may be playing silently on TVs mounted in the backs of modernist bars, basically.
(124 min.; rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, brief strong language, and some sensuality/nudity) Grade: B-minus
'Oblivion' (The Oregonian, Friday, April 19, 2013)
Movie review in the Friday, April 12 Oregonian....
The hugely entertaining comedy-drama "The Sapphires" is an old-school crowd-pleaser.
Adapted from Tony Briggs' play, it's very loosely based on the true story of Briggs' Aboriginal mother and aunt, who left behind racist 1960s Australia to sing for American troops in Vietnam. The movie unfolds in pretty much the exact uplifting and unsurprising manner you'd expect -- but its real pleasures lie in its terrific pop-soul soundtrack and especially in its frequently funny performances.
"Sapphires" introduces us to three Aboriginal sisters -- Gail (Deborah Mailman), Julie (Jessica Mauboy) and Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell) -- who live in New South Wales' Cummeragunja mission and may love singing more than they love each other. It's 1968, and they're covering Merle Haggard country ditties and facing indifferent audiences in a bigoted Australia.
At a two-bit talent show, they're spotted by drunk keyboardist Dave Lovelace (Chris O’Dowd, channeling '70s Bill Murray if '70s Bill Murray were Irish). "You're the best Aboriginal girl group -- sorry, you're the only Aboriginal girl group -- I've ever seen," Lovelace tells them, before offering the women (and himself) a ticket out of obscurity and Australia: He'll become their manager, change their set-list to soul covers and get them performing for U.S. infantry in 'Nam.
"Country is about loss," he tells them while convincing them to change their repertoire. "Soul is about loss, but they're struggling to get it back."
The sisters recruit their honey-voiced cousin Kay (Shari Sebbens) -- who was forcibly removed from the Cummeragunja mission by officials years earlier to be raised by a white family -- and take their act (and their ferocious arguments) into a literal and sometimes very personal war zone, albeit one peppered with hit songs and the odd romance.
Director Wayne Blair uses the music and comedy to keep things surprisingly light and high-spirited, given that "The Sapphires" also trafficks in firefights, war-wounded, civil-rights struggles, and burning resentments created by the Australian government's appalling child-removal policy -- a policy that separated Kay from her family in the movie and thousands of Aboriginal mothers from their children in real life from the 1950s to the 1970s.
The lightness primarily comes from O'Dowd (of "Bridesmaids" and "The IT Crowd" fame), who makes the movie with a cannonade of self-deprecating zingers. His bickering chemistry with the group's two-fisted leader and eldest sibling (Mailman) is such that I can happily imagine a future in which Mailman gets to kill it in many more comedies.
(103 min.; rated PG-13 for sexuality, a scene of war violence, some language, thematic elements and smoking; playing in Portland at Regal Fox Tower) Grade: B-plus
'The Sapphires' (The Oregonian, Friday, April 12, 2013)
Movie review in the Friday, March 29 Oregonian....
"Ginger & Rosa" is a potent little period drama from writer/director Sally Potter ("Orlando") about rebellion, fear, compromise, and the wildly inappropriate things adults can do while using their "ideals" as an excuse.
But most viscerally, it's about Potter keeping her camera tightly trained on every tiny expression by Elle Fanning, who gives a stunning performance as Ginger -- a teen put through belief-quaking emotional changes in a threadbare 1962 London.
Ginger and her wild-child best pal Rosa (Alice Englert) were born on the same day in 1945. Seventeen years later, they're casting about for identities in a world shaken by pop-culture shifts and the ever-present fear of atomic doom.
Potter does delicate work capturing the way Ginger and Rosa hover between child- and adulthood, the way they try on grown-up behavior like they're playing dress-up -- clutching teddy bears (and each other) and playing patty-cake between bouts of smoking, drinking, hitchhiking and the occasional bus-stop snog.
The teens are also rebelling in an effort to avoid the fates of their unhappy mothers. Ginger's mother (Christina Hendricks) gave up everything in a bid for domestic normalcy, but now she's fighting against the word-twisting of Ginger's father (Alessandro Nivola) -- a self-centered intellectual who behaves horribly while hiding behind his "free spirit" ideals.
Ginger -- her head full of her father's exhortations to be "an activist, not a supplicant" -- gets caught in the middle. The threat of intimate and global catastrophe tests her belief system -- even as Potter pushes closer to capture every quiver on Fanning's face.
