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.
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.
Oh, and I think I might be in this year's Comic Art Battle at the Saturday-night After Party, but I'm not sure yet. Check this space for updates.
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
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