Fantasia, Day 11, Part 2: Wilderness Parts One and Two, and Parallel

Saturday, August 18th, 2018 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

WildernessI like to make out a rough schedule for Fantasia well ahead of time. But things always change. You hear things about movies as the festival goes on. What seems important a few days out seems less important in the moment. And then some choices are just hard to make. On Sunday July 22 I had one of those tough choices, which I’ll walk through here for the sake of recreating a bit of the subjective experience of Fantasia.

The Hall Theatre would host Our House, a science-fictional horror film, at 4:45. Then The Witch: Part 1. The Subversion, an action-superhero film, at 6:45; then I Am A Hero, a Japanese zombie film, at 9:15. On the other hand, starting at 4:20, the J.A. De Sève would host a five-hour-plus screening of a near-future boxing story called Wilderness, a two-film series playing here back-to-back with a brief intermission between the two parts. That would be followed by a science-fictional suspense film called Parallel at 9:45.

I was initially planning to stick with the movies at the Hall. Then I began to reconsider. The Witch and Hero had second screenings. Parallel did not. That meant it made more sense to watch that one, and catch Hero on its second screening on the 23rd. Witch had a question-and-answer session afterward, which I wouldn’t get at the second screening. But I found myself intensely curious about Wilderness. It was a bold programming choice to schedule a five-hour block. And I wondered how its setting would inform its story; it was adapted from a novel written and set in the 1960s. I decided at the last minute to choose Wilderness over Our House. I missed what I later learned was a touching question-and-answer session, where the lead of The Witch was surprised with the festival’s award for Best Actress. But in terms of the movies I ended up seeing, I was quite pleased.

Wilderness (Ah, kôya, あゝ、荒野) was directed by Yoshiyuki Kishi and written by Takehiko Minato based on the novel by Shuji Terayama. Terayama’s Ah, kôya was published as a serial in 1965, and in one volume the year after; the film’s set in 2021, imagining a near future filled with social unrest. As the government mulls over legislation imposing a kind of conscription on Japan’s youth, and the numbers of suicides spike upward, two different men are drawn to take up boxing. One, Shinji (Masaki Suda, who voiced the lead in Fireworks and appeared in Gintama, Death Note: Light Up the New World, and the Assassination Classroom movies), is looking for revenge on a former friend, Yuji, who himself has taken up boxing. The other, the introverted stuttering Kenji (Ik-joon Yang), finds boxing is simply something he can do, something in which he can take confidence, something that might help him stand up to his abusive father. Both men are trained by gym owner Horiguchi (Yûsuke Santamaria, the voice of Hideo in Giovanni’s Island) as they learn how to box and go pro. A subplot sees a group of college activists planing an art project about the rise of suicides across the country.

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Deadpool Writer Gerry Duggan Creates New Image Series: Analog

Saturday, August 18th, 2018 | Posted by Derek Kunsken

Analog Image 1-small

Many people know Gerry Duggan from his long run as the writer of Deadpool, or possibly as a TV writer on Attack of the Show. He’s recently paired with artist David O’Sullivan, colorist Mike Spicer and letterer Joe Sabino on Analog, a future noir action comedy Image comic set in a world where internet communications are not secure. The first trade is coming out soon, and a feature film adaptation is in the works at Lionsgate with the director of the John Wick trilogy, Chad Stahelski.

In the world they’ve created, computers and internet are no longer secure, so valuable corporate information must be carried by private couriers, who go armed and anonymous.

Jack McGuinness is one such courier, who has to fight his way through a lot of resistance to deliver his packages. His larger problem is that NSA’s surveillance function is also adapting to the analog world and he’s part of their answer. I managed to catch up with Gerry and David for an e-interview.

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Fantasia 2018, Day 11, Part 1: Fireworks and Lôi Báo

Friday, August 17th, 2018 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

FireworksI knew Sunday, July 22, was going to be a long day for me at Fantasia. That was a good thing: it meant I’d be watching a lot of movies. At a certain point, I knew I’d have to make a choice about which ones I’d be seeing. But at least the first two were set in my mind, both playing at the Hall Theatre. The first was Fireworks, an anime tween love story with a time-twisting aspect. The second was Lôi Báo, a Vietnamese super-hero movie.

