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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Boyhood Receives 6 Oscar Nominations

The 2015 nominations for the Academy Awards were announced this morning, and Boyhood, my personal favourite film of 2014, received 6 big nominations:

  • Richard Linklater got 2 nominations, for Best Original Screenplay and Best Director
  • Ethan Hawke is nominated as Best Supporting Actor
  • Patricia Arquette seems to be a favourite for Best Supporting Actress
  • Sandra Adair is up for Best Film Editing
  • and the film itself is nominated for Best Picture
This is a huge accomplishment for an independent film!  Considering how few people have viewed this little gem up to now (a tiny, tiny fraction of the audience for any of last year's blockbusters), and how many additional eyeballs this may bring to it, these nominations could go a long way toward expanding its fan base.

I somehow failed to write a blog post about Boyhood right after Vicki, Tammy and I saw it in Toronto last year, but I can say that it was one of the best movie-going experiences I've ever had.  I was emotionally drained by the end of it.  There's something surreal about watching the characters, especially the two children, age a dozen years over the course of a few hours.  I think the story itself could've been slightly more compelling, but that's a very minor complaint against an otherwise amazing production.  I encourage anyone who enjoys good movies to seek Boyhood out (I have a Blu-Ray copy that can be borrowed by anyone with the appropriate player, including a PS3 or PS4).

With the competition for all of the awards as fierce as always this year, it's possible that Linklater's classic will be shut out completely in terms of golden statues.  But here's hoping that isn't the case, and that it takes home at least a couple of them.  It definitely deserves the accolades.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Rarified Air

It's not every day that I get to see my name in a list of acknowledgements that includes J Bone (the comic artist), John Cassaday, Neil Gaiman, Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore, but today is that day:


This is the first page of the Dave Gibbons Watchmen Artifact Edition that I contributed a scan to, back in March of last year.  It's a monster of a coffee table book, only equaled in size by the Alien Illustrated hardcover that I bought in Las Vegas a couple years ago.  And it has my name it!  Sweet.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

The DC Universe, 1970s Style

Just an amazing image, which apparently has been up in the lobby of DC Comics in New York City for decades. Surprisingly, there are at least a couple characters in this shot that I can't identify off the top of my head (click for a closer look):


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

As 2014 Ends, Let's Look Into The Future (Of Movies)

Specifically, I've been meaning, for awhile, to post a calendar of upcoming films that I'm looking forward to or am otherwise intrigued by.  These are mostly superhero flicks but with a few other types thrown in for good measure.

2015

May 1st - Avengers: Age of Ultron - This is probably my most eagerly-anticipated entry on this list, as Ultron has long been one of the scariest Avengers villains, and of course the first Joss Whedon-directed film was unbelievably cool.  The fact that they've retained all of the original characters and added Elizabeth Olsen as the Scarlet Watch makes me very happy.  I sincerely hope not to be disappointed by the sequel, and for now I'm confidently placing my faith in Joss.

June 12th - Jurassic World - I want this to be good, even though the previous Jurassic offering was pretty crappy.  The original, on the other hand, like the book it was based on, was quite excellent.  I'll wait and see what the early reviews on this one are like before committing any cash to it.

July 1st - Terminator: Genisys - I'm a sucker for the Terminator franchise, having seen each of the films many times and sticking with the TV show right to the bitter end.  This film came about after the rights were sold off to the highest bidder, I believe, which makes it an interesting experiment, if nothing else.

July 17th - Ant Man - Marvel Studios can seem to do no wrong lately, as even Guardians of the Galaxy was much better than I'd expected.  I liked GotG well enough as I watched it, though I've yet to have any desire to see it again.  I expect Ant Man may fall into the same category, although anything with Evangeline Lily in it usually warrants a second look, so who knows.

August 7th - Fantastic Four - This is either going to be an utter train wreck or something quite... fantastic, I think.  It's a reboot, which isn't bad in and of itself considering how lackluster the two previous FF movies were.  However, I've read just enough about its setup and approach to cause me to scratch my head, as it doesn't appear to stick at all closely to what's been done in the 50+ years of comic stories.  If I had to put money down right now, I'd put it on train wreck.  Happy to be proven wrong, though.

