Archive for the 'film, tv, video' Category

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Apocalypse Now

Not that I want to jump on the silly media bandwagon or anything, but this End of Days affords me the opportunity to post the video above, for seminal Danish hip hop group Malk de Koijn’s “Braget” (‘The Boom’), written and directed atmospherically by Tobias Gundorff Boesen, alumnus of The Animation Workshop in Viborg — the school which has just announced a new educational track for comics makers. From the Gilliamesque vistas of a Copenhagen apocalypse to the Tarkoskyesque finish, it shows a keen visual talent and a sure directorial hand.

Happy Apocalypse. Next.

Never Just a Joke: Representations of Race in Scandinavia


Over at Hooded Utilitarian, the latest installment of my very irregular column, DWYCK, focuses on recent media controversies in Sweden over representations of race: Stina Wirsén’s empoyment of pickaninny stereotyping for her childrens book and film character Lilla Hjärtat and Makote Aj Linde’s infamous cake installation at Moderna Museet in Stockholm earlier this year.

The dicussion also touches upon the media kerfuffle a few months back over the projected removal of Hergé’s Tintin in the Congo to the adult section of the Kulturhuset library in the same city, as well as — inevitably — the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. It’s a complicated set of issues that have implications of cultural integration and free speech and I’d love to hear your opinion, so pop over there and have a look.

The Week

The week in review

So, the Raphael drawing I mentioned back in September was sold at Sotheby’s London this week for a whopping £29.7 million, breaking even the astonishing record set by the previous Raphael drawing sold at auction, back in 2009. This is the highest sum ever paid at auction for a work on paper and the second-highest ever paid for an old master.

The prices of art are a nebulous issue, and this is clearly an incredible sum, but we are dealing with a masterwork of the highest order by one of the greatest artists of the Western tradition. In other words: if a drawing had to fetch this price, it could be a worse one. As I wrote in September, this drawing, preparatory for one of his greatest and most iconic works, the late Transfiguration (finished 1520), shows the master at his peak for this type of highly rendered study. To me is clearly of higher quality than the Head of a Muse sold in 2009.

There’s plenty of speculation online as to who bought it, with the famous Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich apparently being the main candidate. That Raphael should join Fernando Torres in Abramovich’s trophy room I find a little sad, especially considering that the drawing was previously available to the public at Chatsworth where it was part of the Devonshire collection. This is to great a treasure to have disappear from public view, but one can at least hope that whoever acquired it will be generous toward loan requests.

I can only kick myself for not having been able to get down and see it when it was on display in the Late Raphael show in the Prado this summer. I saw the exhibition in its current incarnation at the Louvre the week before last, and there they had unfortunately not been able to retain the section devoted to the Transfiguration. It is still a fantastic show however, that I urge you to go and see.

  • Andrew Nosnitsky on Nas’ classic album Illmatic (which will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year) and the forming of an hip hop album canon. Teaser: he regards Nas’ effort as a limited if brilliant one.
  • Very cool interview with visual futurist Syd Mead on his seminal work on Blade Runner.
  • Kailyn Kent on Bart Beaty’s new, exciting book Comics vs. Art, on the comics world and its uneasy relationship with that of fine arts, and on the great cartoonist Saul Steinberg’s equally uneasy positioning within same.
  • Oh, and Dave Brubeck RIP

    Comics at the Copenhagen Book Fair

    Kinda unrelated: yrs. truly interviewing Dan Clowes, Chris Ware, and Charles Burns along with Paul Gravett, at Komiks.dk 2010. Photo by Frederik Høyer-Chr.


    This weekend sees the Copenhagen Book Fair, or Bogforum — the book event of the year in Denmark. This year, the fair has moved to Bella Center in Amager to accommodate the crowds. Let’s hope people who have gotten used to the proximity afforded by the traditional venue, Forum, at border of Frederiksberg.

    Comics have always been represented at the fair in some measure, but this year sees an unprecedented amplification of their presence, in that the Danish comics grass roots organizations have been given a large area in which to set up for free. The Danish Comics Council and the festival organisers in Copenhagen Comics have teamed up with The Association of Danish Comics Creators, the Ping Awards, the Blågård library, and the Goethe Institute to create a nexus of all Danish comics realities at the fair.

    We provide extensive programming consisting of live drawing by a range of Danish artists throughout the whole event, as well as interviews with creators, workshops for children, a relaxing reading area, and other surprise goodies. To see the whole programme, please visit the website of the Danish Comics Council, and please drop by — we’ll be in area e-006.

