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#13: Favorite movies

Coloring comics & movie movies movies!

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If I’m going to sing like someone else, then I don’t need to sing at all.

Billie Holiday

I heard this fine bit of wisdom from Brian McDonald’s excellent podcast, You Are A Storyteller. I tried to editorialize on it (I’ve written & deleted several paragraphs so far) but it speaks for itself.

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What I’m working on

It’s been nearly 2 weeks since I stopped taking allergy meds, and after being waylaid last week by post 2nd dose side effects, this was my most productive week in well over a month. I still had some brain fog as I’ve been binging on sugar and dairy (a last hurrah before I get back to being healthy) but I made a lot of progress on those damn 5 pages I’ve been working on for what feels like forever.

Mostly I’m learning that while I love the look of colored comics, I don’t like coloring – it just feels like busywork. Especially when flatting takes forever because I didn’t close all the gaps when inking.

(Facepalm)

Gorilla Monsoon
Gorilla Monsoon, in a rare out-of-tuxedo shot.

I’m gonna finish the coloring this weekend, put the pages online, and move on to making more comics but only in black & white. Which means I really need to improve my inking, which should be a fun exercise in mental flagellation. Colors tend to distract from mediocre inks but my laziness is forcing me to face the mediocrity head on.

As Gorilla Monsoon said, THE IRRESISTIBLE FORCE MEETS THE IMMOVABLE OBJECT.

Mediocrity or laziness: you can only choose one.

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My favorite movies

I’ve had this topic in mind for awhile, and would have written about it sooner had I not been zombified by allergy meds. This was the first week in ages where I actually considered what I wanted to write about this morning. It’s been pushed forward by discussion of influences in mythology in a couple of groups & Discord servers.

When I was a kid, I thought my favorite movies would be my favorites forever – and I was pretty much right. It was only when I was older that I realized that my tastes hadn’t changed all that much, and that what I liked at 30 (and now nearly 50) was almost the same as what I liked when I was 10.

The Beastmaster
This movie was literally random plot points and no structure. Also, they dyed a tiger black.

The caveats are:

  • The core of what I liked stayed the same, though my interests expanded
  • Some things I loved as a kid don’t work as well as an adult because their writing or production values are garbage (ex: Thundarr the Barbarian & The Beastmaster, both of which are terribly written)

Realizing that my tastes hadn’t changed when I was 30-ish resulted in a big shift in my outlook on parenting. I realized that had I been left to follow my childhood interests (discussed below), I would have been a lot happier than just working for money.

I resolved to not shoehorn my childrens’ interests & activities, pay attention to their aptitudes, and support them in whatever they wanted to pursue. The last thing I want them to do is spend Friday and Saturday nights like younger me, trying too hard to forget about work (aka the 40+ hour reminder of not being myself).

(You know I can’t write without mentioning something depressing…)

On to the actual list of movies. These are my criteria for what makes a Favorite Movie:

  • I don’t get bored of it. Note that I don’t do anything ridiculous, like watch it every day for two months straight. I just do the normal viewing and feel satiated until the next time.
  • I watch it at least once a year. Something about these movies speaks to me, to the point that I need to watch them regularly.
  • I can talk about them, endlessly. Or I would, if I could find someone else who also liked a particularly movie to an excessive extent like me.
  • I want to share the experience with as many people as possible. I tend to be extremely hung ho about stuff I like (ask my peers at Kids Comics Unite about which Procreate brushes I proselytize).

Last thing: the list isn’t ranked. The first two are the two mind blowing movie theatre experiences I had as a kid, but the rest are in no particular order.

Without any further adieu…

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Favorite movies Raiders of the Lost Ark
Now that I know how heavy gold is, I realize that his estimate was pretty bad.

You know you’re contemporaneous with this movie if you call it Raiders and not Indiana Jones. It’s just Raiders – Lucas tacked on ‘Indiana Jones and’ once he started making sequels.

(That was probably the first clue that he was going to fuck up Star Wars since he couldn’t leave well enough alone.)

Imagine being 9y old me, who’s into mythology, folklore, and archaeology. I was raised with Hindu mythology, one of my favorite books was D’Aulaire’s Greek Myths, and I thought Howard Carter was the shit (he’s the guy who discovered King Tut’s tomb). At the time, I wanted to be an archaeologist (I gave up the idea a year or two later when I somehow determined that there was nothing else to be found :/).

