A Slice of Fried Gold

Slices of Fried Gold - 11/2/08

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Yay for more recommendations from me! I hope some people actually follow through on checking some of the stuff out that I recommend. I try to temper my excitement about things before I write about them (if only not to look back and say "wait, did I really like that"), that way you don't go in expecting something different than I present. No less, some more great recommendations below that I fully support. Check them out!

Movies: Zack and Miri Make a Porno (Written and directed by Kevin Smith)

I've always liked Kevin Smith. I feel like what he lacks in dynamic visuals as a director, he more than makes up in entertainment provided by his scripts. They are always pop culture laden, crude as all get out, and nerdy beyond words, so of course I'm going to appreciate them. They also have a tendency to have plenty of heart, or at least be about dealings of the heart at their core. Another check mark for me to enjoy them.

With that said, Smith's newest film Zack and Miri Make a Porno doesn't feel like a Kevin Smith movie. It is his first movie where it doesn't necessarily look or feel like a Kevin Smith movie, although that is probably because it is his first movie he's done that entirely avoids his Askewniverse (let's just ignore Jersey Girl). The movie is all the better for it, as it is full of great comedic performances (Elizabeth Banks is incredibly charming and Craig Robinson is the man), great dialogue, and a lot of heart. It also manages to avoid the pitfalls of goofy antics that Smith has a tendency to go down, and is all the better for it.

I'm not going to call it Smith's best movie (I really love Chasing Amy and Dogma) but it's definitely a return to form and his first step into making really well rounded movies without the same crutches he's always needed before. It is absolutely hysterical though, and features perhaps the single most disgusting thing I've ever seen. Now that is a hell of a thing. Recommended for those who don't mind rather crude...well, entire movies.

Comics: Guerrillas (written and drawn by Brahm Revel)

When I was growing up and just getting into comics, Image Comics was the challenger to the throne of the comic world. Based off the talent of the creators who formed the publisher (well, talent is a fair term for most of them, I'll use deal with the devil for Rob Liefeld), sales were huge at the beginning.

However, it represented everything that was wrong with the industry. It thrived on pure style without the requisite substance, and almost led to the medium losing all power in the public.

The industry survived though, and so did Image, although it's no longer the potential giant it was then. Now it still has some of the same books running around, but it has the support of newer creators who work for them on creator owned projects based around substance - not style. Guerrillas is a great example of that, as writer/artist Brahm Revel started as an artist on books for them, but moved into this creator owned project.

The first issue ($5.99 per issue for nearly 2.5 times the size of a normal comic) set up the story as a young soldier in Vietnam who didn't want to be there, who was surviving the pressures of war but not exactly thriving. He was mostly despised by those around him and was essentially just serving time in a jungle prison. Revel captures these moments incredibly well, and puts us in the strange place to both understand and despise the character, not unlike Jeremy Davies Corporal Upham in Saving Private Ryan.

Then his entire unit is massacred towards the end, and the main character is saved by what can best be described as shadowy combat monkeys. I did not see that coming. I was bewildered, but definitely wanted to pick up the next issue. That issue came out, and Revel's storytelling continued to be excellent even given the bizarre turn. Clayton (the soldier) has to earn the trust of the chimps, while we begin learning the background of them as we meet a slew of new characters. It's all told with a sure hand by Revel the writer, and drawn with style and clean lines by Revel the artist.

Small books like this that are excellent are few and far between, but really deserve support. Comics like this are everything that the average person believes that comics aren't. Smart, personal, and sharp. If you read comics, I wholeheartedly recommend this book to you.

Music: Beirut

I've talked about Zach Condon and his bizarre eastern European influenced folk rock outfit before, as they were in my top 10 for albums in 2007 with their release the Flying Club Cup. However, recently I've begun to appreciate them in a whole new way, as I've been completely addicted to both of their albums recently.

I've found that it's a near perfect pairing with much that I've been reading lately, and just reading in general. The string sections, the horns, the organ, the warble of Condon, it's like a Steampunk dream come true, and something I've grown to appreciate more with each additional listen. I'd suggest starting with Cup first as it may be slightly easier for the average listener to pick up, but Gulag Orkestar is excellent as well.


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