    Thomas Thorhauge on Jørgen Leth in True Story


    Also, Thomas Thorhauge, chairman of the Danish Comics Council and sometime Bunker contributor will be participating in the general programming, being interviewed by the great Jørgen Leth — writer, critic and filmmaker (The Five Obstructions) — at 3.40 pm on Friday ‘under the clock’ in area C2-023. They will be talking about his newspaper strip on film, True Story, which was collected in book form last year as Det sidste ord. Not to be missed.

    With writer Benni Bødker, Thorhauge is also participating in an interview on the recently published YA book Djævlens øjne, which he illustrated. That’s Saturday at 3pm at the childrens’ stage, after which the two of them will be signing their book in area C3-038. Check out the whole programme here.

    I hope to see you there!

    The Week

    “The Supreme Court is saying that campaign spending is a matter of free speech, but it has set up a situation where the more money you have the more speech you can buy. That’s a threatening concept for democracy. If your party serves the powerful and well-funded interests, and there’s no limit to what you can spend, you have a permanent, structural advantage. We’re averaging fifty-dollar checks in our campaign, and trying to ward off these seven- or even eight-figure checks on the other side. That disparity is pretty striking, and so are the implications. In many ways, we’re back in the Gilded Age. We have robber barons buying the government.”

    David Axelrod

    The week in review

    Watching (selected parts of) the Republican National Convention this past week has accentuated the distinct feeling that we have been witnessing a gradual dismantling of democracy in America over the past fifteen years or so. The nadir so far was still the stolen election in 2000, closely followed by the disgraceful first election of George W. Bush on the backs of a vulnerable minority in 2004. However, the political deadlock in Congress for the past four years has been a dismaying spectacle to say the least, as has the Obama administration’s utter failure to correct the political abuses of its predecessors in its foreign policy.

    And now we’re getting myth-making on a grand scale, with bald-faced lying and deception the order of the day for the Republican candidacy. Romney seems to be the ultimate candidate of this particular moment in time. Entirely malleable in his effort to reach the majority that will win him the election, he is now running along with a right-wing ideologue whose approach to facts as something equally malleable was made apparent in his address on Wednesday. And with the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court in 2010, the stage is set not only for the mass propagation of these lies, but the further marginalization of the greater electorate.

    I know, politicians have always lied and American politics have long been dependent on special interest, it just seems to me that we are witnessing an accelerated decline these years. For all its disappointment, the Obama administration have achieved — or seemed to achieve — a few important victories for democracy, from ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to fledgling universal health care, but overall the prospects that the fundamental problems of the system by which they rule, starting with its dependence on big money, will be solved are bleaker than ever. This election will not even carry the entertainment value of the last one, it’ll just be depressing, but it will also be a real test of a severely tested democratic system.

    Links:

  • Jane Meyer at the New Yorker has written about the Obama administration’s relationship to its donors and the general dependence of American politicians on same, past Citizens United. Tying into this, this 2008 profile of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, one of Romney’s chief donors, is an illuminating read. Last, but not least, Matt Taibbi has written about Romney’s time at Bain Capital at Roling Stone.
  • Comics: R. Fiore on The Dark Knight Rises, Craig Fischer on Jack Kirby, Derik Badman on comics poetry, Dan Nadel on Mazzucchelli and Miller, Henry Sørensen and Morten Søndergård on fifty years of Spider-Man (Danish alert!).
  • The Week

    The week in review

    I’ve always had a feeling I witnessed the Lunar landing and the now sadly passed Neil Armstrong’s Moon walk live as it happened. So vivid are my memories of my dad opening his box of clippings and laying them out on our large dinner table when I was a kid. His narration of the landing, along with LIFE Magazine photos and news clippings from the summer of 69, was like being there. It probably merged with a contemporaneous rerun of clips on our black and white television to convince me that I was there as it happened. Only some years later did the fact that it had happened six years before I was born dawn on me.

    I guess the point here is that the Moon walk is such an extraordinary event, not just for science, but also for our collective imagination, that it continues to reverberate as if it just happened. At the same time, of course, it seems to belong to a different era. The optimism it expressed on our collective behalf seems naive and anachronistic, especially after the Obama administration’s mothballing of the NASA programme two years ago — something Armstrong strongly criticised. The recent launch of the Mars probe Curiosity is exciting, but manned space exploration seems like a chapter past. Sadly, because it seems to me an aspiration with the potential to unite us globally (however fleetingly) in a way few other things have ever done.