That kid’s first western movie in a theatre was Raiders of the Lost Ark. I doubt a more perfect film could have been made for me.

I’m thankful it’s a well-crafted movie too, because it would suck to be an adult and realize that your all-time favorite movie actually sucked.

Side note: I owned the paperback adaption in the shiny gold cover, that I read over & over, as well as the comics adaptation. I also bought a fedora before I left for college (I really should have tried harder to find a whip).

Clash of the Titans

Medusa from Clash of the Titans
Medusa was Harryhausen’s masterpiece.

That D’Aulaire’s book of Greek myths that I just mentioned is my all-time favorite Christmas present. I got it for Christmas 1980, after a perfect snowy Christmas Eve resulted in a crisp, white Christmas.

I guess it was an impressionable time because I got the book a few months before COTT came out (in fact, it & Raiders were released on the same day: June 12, 1981).

Seeing a Greek myth come to life was amazing. I was so excited about it that I thought it was really weird that the theatre was empty, save for one creepy looking dude (who was probably just a harmless nerd). Didn’t everyone want to see this?

I also had no idea who Ray Harryhausen was, but I was familiar with his work. I loved the monsters from his Sinbad movies and Jason and the Argonauts – especially his rightfully-famed skeletons.

Long before CGI, stop motion was The Shit. And COTT brought a familiar tale to life, with a much, much better kraken than D’Aulaires’.

And in later years, Princess Andromeda made me feel funny O.o

The Matrix

The Matrix
When Mouse announces “Morpheus is fighting Neo,” the crew jumping over tables to go watch is all of us.

I thought The Matrix was an allegory for modern life in 1999 but god damn is it more relevant than ever now. The idea that people are brainwashed into living a life that’s not their own is the most relevant concept in the age of mass media.

Besides the allegory, it’s got kung fu, philosophy, romance, and guns – lots of guns. It’s a cultural touchstone that’s embedded in pop culture (for better & worse).

And it’s extremely well written. If you’re into writing, check out the 5 Dan Wells videos on story structure where he discusses the 7 Point System (iirc it’s very similar to Syd Field’s screenplay recs). Prepare to have your mindblown when he uses The Matrix as his example for subplots.

Science has finally confirmed that people can be judged by their musical tastes and the same applies to movies (according to me, who is the Arbiter of All Things). If you don’t like The Matrix, WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?!!!!!!!

Ace Ventura

Ace Ventura
Innocence personified.

In the summer of ‘94 I was a camp counselor/tennis instructor for the summer at a sleep away camp in the Poconos. It was a two month camp with some kids staying all summer, and most kids either coming for the first month or the second month.

The kids who came in the second month had one consistent habit: after every time one of them took a shit, they would come out of the bathroom and state DO NOT GO IN THERE.

Over, and over, and over again. It got to the point where I didn’t know where the quote was from and even I said it after taking a shit.

Once camp ended, I had to see the movie for myself, just to see what the deal was. At the time I had stopped doing Kid Things – no comics, no D&D, and with an upturned nose at anything popular – especially movies. Being an adult meant doing serious things, like drinking excessively on weekends.

(Yes, I was totally marinating in wrong juice.)

I ended up laughing my ass off and loving Ace Ventura. It awoke the silly person who cut his teeth on Monty Python. Jim Carrey’s overacting is perfect.

And I’ve realized over years of viewings that I have internalized so much from the movie. Quotes, mannerisms, you name it. Many a time I’ve watched it and realized Oh – that’s where I got that from (my kids have had this realization too). It edges out Beavis & Butthead for being the most influential move on my common turns of phrase.

However, it’s not all fun & games: Ace Ventura is transphobic af. Before I knew what transphobia was, when my older kids were young, I’d conveniently pause the movie before the end and distract them with another activity.

In later years, we’d pause the movie to explain & discuss the transphobia. iirc the last time we watched it, I paused and was about to begin my lecture when the younger two went “Yes, we know.” That didn’t stop me, but it was good to see that they get it.

The Lord of the Rings

LOTR
Gandalf’s coming on the third day was fortuitous but does it count as a deus ex machina?

Does this even need to be said? It’s obvious, no? Doesn’t everyone think LOTR is the shit? (If not, WHY)

I mentioned D&D earlier. I read The Hobbit when I was 10, reading 90% of it on a long-ass car-ride from Connecticut to Montauk & back. That book changed the course of my life as I needed more fantasy books, and then I discovered Dungeons & Dragons, which led to getting bullied, which changed my outlook on just about everything.