December 18th - Star Wars: The Force Awakens - As someone who thoroughly enjoyed the prequels, I clearly don't have the highest standards (or expectations, at least) when it comes to Star Wars installments.  I personally consider The Empire Strikes Back to be the peak of the franchise, which seems to be a pretty common stance, but I also find the original Star Wars to be fairly blah.  Plus I remember well how excited the fans of the original trilogy were when the first trailer for The Phantom Menace debuted, and we all know how that worked out.  But having said all that, I'm mildly excited at the thought of a new Star Wars movie to take us out of 2015.

2016

March 4th - Prometheus 2 - I'd call the existence of this film and its release date both tentative at this point, because neither have been officially confirmed.  However, I really, really want to see Ridley Scott deliver a sequel to 2012's Prometheus.  While I readily acknowledge the many flaws in that feature, I'm not sure I could love it any more than I do!  Vicki and I went to the theatre to see it twice, something we almost never do.  And then we promptly watched it a third time as soon as the Blu Ray for it came out.  I think we may have even seen it again since then, which would make four viewings in just two-and-a-half years!  Like the video game Alien: Isolation which came out this year and became my obsession for awhile, Prometheus totally scratched the itch that I have for anything Alien-related, and did it very well.

March 25th - Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice - A film that pits Superman against Batman, with Wonder Woman somehow involved as well, and which is a lead in to the first ever Justice League feature?  My drool bucket runneth over!  I liked but didn't always love Man of Steel, so that's a bit worrisome considering that its director and star have carried over to this, but maybe Zack Snyder can rise to the occasion this time around.  And Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne / Batman, while raising a lot of eyebrows when it was announced, could end up being brilliant considering that Affleck is often a very good actor.  I'm frustrated that this film is still almost 15 months away, considering that it's been filming for ages already, but if taking their time adds to the quality of the final product, I'm all for it.  In terms of anticipation on my part, BvS is nearly as high as the 2nd Avengers flick.

May 6th - Captain America: Civil War - Did I mention my drool bucket was quickly filling up?  The second Cap film, The Winter Soldier, was mind-blowingly good and didn't have a bad scene or dull moment in it.  So any sequel with the same production crew is sure to grab my attention right out of the gate, and then adding Robert Downey, Jr to the mix is just incredible.  To think that just a few weeks after we get Batman fighting Superman on the big screen we're going to be similarly treated to Cap versus Iron Man, I sometimes wonder if this is all just a dream I'm having back in 1978.  I honestly wouldn't have believed, back then, that we'd ever get this many high quality treatments of superhero stories at the movie theatre.

May 22nd - X-Men: Apocalypse - The last two X-Men films, First Class and Days of Future Past, upped the ante on the franchise something crazy.  Each of them put the original three to shame, and I say that as someone who liked that first trilogy and thought the second part was especially good.  Therefore, my expectations are high on Brian Singer's next foray into mutant territory, even though I couldn't really care less about Apocalypse (the villain) as he was introduced into the comics after I'd stopped following anything X-related.

August 5th - Suicide Squad - The comic series by this name that started in the 80s and ran for several years was a real sleeper.  It didn't have any hype behind it and I actually ignored it for the longest time, until I started hearing some of the buzz around it.  When I finally checked it out, what I quickly realized was that the strange concept behind it - a secret government agency blackmails imprisoned supervillains into running potentially-suicidal missions for it by promising them their freedom if they succeed or instant death if they try to make their escape - was actually the secret to its appeal.  Many of the members of the team were third- or even fourth-tier villains, and therefore the writers could do virtually anything with them over the course of a story / mission.  The upcoming film, on the other hand, seems to be leaning toward bigger name villains - Lex Luthor, the Joker, Harley Quinn, for example - and that probably means there won't be quite as much freedom for the characters to be killed off, maimed, or otherwise damaged.  Still, with some of the interesting actors involved (including Jared Leto), I can see a lot of potential here.