    See pictures and footage of the Apollo 11 mission at NASA’s website. Read fellow moonwalker Buzz Aldrin’s statement on his friend’s death here. And check out this nice appreciation by Ian Crouch of Armstrong’s way with words. Oh, and he also took one of the most mesmerising, beautiful photographs ever. Rest in Peace.

    Links:

  • Reportage from what is surely one of the most insane film projects ever attempted. A revival of Soviet Era reality by Ukrainian director Ilya Khrzhanovsky. Is it for real? (Thanks @Madinkbeard!)
  • Take a trip down memory lane with Complex Magazine’s list of 50 tracks released by Rawkus Records, James Murdoch’s vanity project before he started working full time for his dad. Rawkus was an incredible force for creative, innovative hip hop in the late nineties through the early naughts, until it all went sour.
  • Also, Hip hop legend Afrika Bambaata is working to create a hip hop museum in the Bronx Armory.
  • Noted film critic Christian Braad Thomsen on Hitchcock’s Vertigo, again. (Danish alert!)
  • Notes on the Passing of Chris Marker

    Last week saw the passing of filmmaker Chris Marker. I’m not that familiar with his work, unfortunately, but what I have seen I found touching on a kind of “pure cinema” level, where the elements of film come together to create something unique to the medium, achieving the kind of lyrical no so che that happens way too rarely in cinema. Very different, to be sure, but similar to the best moments of Andrei Tarkovsky’s work. Continue reading ‘Notes on the Passing of Chris Marker’

    The Week

    The week in review

    James Holmes who killed 12 people and wounded 58 last Friday at the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado was quickly christened the ‘Batman Killer’ in Danish media. Just one of those shortcuts the tabloids trade in, I suppose — it’s far from clear whether the gunman chose what movie to shoot up because of its content and it is, of course, a moot question to ask of such a tragedy.

    If anything, one might ask the whether it makes any sense at all that 100-round drums for full automatics can still be ordered on the internet, no questions asked. Or why this statistic, which speaks volumes as to the causality between gun ownership and gun fatality, remains acceptable for Americans.

    For somebody familiar with Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan’s comics sources, it seemed at least a little bit poignant that Frank Miller anticipated the Aurora massacre in the seminal Dark Knight Returns (1986). Appearing in a sequence detailing Batman-inspired vigilantism, it is to Miller’s credit that he here mocks the media’s tendency to jump to conclusions about the causality between fictional and actual crime, while clearly acknowledging that it exists.

    Links:

  • Petition to prevent the substitution of old master paintings with modern ones at the Berlin Gemäldegalerie. These plans for a radical reorganisation of the Berlin galleries would spoil one of the world’s best galleries and be a sad concession to the popular preference for modern art. Surely some other solution can be found? Please consider signing.
  • William Noel of the Walters Art Gallery on why sharing digital images of their collections online is good business and just the right thing to do for museums. It remains an uphill battle, but it seems things are changing re: museums hoarding the IP they’ve been given to share with the public.
  • New issues of academic journals on comics. Recently published, the first issue of the Scandinavian Journal of Comic Art is worth a look. As is the newest issue of ImageText.
  • A Good Ache?

    Sean Bean, looking vulnerable.


    Look, I’ve really been trying. Not only was I prepared to like Game of Thrones when first I sat down to watch the opening episode of HBO’s series last year, I’ve come back to it several times, figuring I might have missed something, since so many people of generally discerning taste have been raving about it. But sorry, despite the best efforts of the producers to put on a good-looking, big budget production, it is hard for me to see where it differs from a Live Action Role-Playing Game writ large. Lot of overpaid actors running around in the woods with styrofoam swords, throwing flour at each other. Plus lots of tits.

    I’ve also tried going to the source, figuring that the show might have got it all wrong. People have been singing the praises of this guy, George R. R. Martin, calling him “the American Tolkien” and stuff, and for all his faults, Tolkien is pretty damn great in my book. So I picked up the first volume in his endless cycle of 800-page novels and gave it a crack.

    Oh gawd. What’s there to like? I mean, really? The world-building is staid, consisting of every fantasy cliché you can imagine (hardened but pure Northerners, decadent big city politicians with worm-tongued advisors, and dark-skinned savages that are awesome in battle as well as in bed, etc.) And everything is named so generically — you’re in trouble when “King’s Landing” is the best you can come up with for a great city, and when “Ice” is your idea of a cool name for a sword.