I loved reading LOTR as a kid and I recall re-reading the books before the first movie came out, because I didn’t want the magic of the books to be lost in my mind.

I didn’t know that I had nothing to fear, because the movies are better than the books. Tolkien needed a fucking editor, and he finally got one in the form of Jackson, Boyens, & Walsh (ie the writers of the screenplay). I’m not one of those curmudgeons who decry that more people get to LOTR through the movies than through the books. I mean, a full 1/3 of total sales of the books happened in the 6 years after the first movie was released (source in previous link).

I watch all 3 movies at least once a year, though I prefer the non-extended versions (I know that’s blasphemy but the movie does not need things like stupid-ass character moments between Merry & Pippin that have absolutely no bearing on the story). I often get the urge to watch it 2-3 times a year, the movies just scratch a lot of itches for me.

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Those are the Big 5, the ones that I’d frankly watch multiple times per annum. I’m going to expedite things and list the rest of my favorite movies quickly, because who wants to hear my blather on about why I like a movie ad nauseum? Again, in no particular order…

  • Alien. The mood, craft, & storytelling *chefs kiss*
  • Black Panther. There’s never going to be an Indian superhero movie as good as this so I’ll take what I can get (at least I’m not very hopeful about it). The best Marvel villain, by a long shot (we need a Killmonger movie). Fantastic female characters. Pitch perfect casting (rest in power, King). And Tolkien White Guys.
  • Coming to America. Cleo McDowell is the best. Also, Sexual Chocolate.
  • Die Hard. The perfect action/Christmas movie flipped the macho bullshit of the action movie genre. Plus the script is airtight.
  • The Incredibles. It’s not just the storytelling & characters – I lust after the Parr’s mid century home & furnishings.
Into the Spider-Verse
Best scene in an animated movie ever. #hey
  • Into the Spider-Verse. Finally – a comic book came to life. And made CGI look like the boring style that it is (I cannot look at a Pixar movie now without thinking they’re mailing it in design-wise). It’s the kind of movie I don’t want to end.
  • Jaws. One word: Quint. His song’s in your head right now, right?
  • Kung Fu Panda. Storytelling, character development, & philosophy, with kung fu too (I mean, it’s got the butt clench – you can’t get more kung fu than that).
  • Mamma Mia. We are a family that loves ABBA. One of the best concerts I’ve ever seen was Bjorn Again, the ABBA tribute band who did one American tour. Also, I like to make fun of Pierce Brosnan’s ‘singing,’ he sounds like a dying weasel.
  • Office Space. If you’ve ever had a shitty cubicle office job and had deal with stupid bosses and pathetic office personalities, this movie is a dream. Mike Judge is also an incomparable comedic writer (the best Beavis & Butthead episodes still hold up).
Pacific Rim
If this doesn’t make the song start in your head, I can’t help you.
  • Pacific Rim. There is NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS MOVIE. It is PERFECT. IT HAS GIANT ROBOTS FIGHTING GIANT MONSTERS. It has GREAT DIALOGUE. It has a GREAT SCORE (I’m totally jealous of the person on Twitter who listened to it while driving to their wedding). Also, it’s the only movie I’ve seen as an adult that made me feel like I was 10 years old. The first time I saw Otachi spread its’ wings I just about lost it (yes, I know the names of all the kaiju; no I don’t know how the hell they came up names that matched the kaiju without seeing them first). My only regret is not seeing it in IMAX.
  • Scott Pilgrim vs The World. The best comic ever was adapted perfectly into a movie by Edgar Wright, who understood what made the comic great. Spider-Verse might be a comics come to life on screen but Scott Pilgrim vs The World perfectly brought a specific comic to life perfectly. Amazing casting – plus Vegan Police!
  • Tangled. I like Moana better but … I love the song in the tavern.
  • Wolfwalkers. This replaced both The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea for me. Somehow, Cartoon Saloon managed to do even better than those films. A deeply emotional story combined with amazing art and design makes for a perfect film. It came out in December and I’ve watched it 6 times already. Go get the Art of book right now if you are into art or animation at all.

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Whew – that’s enough about me. My list of favorite movies should make it apparent that my mental age has been stuck at 12, but I’m not sure what the breadth of movies says about me.

What are your favorite movies?

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