November 4th - Doctor Strange - I've become a huge Benedict Cumberbatch fan following his three seasons (and counting) on Sherlock.  At this point, he pretty much walks on water as far as I'm concerned, so while he wouldn't have been my first thought for playing Stephen Strange, I can certainly see him pulling it off.  Strange is one of those characters who's always been hit-and-miss for me, as most comic writers who've tackled him haven't really known what to do with a Master of the Mystic Arts.  Given Marvel Studios' recent track record, though, I'll extend them the benefit of the doubt and assume that won't be the case with his big screen debut.

December ?? - Avatar 2 - I loved Avatar, so I welcome more magic from Canada's own James Cameron.  Bring it on, I say!

2017

June 23rd - Wonder Woman - Now we're two-and-a-half years into the future, and about all we really know about this feature film is that Gal Gadot will play the Amazonian warrior and Canadian Michelle MacLaren will direct her in it.  I guess we'll all have a much better idea where Warners plans to go with the character once Batman V Superman drops, but until then I'll remain cautiously optimistic that the greatest superheroine of all time will get good treatment at their hands.

July 28th - Thor: Ragnarok - With 2014's Sexiest Man Alive in the starring role, what's not to like about a third Thor movie?  (The ladies who get dragged to these things by their boyfriends and husbands deserve at least that much, don't they?)  The first two features were solidly entertaining fare, and that's what I expect from Ragnarok.  That title (meaning the end of the world for the Norse gods) certainly suggests that it could be the final installment, making room for other Marvel characters to get films.  I'm OK either way, personally.

November 3rd - The Black Panther - Speaking of new characters, T'Challa is an amazingly rich one to tell stories about, being an African prince, spending time as an Avengers, and having been married to Storm (of the X-Men) for awhile, to name but a few elements.  I have no idea which parts of his history they'll choose to explore in the screen version, but I look forward to finding out.

November 17th - Justice League Part 1 - A film so great, they had to... split it in half?  What the -?  Oh never mind, it's what all the cool kids are doing these days (Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Hobbit, etc, etc, etc) so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  My initial reaction to this news, I'll admit, was excitement.  After all, getting two films has to be better than one, right?  More room to tell a more complete story, to focus on character development or just have more cool action scenes.  At least in theory.  I've dreamed of a big budget JLA film since I was a kid, and in a little less than three  years it looks like I'll finally get my wish.  Please please please don't blow it, Warners!

December ?? - Avatar 3 - Yes, assuming # 2 is good.

2018

March 23rd - The Flash - Doesn't he already have a TV show?  Oh wait, this is the completely different version that's in the Justice League movie, which shouldn't be at all confusing to fans.  Hmmm.  Reserving judgement on this because... it's still more than four years away, for crying out loud!

May 4th - Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 - Again with the breaking the story up over two films!  Still, it's Avengers, and it'll probably rock!

July 6th - Captain Marvel - Not to be confused with the Captain Marvel who says Shazam! to change between Billy Batson and his superhero identity, this is Marvel Comics' current iteration: a strong female character who has a ton of potential.  I love seeing non-white and/or non-male heroes being developed, and both Black Panther and Captain Marvel (not to mention Wonder Woman from Warners) are great steps in that direction.

July 27th - Aquaman - Another Justice League spinoff, with more still to come.  They've cast one of the Game of Thrones actors for this role, and he was fine in GoT so... sure, let's see what he's got!  Done right, the king of the seven seas can be a fantastic vehicle for telling great stories.

November 2nd - The Inhumans - Fans of the SHIELD TV show have already seen the seeds being planted for this, I think, as the blue alien that Coulson and the rest have discovered is actually a Kree.  They're the alien race who created the Inhumans in the comics, you see, which is likely where that storyline is headed.  Rumour has it that the Inhumans basically replace the X-Men (or mutants in general) in the Marvel TV and film universe, since they can't use any of the mutant characters who 20th Century Fox currently own (in terms of cinematic rights).

December ?? - Avatar 4 - I'm sensing a pattern here, perhaps inspired by Peter Jackson and a little trilogy you may have heard of, called The Lord of the Rings...