It's not particularly subtle, especially toward the end. But it's quietly psychologically brutal -- and the solid-to-devastating performances by Fanning, Englert, Hendricks, Nivola, Annette Bening, Timothy Spall and Oliver Platt make the movie.
Potter takes a hard look at the tension between the personal and the political -- at the way you can lose yourself worrying about an imagined apocalypse while a very real one is happening to the humans you love, at the way basic human desires for freedom and love get twisted up in activism and compromise. And Potter is merciless about the harm men can do to those closest to them while those men are railing against "mindless obedience" and "the rules."
(89 min.; rated PG-13 for mature disturbing thematic material involving teen choices -- sexuality, drinking, smoking, and for language; playing in Portland at Regal Fox Tower) Grade: A-minus
'Ginger & Rosa' (The Oregonian, Friday, March 29, 2013)
Below: a gorgeous black-and-white “draw-your-own” Fest-exclusive variant poster, made entirely by Bill. (Be sure to take a close look at the filigree Bill designed for the borders.)
Click either to enlarge.
Movie review in the Friday, March 15 Oregonian....
"The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" feels compromised on many levels. It's an intermittently funny comedy about feuding Vegas magicians that feels committee-rewritten within an inch of its life. And the movie's prevailing vibe of indecision infects Steve Carell's lead performance.
But before getting into the frustrating, potential-wasting details, it's worth noting that Jim Carrey pretty much kills it every time he shows up in his supporting role as street magician Steve Gray.
Gray is a David Blaine / Criss Angel-style performance artist who's less interested in sleights of hand and more interested in increasingly perverse feats of endurance and self-abuse -- holding his urine for days, sleeping on hot coals, letting children hit him with sticks until he vomits piñata candy -- all in the service of some vaguely defined truth-is-pain audience-shock philosophy. Carrey was more or less engineered in a lab to spout Gray's brand of nonsense, and it's great to see the actor revisit the masochistic slapstick that made him famous.
Unfortunately, the rest of "Burt Wonderstone" exists firmly in Carrey's shadow. The victims of the overshadowing include, unfortunately. Mr. Wonderstone.
Director Don Scardino and his screenwriters are more interested in stringing together gags of varying success than they are in telling a story. But in broad strokes, the movie details the falling-apart of the glitz-choked magic act of Burt (Carell) and Anton (Steve Buscemi), thanks entirely to Burt's arrogance and loss of love for the audience, stagecraft and possibly himself.
Irrelevant in the wake of Steve Gray's faux-gritty success, Burt enters a wilderness period that includes humiliation, an ambitious youngster (Olivia Wilde), and a cranky old-school mentor (Alan Arkin). Roots may be revisited, etc.
The movie has a couple of problems. First, a couple of characters feel like they were added to the script late in the development process without the screenwriters bothering to remove older characters competing for the same space. But the movie's central problem is that it's impossible to invest in the cartoony travails of Burt Wonderstone because (a) he's not just unpleasant but unpleasant and uninteresting, and (b) the normally on-the-ball Carell never quite figures out what sort of part he's playing.
For half the movie's running time, Burt is a sequined, out-of-touch idiot with hair extensions and a funny voice. For the other half (usually when bonding with poor Olivia Wilde or rediscovering the joys of magic), Burt is a more subdued, slightly smarter character with shorter hair and "heart" who speaks in something like Steve Carell's normal voice. Carell sometimes seems to be shifting between these two characters mid-scene, and it left me wondering why the man who gave us Brick Tamland and Michael Scott couldn't commit whole-hog to a single take on his role.
The larger film suffers along the same lines. The crueler spoofy jokes mostly connect -- especially anything involving Carrey or the more criminally weird magic tricks attempted by Burt and Anton -- and Arkin's always fun to watch. The broadest stuff also satirizes the tension between classic and "edgy" magicians in a way that almost feels like an idea. In its best moments, the movie approaches the mid-list success of something like the 2007 Will Ferrell vehicle "Blades of Glory." But these moments are Franken-stitched together with more earnest but less-confident material, in a way that suggests a half-finished draft full of half-used characters.
(100 min., rated PG-13 for sexual content, dangerous stunts, a drug-related incident and language) Grade: C
'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone' (The Oregonian, Friday, March 15, 2013)