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Archive for January 6th, 2016

american-1

 © 2015 by James Clark

      Here we go, into a New Year (we definitely won’t call it the Year of the Ram or the Sheep or the Goat); and here we go kicking up a notch our not setting great store by “spoilers.” Anton Corbijn’s The American (2010) could be mistaken to be primarily a “suspense thriller” and judged as such. An American go-getter, Jack by name, has come upon some quality control issues in his career of murdering highly placed government and corporate trouble-making functionaries (like spies, expensive underachievers and other irritants and embarrassments) and his contemptuous and unforgiving manager salts him away in Italy and gives him the (low-key) assignment of producing a special gun which in fact is slated to dispose of him. A skirmish in that climax shows him dodging that bullet but being shot dead anyway.

Corbijn could not in truth care less what you think to be the thrills quotient of that eventuation. As a cog in the movie industry he has to cover his ass with a Hollywood star (George Clooney), some attractive women (nude or otherwise) and some attractive cinematography. In this artisanal web, he quite closely occupies the same boat as Jack, where one wrong step spells death (of some kind). The pragmatic underbelly of our helmsman’s craft is exceptionally bathed in epiphantic atmosphere. That disclosure constitutes the heart of the film, an adjunct of endeavor pretending (for the sake of the market) to stand by a beginning, a middle and an end, but in fact offering depths and real, not vicarious, shocks to ponder for a lifetime. (more…)

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stanley 1

by Sam Juliano

If he were alive today, H. G. Wells would be the world’s biggest fan of Jon Agee’s It’s Only Stanley.  But heck, Jules Verne would be a member of the picture book’s fan club too.  It isn’t too far off the mark either that romantics would be touting its virtues as well.  Right down to the Victorian mansion, where some perverse nocturnal activities are played out, this is a book with nineteenth-century sensibilities despite the modern era familial trappings.  The Wimbleton family are obviously intimidated by their ever-resourceful beagle, a handy man extraordinaire whose scientific and mechanical tinkerings are perfectly attuned to his comprehensive brand of home maintenance.  The family’s patriarch never becomes unhinged at Stanley’s increasingly alarming activities, setting them aside matter-of-factly with the repeated titular utterance.  The Wimbletons are not deep thinkers, though aside from Dad they all would very much appreciate a good night’s sleep, even if it gives clearance to a defining event in space travel.  No they aren’t quite in a league with James Marshall’s The Stupids but they won’t be earning any points for attentiveness.

Agee’s pleasing non-conformity with the story’s launching is a single drawing before the title page where Stanley hears a “Howoooooo” from the sky while sleeping on the porch.  He deciphers the actual location of the wail on the title page, and on the next panel we see Mom and Pa Wimbleton in bed reacting to Wilma’s swearing that she heard a spooky sound.  Walter and the family feline spot Stanley howling back to the moon. outside the house, and Dad reports back to the family that there is nothing to get unhinged about.  But before long there is another even louder disturbance and Agee frames it like he does throughout in fabulous rhyme scheme: (more…)

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