2019

April 5th - Shazam - Hey, we were just talking about you!  My guess is that Warners will call the character 'Shazam' rather than 'Captain Marvel' in order to avoid confusion with the other one.  But they really shouldn't, as this Cap was Cap long before Marvel Comics even existed.  In the comics, Shazam was the old wizard who told Billy Batson to say his name (SHAZAM!) whenever he wanted to change between boy and superhero.  Anyway, I hope they don't blow this too badly.

May 3rd - Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 - I can hardly wait to see what kind of cliffhanger we were left with at the end of Part 1!

June 14th - Justice League Part 2 - Ditto, although this one at least comes out on a great date!

2020 (No, I'm not kidding!)

April 3rd - Cyborg - Another Justice League member, leaving only one more to go...

June 19th - Green Lantern - ... and here he is!  Not Ryan Reynolds this time around, thankfully, but probably Hal Jordan once again.  This means that all of the JL heroes will get their own chance to start or continue franchises... Wow.  That's a lot of faith in the brand, on the part of Warners.

Whew.

And this expansive list doesn't even touch on the upcoming Netflix series starring Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and them teaming up as the Defenders, nor any of the other TV shows, some of which have turned out be great.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Anti-Vaccination Movement Finally Losing Some Steam

According to the LA Times, the momentum behind the ridiculous anti-vaccination movement let up slightly in 2014, dipping down a tiny bit for the first time in 10 years.  This completely discredited bullshit is an embarrassment to liberal-minded people everywhere, it being one of the very few areas where progressives are guilty of ignoring the science (a mindset that conservatives tend to embrace with the bliss typical of of the ignorant).  The pushback against vaccines, and specifically the belief that they actually cause autism in young children, came about after one lone quack in Britain published 'research findings' to that effect which turned out to have been fabricated entirely, something that the publication itself admitted to not long afterward.

Hopefully this means a corner has been turned on this topic and rational thought will allow us to avoid bringing back diseases like small pox and the mumps in the future.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Haul 2014

Vicki and I took it easy on the gifts this year, limiting ourselves to about 4 or 5 gifts each (which, believe it or not, is a major reduction over some of the excesses of past years).  Tammy's job is presently keeping her so busy that she couldn't get away to visit us during the season, as well, so that's added to the low-key atmosphere around Christmas 2014.

Having said that, though, I did receive several lovely presents from Vicki, including one that especially surprised and delighted me: the limited edition Breaking Bad "barrel" collection on Blu-Ray!  I had held off on picking that up because it's always been very pricey whenever I've seen it, but she managed to find it at a discount and I couldn't be happier. I'm very excited about watching the series all the way through again one of these days, and now I know that I can.

I also got several books that look interesting and a renewal of my PlayStation+ membership, which will make both Boneman and I happy.  Vicki has a couple new jigsaw puzzles to put together, some reading material and a pair of gift certificates to spend.  So we both made out very well indeed!

The Perils Of An All-Digital Movie Future

Here's an interesting article on how the movement from physical film to digital could be setting up a disaster for the movie industry in terms of archival.  It's quite the ironic turnabout, as digital was seen as the salvation from decaying film prints of the past.

I can relate to this personally as I was recently thinking about the VHS tape we have that contains home movies from the 90s, which I'd be hard pressed to watch right now as I'm not sure we have a working VCR.  I would guess, tho, that the explosion of people recording video on their phones over the past decade will likely lead to a cottage industry of format converting utilities, as there will be millions (billions?) of customers out there who desperately want to retain access to their children's music recitals, Christmas mornings and stupid human tricks.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Prime Number Breakthrough

Unless you've read articles like this one, you probably aren't even aware that the study of prime numbers is "a thing."  It is, however, and this news of a discovery about the size of "prime gaps," or the distance between consecutive prime numbers, could end up being a big deal.  As the article mentions, it could have implications to encryption programs like those used for cyber security, for example.

Still, it can be a hard concept to wrap your head around - that prime numbers are even all that significant to begin with!  After all, a number's just a number, right?  Who cares if it can be divided evenly by smaller numbers or not?  Well, it turns out to be pretty important, and luckily the number geeks are all over it.

