End of September comics

From tfaw this month:

Monthlies:

Avengers Academy #4 (Marvel)

This is A’s subscription. My plan is always to skim, but I end up reading them more intently than that. That probably says something good about Christos Gage’s writing in particular.

B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth – New World #2 (Dark Horse)

Two major storylines this issue. In one, at B.P.R.D. headquarters, Kate is cracking under the bureaucratic responsibilities imposed by the UN, while Panya is causing mischief, raising questions about her agendas and what she’s contributing to the work of the Bureau.

Meanwhile, in the woods of British Columbia Abe finds Benjamin Daimio hiding out, ashamed of how he left the B.P.R.D. The Wendigo is seen lurking in the forest. Daimio fills Abe in on news of a deep lake in the area where something terrible rests. The issue ends with Abe diving in.

The two major storylines are bridged by a series of panels featuring two unknown men living with an unidentified “she” who shouldn’t be disturbed. The transition from B.P.R.D. hq to the BC woods is handled through a TV talk show where commentators argue over what the horrible events of the last few months mean. We see Johann watching the show, and then are taken to the set, and then to the house in the woods where one of the unidentified men is watching the debate.

As always, reading B.P.R.D. has rewards on multiple levels.

Batman: Streets of Gotham #16 (DC)

I canceled this subscription a few months ao when the Manhunter backups stopped running. So, this is just a burn off.

Birds of Prey #5 (DC)

This issue highlights what I’m enjoying about the new BoP and what worries about the series. First, I appreciate how Gail Simone is able to keep things moving in interesting ways. Even though this issue is mostly about the aftermath of last month’s big fight, and set up for the issue to follow, a lot happens in-between mop up and the shift to Bangkok. The fact that it mostly involves Lady Blackhawk and Huntress, thereby bringing them back into the main action, is even better.

And on that, I also am enjoying seeing Helena with her edge back. After Black Canary left the group the first time, Helena got turned into the field leader/den mother than Dinah used to be, and, in the process, became a softer character. For me, though, she is at her most interesting when you aren’t quite sure what she’ll do. Here I believed that she would kill The Penguin given the chance, despite the fact that I know that is probably forbidden by the Powers that Be at DC.

On the other hand, I am concerned that this reset is beginning with everyone in grim peril, and, now, the team fraying at the seams. I think that Simone loves these characters too much to sell them out for cheap dramatics, so I trust that there will be a settling down at some point, but when you start with so much dire, it’s hard to know where things might go next.

That concern is minor next to my wish for more from the art. I was glad enough to see that Ed Benes is able to moderate his impulse to fetishize certain parts of the Birds’ bodies, but I can still think of a number of artists I’d rather have on the title. I understand from reading Gail Simone on Twitter that Benes had to quit working for health reasons. I would not wish that kind of illness on anyone, but I do hope that his absence creates an opportunity for someone else. Nicola Scott or Georges Jeanty come immediately to mind, or, even though she hasn’t worked with DC before, I would love to see Emma Rios on this book. Right now, predictably, I guess, the art-side is a mess.

Black Widow #6 (Marvel)

A new creative team takes over and gets off to a ho hum start. I appreciate Duane Swierczynski’s effort to write a story that, at the outset at least, is easy to get into without a lot of background, but beginning with the same premise as Marjorie Liu used to launch the series, Natalia/Natasha being framed for crimes she did not commit, is not confidence inspiring.

The art is also missing the uniqueness and flare of Daniel Acuna’s work. Manuel Garcia, in particular, draws all of the women in a disappointingly conventional way (flowing hair, big breasts, long legs).

Still, it is just a start.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight #36 (Last Gleaming, part I) (Dark Horse)

Here Joss Whedon scripts and it shows in the mix of wit and drama, including a few nice visual jokes. I also found the issue to be helpful in recapping the Twilight reveal and its implications. In addition to starting the end of Season Eight, the issue reads as if it might be setting up Angel and Spike’s return to Dark Horse (see the Spike: The Devil You Know below).

Daytripper #10 (DC/Vertigo)

Final issue, and the gentlest of the series. Moon & Ba use a device here that I am not fond of, the dispensing of parental wisdom, but in a series about writers and the writing life, I grant them some latitude.

I am also still working through what I think about this last installment ending in a markedly different way than the previous issues – until the end, in fact, I had been wondering if this series really needed to be read in a strictly linear way – but I also think that this book should end up high on the “titles to recommend to adults who want to get into comics” list. Not only is the story entirely against the grain of what Americans assume comics are for, but the art is at a high standard. Ba & Moon clearly love people, and the details of daily life. Both of these are beautifully reflected here.