    But the worst is the prose. I shall refrain from going on at length about it and merely flip through the book a random to give you a sample. This is on page 59. The righteous viking king (played by Sean Bean on TV) is haunted by doubts about a political move while his queen pines after him:

    The wind swirled around him and he stood facing the dark, naked and empty-handed. Catelyn pulled the furs to her chin and watched him. He looked somehow smaller and more vulnerable, like the youth she had wed in the sept at Riverrun, fifteen long years gone. Her loins still ached from the urgency of his lovemaking. It was a good ache. She could feel his seed within her. She prayed that it might quicken there. It had been three years since Rickon. She was not too old. She could give him another son.

    Please.

    The Week


    The week in review

    Whew! What a week. It seems the great things that have been brewing in Danish comics for the last few years are finally starting to make waves, what with a year of excellent and innovative homegrown comics, the resurrected Ping Awards, plans proceeding for an official educational track for comics makers at the fine Animation Workshop in Viborg, and the ambitious further development of the comics festival Komiks.dk, which has now changed its name to Copenhagen Comics and will once again be held in Øksnehallen, Copenhagen, in 2013 — bigger and better than ever, if the current signs are to be believed.

    It’s all still baby steps of course, and there’s a long way to go before we can talk about genuine consolidation in terms of financial security or cultural clout. As things are, much of all this is run on a volunteer basis and a shoestring budget and it remains hard to muster the support, public or private, for comics accorded to other art forms in the country.

    Still, the will seems to be there and good comics continue to be made. The photo above is from the release on Thursday of sometime Bunker denizen and my long-time collaborator (and Danish Comics Council chairman, and Ping director) Thomas Thorhauge’s latest comic, Det sidste ord (‘The Last Word’). The book compiles a series of strips done for the film section of the daily Politiken from 2009-2010, adding two longer, similar strips from elsewhere as well as a brand new one.

    The concept is one that harks back to “M”, his contribution to BLÆK, an anthology we edited together in 2006 — a comic reprinted in English in the Fantagraphics/Aben Maler production From Wonderland with Love. Thomas takes authentic quotes from figures of interest and illustrates them in comics form. In the case of the Politiken strips, the focus is a diverse range of personalities from cinema. (One, on Godard, is republished in English here).

    In the newspaper, they were primarily fun, satirical mini-portraits of the celebrities involved, but taken together they become much more than that — Thomas has been sensitive to certain types of quotes, dealing with issues of vanity, desire, aging, legacy, and death, and has crafted from them an acutely personal statement on life, all the while producing a very funny book. A direct jump from his last book’s youthful aspirations to something anticipating mid-life reflection. Give it a (second) look.

    Photo by Frederik Høyer-Christensen. The entire set is here.

    This week’s links:

  • Obama on Iran. The American President talks to Jeffrey Goldberg in anticipation of his meeting today with the Israeli Prime Minster and his address at AIPAC.
  • Carl Th. Dreyer on his métier. Recorded at the Copenhagen cinemathèque in 1968, Dreyer answers questions from film students a few weeks before his death. Fantastic, although sadly not subtitled in English (yet?). (Thanks @monggaard!)
  • Matt Seneca on Guido Crepax. A passionate examination of the comics of the Italian master. Replete with rather shaky assertions, but great on observation.
  • The Author’s Face?


    The Tintin movie makes good on the promise of not disgracing its august comics source. Spielberg is a pro and he delivers what he does best — a sense of adventure and possibility and a sufficiently sensitive approach to his film technology that his characters come alive despite the mo-cap plastic feel. The rewrite of the books (mainly The Secret of the Unicorn and The Crab with the Golden Claws) is well thought out and most of the characters are well realized, with good voice performances all round. The personal, slightly brooding and troubled subtext of Hergé’s work pretty much gets lost in the mix, but hey — this is a popcorn movie and a pretty good one.

    Spielberg hits a couple of false notes. Continue reading ‘The Author’s Face?’

    Picks of the Week

    “Of course London’s riots weren’t a political protest. But the people committing night-time robbery sure as hell know that their elites have been committing daytime robbery. Saqueos are contagious. The Tories are right when they say the rioting is not about the cuts. But it has a great deal to do with what those cuts represent: being cut off. Locked away in a ballooning underclass with the few escape routes previously offered – a union job, a good affordable education – being rapidly sealed off. The cuts are a message. They are saying to whole sectors of society: you are stuck where you are, much like the migrants and refugees we turn away at our increasingly fortressed borders.”

    – Naomi Klein

    The picks of the week from around the web.