Friday, December 19, 2014

George Clooney On The Sony Cyber Attack

Deadline has published a brief interview with George Clooney in which the actor/director talks about his attempts to get studio execs to sign a petition declaring their opposition to what the North Korean hackers have done regarding Sony's film, The Interview.  As he says, "Not a single person would sign."  Clooney goes on to point out, very intelligently, what this sort of acquiesence to terrorism means in the big picture of standing up to extortion and threats.

It's definitely worth a read.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

At The Intersection Of Music And Business

Here's a great article by musician Amanda Palmer on the crazy attitude so many people take when artists choose to pull back the curtain on how much money they make (or lose).  She really nails it, laying out the double standard that exists on this topic.

One of the cases she cites is the backlash directed at Pomplamoose's Jack Conte after he published the finances of his band's 23-city tour that lost almost $12,000 recently.  His post makes fascinating reading, absolutely.  But the reactions to it are equally gripping, as they perfectly demonstrate just how big the disconnect is between the reality of band life and the illusion so many buy into.

I love that both Palmer and Conte focus on the long view in their decisions, being willing to lose (or make less) money in the short term in order to grow their fan base over the long haul.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Alien: Isolation Sequel At Least Being Discussed

I absolutely loved Alien: Isolation this fall, despite some obvious flaws.  It played shamelessly on my obsession with Ridley Scott's Alien film, and I was joyfully sucked right in.  Therefore I'm glad to hear that a potential Alien: Isolation 2 is something that the development team is discussing, although it sounds like it's far from a given at this point. Also of interest to me in that interview is news of two new difficulty settings for the original game: Novice and Nightmare.  I can't imagine playing on the latter, but having an even easier / less deadly setting in which to explore the space station definitely appeals.

I really hope AI wins some 2014 gaming awards, as I find it hard to imagine there was a better game released this year.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Very Cool Trip Through Time

I love the Up documentary series and the movie Boyhood for lots of different reasons, but one of the main ones is the way that both allow you to experience the passage of time.  In each case, you get to watch a small set of people change as they age and it's hard not to be affected by the journey.

Here's something similar, done with still photos: four sisters were photographed each year across the span of four decades, and it's fascinating to see how differently each woman ages.  I can't even imagine how it must be for them, looking at those photos now.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

December Biking

I couldn't resist the 1° C (or -1° C with windchill) temperature today and so I biked downtown to get comics.  This was actually a much easier ride than last week's, thanks to the wind being nearly non-existent.  I also took more than enough Kleenexes with me today, unlike last week, which made for a nicer experience, too!

This means I did at least 9 months of biking in 2014, as I'm uncertain as to whether I got one in during March but I know April through December are now in the bag.  Not bad for a guy pushing 52!

The Latest On The Preacher TV Series

It seems like the project that will never happen: getting Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's amazing Preacher comic series adapted to either television or film.  There have been several aborted attempts, and it's still very much up in the air as to whether the latest one will fly, but at least now a pilot has been ordered for the proposed AMC series.  I still have my doubts that anyone can successfully translate the material out of its original medium and deal with the inevitable push back from religious types, but time will tell.

My love for Preacher is nearly boundless, and it's one of the very few long comic series (75 issues) that I've re-read multiple times.  It's also on my short list of comics that I won't be selling as long as I still own any comics.  That's how good it is.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wacky Science May Get Our Kids Or Grandkids Into Space

I don't quite understand the science involved but this article makes it sound at least possible that an alternative to rocket-propelled space travel may be within our reach in the next 20-50 years.

Still Biking In Late November

I did the bike ride downtown today for a comic (that's right, it was for one comic this week: Lazarus) and that was in 0° C (-4° C with the windchill) weather, recognizing that this may be my last chance before March of next year.  We've already had one big snowfall this month, though warm temperatures over the past weekend and earlier this week took care of all that.  It's still possible I'll get one more ride in next week if it's not too wet, but I'm not holding out much hope that I'll actually make it into December.

Oh well, as it is today's trip was strenuous (and cold) enough that I feel pretty good about being able to get this late into the year at my age.