Fringe: Tales from the Fringe #4 (Wildstorm)

I am enjoying this second Fringe mini. I think that using comics to tell small side stories about characters from a TV show are a good use of these kinds of licensed comics.

Of course, the fact that the stories wouldn’t really carry a television episode sometimes shows. This issue the main story about Nina Sharp lacks a certain amount of imagination (let’s see; we have an older woman in a position of power, childless, no partner, what shall we write about?), but the art is lovely. Subtly styled, Julius Gopez also draws charmingly credible versions of the younger Nina and William Bell. Carrie Strachan’s colors are bright, and I especially like how Nina’s red hair ‘pops’.

The secondary story is also cliched, but Fiona Staples’ typically expressive artwork elevates the narrative beyond its limitations.

Hellboy: The Storm #3 (Dark Horse)

By the end of this mini, it is revealed that ‘the storm’ is the summoning, again, of Ogdru Jahad, a revelation that probably explains why Hellboy begins to feel as if doing what everyone wants him to do, lead an army of the dead against Nimue’s host, is exactly what he should not do. As it turns out, Nimue is, herself, simply a tool in the bringing of the Ogdru Jahad (isn’t that always the way).

Before setting out to face the witch queen, Hellboy appears to express his love for Alice and an intention to return to America and to the B.P.R.D. (following up on last issue’s hint at a crossover). On the road, he sees Gruagach/Grom strung up on a tree, begging for death and expressing regret for where his thirst for revenge has led the world. Hellboy tries to accomodate him, but to no avail. Gruagach seems destined to suffer for all time, which is sad even for a creature so epically small-minded.

More of interest happens in this comic than in a whole year’s worth of other titles.

I, Zombie #5 (DC/Vertigo)

Gwen confronts a moral dilemma and possibly an uncomfortable truth about herself in this issue. Chris Roberson and Michael Allred do an excellent job showing Gwen’s distress as much as telling it to readers. Most keenly for me, A continues to look forward to this book and I continue to feel ok about letting her read it.

Murderland #2 (Image)

After two issues, I am still trying to make up my mind about this book. I had it pulled because the previews promised something that inspired by Homicide and The Wire, and issue two certainly exhibits more of that promise than number one. However, I’m still not sure what’s going on. Narrative strands are being drawn out but not brought together yet. I was thankful for the short ‘FlipSide’ backup for its clearer and sharper story.

Still, David Hahn’s art is eye catching, with a good assist from Jose Villarubia on “Jiggity-Jig, part one” and Guillem Mari on the main story.

Mystery Society #3 (IDW)

This book continues to be fun. Not a lot new happens in this issue, but our heroes continue to outwit their pursuers, at least until the cliffhanger ending. And it would be hard not to at least enjoy looking at Fiona Staples art.

Scarlet #2 (Marvel Icon)

This book seems designed to polarize people and to provoke questions about the medium. What does it mean when a comic book character breaks the fourth wall? Is that even the right language? At what point does it make sense to look at Alex Maleev’s art in terms of photography rather than comics? How does doing that change how you understand his work?

I thought that having Scarlet address the reader was an effective way to set up the story and introduce the character. In issue two it becomes … ponderous. She seems to be rehearsing her justifications for doing what she does. Maybe there’s something to that in terms of character – the ex-cop bartender does the same thing after all – but does it make for a good comic? Not sure.

One quality I like about Maleev’s approach to the art is that the city of Portland becomes a real and compelling part of the story, but whether that works for readers who don’t already know the city, I couldn’t say.

There are certainly people doing what Maleev does here, but badly and on the cheap. I don’t think he should bear the burden of what other artists do. I doubt that a hack would have the vision to move from the dominant photorealism of this book to the panels of pure abstraction at the bottom of the next to last page of this issue like Maleev does.

Spike: The Devil You Know #3 & #4 (IDW)

And so concludes this somewhat undistinguished mini-series, at least as compared to Brian Lynch’s & Franco Urru’s previous series, Spike: Asylum and Spike: Shadow Puppets.

On the whole, I think that Buffy Season Eight is a stronger series than the Angel monthly, and unlike the majority of the earlier books featuring Spike, this mini is of a piece with Angel. What I do appreciate about IDW’s Angel series is the willingness to introduce and experiment with new characters, but I am not quite understanding what readers are supposed to be finding so interesting about Eddie Hope, who co-stars here and in backups to Angel.

I suspect that The Devil You Know was meant to be set up for the forthcoming Spike monthly, and we would have found out more about Eddie and Tansy (no other reason to keep her alive at the end of all of this). But that’s all pretty well water under the bridge now.