Fireworks, or to give its full title, Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or The Bottom? (Uchiage hanabi, shita kara miru ka? Yoko kara miru ka?, 打ち上げ花火、下から見るか?横から見るか?), was directed by Akiyuki Shinbo and Nobuyuki Takeuchi from a script by Hitoshi Ohne, and is based on a 1995 film of the same name written and directed by Shunji Iwai. It follows youngsters Norimichi (Masaki Suda, Gintama, Death Note: Light Up the New World, Assassination Classroom, Princess Jellyfish) and Nazuna (voiced by Suzu Hirose, the lead in Laplace’s Witch), schoolmates in a seaside Japanese town. One morning, the morning her mother plans to leave town with her, Nazuna finds a strange glass sphere. Norimichi has a crush on her and had been planning to ask her to watch a large fireworks display with him that evening, but things go awry and Nazuna chooses to go with Norimichi’s friend Yusuke (Mamoru Miyano) instead. Only, at about the halfway point of the film, everything changes: a secret property of the strange glass sphere emerges, and the day begins again with Norimichi given another chance to get together with Nazuna.

Stylistically, this is a very realistic-looking movie with a few departures into fantasy sequences. Lighting effects, as you might imagine given the title, are extensive and often beautiful. This is a bright film in general with highly saturated colours. The design and direction works with the animation to create a strong sense of place — the village feels like a real hillside village, laid out in three dimensions. You get the idea swiftly where everything is relative to everything else, and a few shots of the town as a whole help. The character animation is mostly effective; I didn’t notice especially subtle touches to Norimichi or the boys he hung around with, but their body language does do a decent job of establishing who they are. The coltish Nazuna’s a little more distinctive, with a dream sequence near the end giving a sense of her character through movement (as well as through exposition and imagery).

Narratively, the movie uses a setup not unlike Groundhog Day, with a protagonist who gets to live through a day and change things as needed. Fireworks presents a useful twist, though, in that the world around Norimichi gets a little smaller and a little more deformed each time he does this. You can see that the final version of the world won’t be stable. But then you can also see that there are limits to how much the young people in this film can affect the world in any case; their ability to connect with each other is limited by circumstance, and in a way that’s what the movie’s about. If one of the characteristics of a fireworks display is its intensity, another is its transience: however beautiful, fireworks fade.

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The Mercutio Effect

Friday, August 17th, 2018 | Posted by Violette Malan

MercutioI’m sure most of you know this, but just in case: There’s a character in the play Romeo and Juliet that Shakespeare kills off. He’s a friend of Romeo’s named Mercutio. It’s his murder that leads to Romeo’s killing Juliet’s cousin, and everything goes down hill from there. So you can see how important Mercutio is from a plot/narrative point of view.

There’s something special about this particular character, though. He’s very witty, very quick, has some great lines/scenes. Actors of my acquaintance say they love to play him. He’s so popular, in fact, that the story is Shakespeare killed him off (instead of one of Romeo’s other friends) because he was a more interesting character than Romeo himself. After all, the play’s not called “Mercutio and Juliet” – though now that I think about it, that would have made a great play too, but probably not a tragedy.

Are secondary (or even tertiary) characters always doomed to die when they are more interesting than the lead? In fact, isn’t it necessary that the audience likes and cares about characters before you kill them? Certainly it happens that way in a movie, or in a novel for that matter. We’re always being told (and we tell others) that you have to make the audience/reader invest emotionally in characters that you plan to kill.

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Shirley Manson: Killer Android

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018 | Posted by Steve Carper

Shirley Manson the-world-is-not-enough still 7

Did you know there are more than 200 rock songs (using rock as loosely as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame does) about robots? The first one — this is real, because it’s too weird to be made up — was “Robot Man,” sung by 50s rock diva Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero, better known as Connie Francis.

Mmm, we’d have a steady da-ate (yay-yay-yay-yay)
Seven nights a wee-eek (yay-yay-yay-yay)
And we would never fi-ight (yay-yay-yay-yay)
‘Cause it would be impossible for him to speak

With robots being as wonderfully visual as they are, it’s surprising that so few robot rock songs have accompanying music videos, although one exception is … “Robot Rock” by Kraftwerk. Their robots are extremely dull form is function, in the best Bauhaus tradition. Not much snazzier are those in the short film Styx used in concert by during their Mr. Roboto tour.

