A Slice of Fried Gold


Sunday, November 9, 2008

This weekend I was laying on my couch watching TV, recovering from the hectic evening the Roots concert presented and preparing myself for a sojourn into the midtown Mecca (my beloved stretch of road that includes my most frequently visited commerce based locations - Kaladi's, Middle Way, Boscos's), when I found myself engrossed in Hellboy. It was playing on TNT HD, and as much as I hated having to watch commercials and desired to put in my DVD to watch instead, the ramificiations of the previous night strictly disallowed this.

Which was fine.

Commercials allowed mini-naps and jaunts to other locations in my house to perform other duties (a little laundry here, dishes there, drinking a gallon of water and downing four advil as well...), so all was good. However, watching that movie and the barrage of Hellboy II: the Golden Army commercials really got me thinking about all of the things out there that gets ignored because of the whims of the audience and all of the crap that makes the big bucks and earns all the praise. So here I have a few little nuggets I want to share, because you know me: I love sharing my opinion on anything and everything, especially when it comes to what is over and underrated.

Movies: Underrated - Dark City (written and directed by Alex Proyas). Overrated - Any studio movie by Guillermo Del Toro.

While watching Hellboy, I couldn't get over the fact that there was simply something wrong with it. Overall it's a decent enough movie, but there is just something...off about the whole thing. Then the commercials for Hellboy II kicked in and I kept thinking about what a monumental trainwreck that was overall. Then I got to thinking about Blade II. At about that point, I started to wonder, can Guillermo Del Toro, visual genius and well regarded auteur, do anything right when it comes to making American studio films?

Don't get me wrong, I love Pan's Labyrinth, but that was Del Toro on his own turf. Pretty much everything he's made in America has been well regarded, but for the most part it's average at best (or it wishes it was).

Yet you have Dark City, a dynamic, methodical, and flat out brilliant sci-fi film featuring huge concepts and actual substance. Alex Proyas made an absolutely amazing comic book movie that wasn't even based off a comic, it just represented all of the high concept yet grounded in substance style you'd want out of a movie of the sort. Yet it didn't even clear $15 million dollars and to this day it has hardly even found an audience. People even claim that it was a rip off of the Matrix, which doesn't make for a number of reasons, most obviously the fact it came out before the Matrix.

The point is, Proyas made an incredible film, yet has made only two movies since. Del Toro on the other hand is an industry golden boy without any real success (in my eyes) in American film.

Sometimes, there isn't any justice.

Alan Moore Comics: Overrated - Watchmen. Underrated - Top 10.

Oh my! Did I really say that? Did I say the universally praised Watchmen was overrated? How could I do so? Well, I would like to say that I do quite like Watchmen. It's an extremely good comic book and I understand why people like it a lot. What's not to like? Moore is at peak form here, you have Dave Gibbons supplying fantastic pencils, and you have an extremely relevant and engaging story.

What I question isn't it's quality, which it is, just those that claim that it is the pinnacle of the comic book artform. To me, I'd take Preacher. I'd take Y the Last Man. Hell, even in terms of the universally loved comics, I'd probably take Maus over it. It just doesn't have the personal feel that I think makes a great piece of art a masterpiece.

On the other hand, Top 10 is a work from later in Moore's career that many overlooked. It was from his publising line - America's Best Comics - that featured his more highly regarded runs on Tom Strong and Promethea. Lost in that web of incredible works was Top 10, which was like a procedural cop drama in a world where everyone had powers. Except one that was long on interpersonal relationships and short on fictional forensic procedures. Okay, perhaps it was long on that too, but go with me here.

In recent years, Top 10 has started to earn a modicum of the praise it deserves, especially with Wizard naming issue #8 from season 1 the best single issue since I've been alive (whatever that means). But at the same time, I think it deserves to be held in the same regard of his best work, including Watchmen.

Overrated movies: Sunset Blvd. (Directed by Billy Wilder)

When I was at the library today, I was checking out works by H.P. Lovecraft due to my recent addiction to anything and everything Mike Mignola related, and while reading the inside cover of At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels by Lovecraft, I noticed something that really struck home about what I wanted to say about Sunset Blvd., the 26th highest rated movie of all time according to IMDB.

About Lovecraft's work, the editor (or someone) said, "At the Mountains of Madness remains one of the few works of American science fiction from the 1930's that can be read today for genuine literary pleasure rather than dutiful historical interest."

That is the exact point I'd like to make about older movies. Because I loved movies so much, in college I started watching much older movies to brush up on the classics. I started light, with the pop genius that was most of the work from the late 60's and 70's. Then I moved onto the hard stuff, and what stood out in particular was Sunset. That movie went down like the molasses my parents gave me when I was little to get over a cough. Slowly and disgustingly. My quest to bone up on the classics became "dutiful historical interest" at that exact moment, and also ended permanently then.

Gloria Swanson may have been anxiously awaiting her close up, but my god, I was anxiously awaiting a good movie to appear. I was not expecting a boring trainwreck. Sometimes though, that's what you get.

Also overrated: Shakespeare in Love, Brokeback Mountain.

Underrated music: the 88 - Over and Over

I came across this randomly one day when I was in at the radio station I DJ'd at in college. I was looking for new albums to review, when I impulsively grabbed this off a semi-interesting description on the cover. This is precious pop defined. Precious pop is a genre Hannah and I invented to describe Dr. Dog, but it works incredibly well for this as well. Full of instantly hummable melodies, hand claps, and more hooks than you'd find in your average marina, I immediately fell in love and waited for this one to inevitably blow up.

I still am waiting.

Seriously people.

This album is really freaking good, yet I could probably poll 1,000 people in my city and I'd say at most, 5 people will have heard of it, if even that. That makes me very, very sad.

Also underrated: Anathallo's Floating World, the Elected's Sun Sun Sun, Phantom Planet's the Guest.


Troy Olson said...

Hmm, the Watchmen comment I'll have to ponder on. Needless to say, if it wasn't overrated before, it surely will be after the movie comes out (or perhaps, like all other Alan Moore based films, the movie will make the the source material underrated again -- the irony!).

Needless to say Top Ten is indeed underrated (I'll include the Moore written issues of Tom Strong as being equally underrated) and doesn't get much discussion when Moore's works are being talked about.

On the same note, you don't every hear about 1963, which is my personal favorite "fun" series Moore ever did. Not sure if you've read it before, but I'm sure the whole series can be had cheap off of Ebay.

And quickly -- Dark City >>>>>>>> The Matrix. In twenty years, when the Matrix cult has died off, everyone else will understand this and agree.

David Harper said...

Watchmen being overrated has always been something I believed in. I really like it, it's just I never get the same level of enjoyment that others do. Most people I know say, without a doubt, that it's the best comic they've ever read. There is absolutely no way I could say that without lying.

I really actually liked all of Moore's ABC work, in particular Top 10 and then Tom Strong. They're both underrated in terms of Moore's works.

I have never even heard of 1963! I'm going to have to check that out, it sounds pretty interesting (and like Moore really hates Marvel).

Thank god someone else is a huge fan of Dark City. Most people have never even heard of it, let alone genuinely appreciate it. I can't believe it's hardly even become a cult classic. It deserves that status at least.

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