Stumptown #4 (Oni Press)

And so the first story arc comes to a close. Finally. The issue is worth it for Matthew Southworth’s soul bearing letter to readers if nothing else, but the fact that I felt like I knew what was going on despite the time between number three and number four (and number two and number three) suggests something about the quality of the story. It would be easy to write Dex off as one of Greg Rucka’s well-rehearsed “tough women”, but I think there is something unique in her just getting by, knock-about quality; male P.I.s get to be this underdog-y as a matter of routine, female detective, not so much. Rucka gives this classic persona to Dex without masculinizing her or turning the book into one about her getting beaten down all the time. In the end, she’s smarter and more resourceful than the people she has to contend with, and that’s cool. Looking forward to more, even if it takes awhile.

Uncanny X-Men #528 (Marvel)

A tightly structured, keep things moving issue. Just fine, and I’m glad that we are well-past Matt Fraction needing to service some big cross-over with the title, but am unsure about Whilce Portacio’s pencils. He has some serious problems with Emma Frost, especially. She’s far too pinched looking, and, while you have to make certain allowances for her dress, she comes across as vulgar more than strongly sexy here.

X-23 #1 (Marvel)

I think this is a good start for the series. I am interested in the idea of helping X-23/Laura learn about helping people by putting her in a situation where she can’t rely on her mutant abilities, and also by the theme of the responsible adults in her life needing to, well, act responsibly. I also like seeing some variation in body-type between the characters, especially the women. Some are more voluptuous, while others are lean and wiry. A good beginning for Liu and Conrad.

Other purchases:
Digital comics:

  • X-23: Innocence Lost #1 (Marvel)
  • X-23: Innocence Lost #2 (Marvel)
  • X-23 Innocence Lost #3 (Marvel)
  • X-23 Innocence Lost #4 (Marvel)
  • X-23 Innocence Lost #5 (Marvel)
  • X-23 Innocence Lost #6 (Marvel)

TPBs:

Captain America Reborn (Marvel)

Looking back through the comics that survived my youth, there’s a fair number of Captain Americas, but I haven’t really been that interested in reconnecting with the character as an adult. Whatever resonated with me as an adolescent is gone. Still, I know that Ed Brubaker’s run on the title is one of the better regarded works by a writer at Marvel and so I’ve been selectively checking those out, and this is the second collection I’ve read, after Winter Soldier.

What I like most about Brubaker’s writing is that he approaches the material completely straight, no irony, no meta-commentary on the superhero. There’s room for that stance, too, of course, but I never like seeing a form taken over by one way of doing things. So, here, even when you have a giant Red Skull rampaging on the National Mall, there are witty bon mots from the heroes, but nothing that takes you out of the moments. This manages to capture some of the pure fun of reading comics as a kid.

Daredevil Bendis & Maleev Ultimate Collection Book 2 (Marvel)

I am glad that Marvel is putting out these collections. Brian Bendis’ run on Daredevil fell into the period when I wasn’t actively reading comics (and the title was never a favorite). For me, the best part of this run is the opening collaboration with David Mack, but consistently entertaining, while also posing interesting questions about superheroism.

Supergirl: Death and The Family (DC)

One of the frustrations with this title, in trade at least, is that it sometimes seems as it deals with characters other than, well, Supergirl. This is one of those collections. It certainly seems as if this collection could just as easily be titled Superwoman, as Lucy Lane gets much more interesting treatment than does Kara.

I also found myself discomfited by the chapters penciled by Jamal Igle. In much the same way as other artists need to devise tricks to keep the skirt from flying up in revealing ways, Igle appears to be looking for ways to feature the compression shorts. Perhaps he is pushing the point about the character design – there’s just no way to make this work – but the showcasing of the shorts can also be read as just a new fetish.

I did find the Helen Slater and Jake Black and Cliff Chiang collaboration that closes the book to be fun, and, most importantly, about Supergirl.

Tiny Titans vol. 4: The First Rule of Pet Club (DC)

Good natured fun as always. I especially loved the bats, and the Stretchy Guys.

Left over in the to-read ‘box’:

TPBs:

A.D.: New Orleans after the Deluge (Pantheon)

Affecting, if not groundbreaking, work of comics reportage. Neufeld has an eye for detail that serves him well in developing the individual stories he chooses for the book. He draws each of his characters in a way that gives them distinct personalities, and all grow on you over time, even if if there is some imbalance in the time devoted to different subjects.

Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love (DC/Vertigo)

For some reason, I had really high expectations for this book. Maybe it’s because Chris Roberson also writes the fine I, Zombie, or because of Chrissie Zullo’s delightful covers, but I was pretty ready for this to be cool.

And it approaches it – the backstory with the Fairy Godmother is a good example of how the The Fables conceit works well – but also falls short. The shoe store story with Crispin Cordwainer felt like filler, and I was waiting for more to come from Cindy’s flashbacks. I’d love to see a series about her and Bigby. And, in the end, being left wanting more would seem to me good things about a book.