The one that blows all the others away, in typically loopy rock serendipity, has nothing whatsoever to do with a robot song or with its source material at all.

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Fifteen Years Gone: Water Sleeps by Glen Cook, Part 1

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

Water Sleeps.

In their homes, in the shadowed alleyways, in the city’s ten thousand temples, nervous whispers never cease. The Year of the Skulls. The Year of the Skulls. It is an age when no gods die and those that sleep keep stirring restlessly.

In their homes, in the shadowed alleyways or fields of grain or in the sodden paddies, in the pastures and forests and tributary cities, should a comet be seen in the sky or should an unseasonable storm strew devastation or, particularly, if the earth should shake, they murmur, “Water sleeps.” And they are afraid.

oie_1372930SSs2Hx7jI wish I had managed to finish the ninth Black Company book, Water Sleeps (1999), in a single go because, after two frustrating choppy books, Cook is back on his game. Yes, it’s very different than the bloody, battle-focused earlier books, but Water Sleeps, so far, is a tight story with narrative complexity, brutal twists, and more world-building than any of the others.

The previous volume, She is the Darkness, ended with most of the Black Company’s senior officers  — Croaker, Lady, and Murgen — and several important prisoners — the Prahbrindrah Drah of Taglios, Howler, and Lisa Bowalk — trapped by Soulcatcher and held in stasis on the demon-haunted plain of Glittering Stone.

As Water Sleeps opens, we quickly learn that Croaker et al. have been imprisoned for nearly fifteen years. Murgen’s Standardbearer-in-training, Sleepy, is acting Captain, aided by Murgen’s Nyueng Bao wife, Shara, and the increasingly feeble One-Eye and Goblin. Soulcatcher has declared herself Protector of Taglios, has made the Radisha Drah little more than a puppet, and has rendered her councilors toothless. For a decade and a half, the survivors of the Company have been hunting for a way to free their colleagues from Soulcatcher’s trap, while constantly reminding her that the Black Company never lets a betrayal go unpunished.

Sleepy is not only Captain, she’s also the Company’s Annalist. In her hands, there’s greater attention paid to politics and culture than in the other volumes. Unlike Croaker and Lady, Sleepy doesn’t see Soulcatcher and the other power brokers in Taglios just as obstacles. They are part of a complicated nexus of power centers and religious beliefs. Through her, Cook explores and underscores how they manage to run a vast realm. She’s also the only narrator in any of the books who has religious beliefs. When she explains the three main religions of Taglios — Gunni, Shadar, and her own Vehdna — she does it with a degree of sympathy absent from Croaker’s or Lady’s books.

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Day Keene

Monday, August 13th, 2018 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Gat_KeeneGander“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

“The Bloody Tide” appeared in the June, 1950 issue of Dime Detective. John D. MacDonald (my favorite writer) also appeared that month. Both men had stories in the May issue as well, with JDM scoring the cover.

The story opens with Charlie White being released from a Florida prison after serving three years for smuggling. He’s given some advice by another inmate on Death Row to go straight and stay on the outside. Get back to working on the water, even if it’s a menial job. Wouldn’t be much of a story if that’s how things go, though, would it?

White’s lover (not his wife) is waiting outside for him and drives him to a secluded beach cabin. He’s going to get back into that fast life again. While he was in jail, $1,000 had been deposited monthly into his bank account, presumably by the ‘big man,’ who he felt had cast him to the wolves.

‘The Devil came up behind me and pushed. To hell with Beth [his wife]. To hell with everything, I thought. To hell with trying to kill Senor Peso. In his way the guy had played square with me. Why should I try to goose into his grave an egg who laid so many golden pesos?’

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The Complete Carpenter: In the Mouth of Madness (1994)

Saturday, August 11th, 2018 | Posted by Ryan Harvey


“I think, therefore you are.”

—Sutter Cane (Do you read Sutter Cane?)