  • “An Empty Regard,” William Deresiewicz on the American reverence for its troops. I’ve long been mystified by the unquestioned reverence in America for its military personnel. It depersonalizes their (often admirable) efforts and suggests that they are somehow inherently more valuable human beings than everyone else. Deresiewicz addresses the question smartly.
  • Naomi Klein on the UK riots. Often prone to hyperbole and tendentious hypothesizing, Klein remains a great rhetoritician and this eloquent op-ed piece very effectively situates the riots and the pathetic official reaction to them in a valuable perspective.
  • Harold Bloom on his influences. Speaking of great communicators, here’s Bloom on five great works of literary criticism and the decrepit state of literary studies. You can’t argue with him, you just wanna hug him.
  • Questlove on the last fifteen years (or so) in hip hop. One of the subculture’s greatest raconteurs offers some intriguing tidbits from his storybook, such as how Puffy screamed at him and his Roots cohorts for their player hating back in the gay nineties.
  • Nelson George on the Civil Rights struggle on film. Enlightening and pointed survey, offered on the occasion of the opening of The Help this week.
  • Beats, Rhymes, and Longevity


    I’ve been on a bit of a Tribe quick this last week, culminating Saturday at the Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival, where Q-Tip was the headliner. It was a bravura set by a born performer: Tip’s clear delivery, whether rapping, singing (weakly, but charmingly) or beatboxing, coupled with a tighly-knit band animating the Tribe compositions with live instruments, made for a great show.

    The icing on the cake was an all-star line-up of guests that included Monie Love (reluctantly performing “Monie in the Middle” before quickly absconding), an on point Sean Penn (not the mopey-faced actor), Black Thought from The Roots (spitting “Love of My Life and “The Next Movement”, tight as always, then backing up Tip on a crazy rendition of “Bonita Applebum”), Busta Rhymes (the crowd went wild when he appeared for “Scenario”, but it quickly turned into call-response; the real fyah was his insane verse from Chris Brown’s “Look at Me Now”) and Kanye West (rapping “Dark Fantasy” down among the crowd, dropping a couple of his pop joints, then acting plug 2 for Tip on “Award Tour”).

    For me the most enjoyable parts were elsewhere though. Continue reading ‘Beats, Rhymes, and Longevity’

    Count to Ten, Lars

    Congratulations to Nicolas Winding Refn for winning best director at Cannes. Well done, I’m looking forward to Drive, just as I hope to catch Terence Malick’s Palm-winner Tree of Life. I did however find shameful Refn’s callous disavowal — he was “repulsed” — of his mentor Lars von Trier’s extremely ill-advised, but ultimately harmless comments that got him banned from the festival earlier in the week.

    Look, what Trier said was clearly offensive, if taken at face value, and the press being the press of course immediately did so, reducing it to out-of-context soundbytes — “Trier admits to being a Nazi,” and so on. He did no such thing, and Refn of all people should understand Nordic irony when he hears it. This is a deeply ingrained way of joking in Scandinavia, and anybody who has followed Trier just a little bit, at his Cannes press conferences perhaps more than anywhere, would know that he relishes this kind of humor, and has a tendency to talk out of his ass. Refn is right when he says that Danes can be parochial and insensitive — witness the Muhammad cartoons — but how about sticking up for your embattled colleague instead of choosing the easy way out?

    The real disgrace in all this, however, is the festival board of directors’ decision to expel Trier. Continue reading ‘Count to Ten, Lars’

    Picks of the Week

    The picks of the week from around the web.

  • The Daily Show on the “Common Controversy,” parts one and two. Wednesday, Jon Stewart performed an epic takedown of the ridiculous hype machine that is Fox News. Extra hilarity ensured by the fact that the source of it all is one of the most anodyne rappers working today. First segment above, click through to the second once you’ve seen it! Also, Stewart’s crew pulled out the funniest scene from the underrated hip hop Spinal Tap spoof CB4 for their opening segment on Thursday.
  • Speaking of takedowns, this skewering of 90s po-mo and the ‘cultural turn’ by Kevin Mattson writing for Dissent Magazine is an instructive, if surely tendentious history lesson, that may seem to have it in for Andrew Ross, but actually proves redemptive too (thanks Andreas!).
  • Tezuka shorts. The ever trusty MetaFilter provides links to a handful of the great Tezuka Osamu’s short animation films.
  • Finally, I enjoyed Matt Seneca’s examination of a bunch of comics as criticism. Some good ideas and observations in there.