John Carpenter’s career couldn’t have taken a sharper turn than to go from the impersonal director-for-hire Memoirs of an Invisible Man, targeted toward a mainstream date-night audience, to In the Mouth of Madness, a highly personal film aimed at the narrowest and most specific audience of horror lovers possible. Of course, In the Mouth of Madness was a financial failure — the biggest at that point in Carpenter’s career. And, in a familiar pattern, it’s now revered and widely considered John Carpenter’s last great film. (I hope this turns out to be false, because Carpenter is still alive and I want him to direct again. Still, the odds of him turning out something better at this point … yeah, wouldn’t take that bet.)

I analyzed In the Mouth of Madness for Black Gate in 2014 for its debut on Blu-ray. As cosmic fate would have it, this next entry in my John Carpenter retrospective falls right at the release of a new special edition Blu-ray from Shout! Factory, giving me an opportunity to make a few new observations. Not that I might run out of things to talk about when it comes to a layered, strange, cerebral, and unapologetically nerdy flick like In the Mouth of Madness. This one will drive you absolutely mad!

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A (Black) Gat in the Hand: The Phantom Crook, Ed Jenkins (Erle Stanley Gardner)

Monday, August 6th, 2018 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Gat_GardnerPic“You’re the second guy I’ve met within hours who seems to think a gat in the hand means a world by the tail.” – Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep

(Gat — Prohibition Era term for a gun. Shortened version of Gatling Gun)

Erle Stanley Gardner is well-remembered as the creator of Perry Mason, star of over eighty novels, radio and tv. The famed defense attorney (portrayed by Raymond Burr) started out as something of a hardboiled PI in the first ten or so novels before settling into ‘lawyer mode.’

And Gardner also wrote thirty novels featuring Bertha Cool and Donald Lam (who you know ALL about from reading this post and this post here at Black Gate!). Gardner was the definition of a prolific pulpster, writing over one million words a year for over a decade: while working as a lawyer!

After many rejections, Gardner finally made the pages of Black Mask (under the name of Charles M. Green). in the December 15, 1923 issue of Black Mask with “The Shrieking Skeleton.” His seventh story to make the magazine was “Beyond the Law” and it featured Ed Jenkins, ‘The Phantom Crook.’

Jenkins appeared seventy-two times from 1925 to 1943 and made Gardner one of the Black Mask mainstays, alongside Dashiell Hammett, Carroll John Daly and Raoul Whitfield. He brought Jenkins back in the sixties for the short novel The Blonde in Lower Six in Argosy, which was owned by his old friend, Harry Steeger.

Jenkins almost didn’t make it to print. In early drafts, Jenkins committed a cold-blooded murder. Assistant editor Harry C. North wrote to Gardner that heroizing such a man wasn’t the sort of thing that he felt the magazine should be publishing. The author responded accordingly.

“Hell’s Kettle” was the second of a linked trilogy and appeared in the June, 1930 issue of Black Mask. “The Crime Crusher” was included in the May issue and “Big Shot” wrapped things up in July. The June issue also included the fourth and final installment of what became Dashiell Hammet’s novel, The Glass Key, as well as Carroll John Day’s “Tainted Power,” which featured Race Williams and The Flame.

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When Is A Spinoff Not A Spinoff?

Friday, August 3rd, 2018 | Posted by Violette Malan

BuffyIt’s impossible to talk about remakes of any kind, as I do here, here, and here, without eventually having to consider spinoffs. I want to start by saying that by “spinoff” I mean that an existing character is given their own show, either after the end of the original series, or concurrently with it. And by TV franchises, on the other hand, I mean two or more different versions of the same show.

Aside: I think movie franchises are more a species of sequel. Star Trek? That’s tricky. Are they spinoffs? Reboots? Franchises? All of the above?

It looks as though comedies are the most likely type of TV program to be successfully spun off. If we go back to the early 1970’s we’ll find that All in the Family (1971-1979) was spun off into two series, The Jeffersons (1975-1985), and Maude (1972-1978). What people often overlook, is that the series Good Times (1974-1979) was actually spun off from Maude. Making All in the Family a kind of grandparent program.

These new series were all true spinoffs, going by my definition. Both George Jefferson and Maude Findlay were recurring characters on the original series who captured the interest of the audience enough that they were given their own shows. The same was true for Maude’s maid/housekeeper Florida, whose home life was spun off into Good Times. You’ll notice that there was a considerable amount of overlap in terms of TV seasons between all 4 shows.

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