Ex Machina vol. 1: The First Hundred Days (Wildstorm)

A God Somewhere (Wildstorm)

This is a curious title. For starters, John Arcudi and Peter Snejbjerg do some interesting things with the superhero genre. Rarely do you get to see a book like this where there is truly only one superpowered, superheroic figure. Arcudi seems interested in exploring what that might be like. What makes the story even more interesting is the focus on the superperson’s best friend, and how he is affected in ways both positive and negative by the acquisition of powers. The fact that Sam is a flawed and not entirely likeable guy adds another important layer to the story. Similarly, the fact that Eric, and brother Hugh, are kind of ‘heroic’ before Eric gets his powers, which actually twist him into something else, also adds a significant layer of meaning to the story.

And yet, the story is too compressed. I think that Hugh suffers the most from this in terms of his development as a character. There is also very little time for Eric to lose his mind. I would have liked to see more about religion and more of a time period where Eric uses his powers in a ‘good’ way, while slowly going crazy from the alienation and sense of superiority to others. And, really, Sam could use more time for readers to see his underlying talents.

Upon finishing I wasn’t sure how much I liked the book, but it definitely improves upon reflection. I just wish that it had been longer or been written as a mini-series.

Heartbreakers: Bust Out (Image)

Women of Marvel: Celebrating Seven Decades (Marvel)

X-Men: First Class – Tomorrow’s Brightest (Digest) (Marvel)

Light and fun. Glad I finally read it. Jeff Parker does an especially nice job of writing stories that are gentle and accessible without being squishy or boring. Also nice to see an contemporary X-Men title that is kind to new readers.

Digital comics:

Moon Girl #4, #5, #6, & #7 (comiXology)

I finished this series over breakfast this morning (Sat, 10/2), and then went back to the beginning to see if I could piece it all together. The historical back-and-forth is hard to track, but this is what I gather about the arc of the story.

The final issues flashback to Clare/Moon Girl’s history with Santana and to Clare’s personal history as some kind of European aristocracy. Santana trained Clare to be ‘the embodiment of the people’, a task that she was, and remains, skeptical about, but Clare’s parents were killed during a ‘Bolshevik’ revolution, and she emigrated to the U.S. hoping to start a new life as a ‘normal’ person. The first three issues show readers how that worked out for her.

This was the first comic I purchased that was meant for digital distribution and you could tell in how easy it is to ‘flow’ through the pages and panels on my iPhone. I also think that this is my favorite ‘painted’ comic; somehow in digital form, the images seem less stiff than this style usually is on the page. The bright colors and clear details also rendered well on the screen.

If you enjoy twentieth century political theory, and pulpy characters, Moon Girl is a good read.

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Recommended daily reading – 28 September (cleaning up edition)

Some selections from the past few days:

Comics Alliance is featuring a teaser for an animated short film of Atomic Robo and a view of the animation process. Robo is one of my favorite titles right now, and this certainly looks cool, and clearly made by people who are fans.

In other comics adaptations news, MTV’s Splash Page has some interesting discussion with Joss Whedon about the opportunities and challenges of directing The Avengers.

Champions League today, and Arsenal earns another win, this time over Partizan Belgrade.

Finally, renee french has a truly strange rodent for your consideration.

WAREHOUSE 13 at the end of season two

I finally finished the season finale to Warehouse 13, and can’t help feeling disappointed by this show. Which is not the same as suggesting that I regret watching or that it isn’t entertaining, but it does have a tendency to point to more than it actually delivers in terms of depth and complexity of both narrative and character.

At the beginning of the season, it appeared as if the creators were bending the series into something a little different from season one, stretching it into more of a team show, really one about an extemporaneous family, before being snapped back to the conventions of season one, focused on Pete and Myka in the field. Leena, who seemed poised to emerge as a more important character, eventually fades into the background even more than she was in the first season. Artie and Claudia received plenty of screen time, but only by making them into kind of a sideshow out in the field. The extended family of Mrs. Fredric and the Regents also became marginally more involved, but not in any material way. Indeed, too much of what these supporting players are made do, aside from maybe Artie and Claudia, seems just for the convenience of plotting, and not because of what they mean within the universe of the show.

But more than anything it is the handling of H.G. Wells that made season two weaker than season one.

The character is a clever conceit, the ‘H’ is for ‘Helena’, and not only is the H.G. Wells we all know nothing more than a front for his sister, but ‘his’ most famous stories actually happened to her, most notably the building of the time machine. In addition, she is introduced as a stone cold killer, and so seemingly a fine nemesis for our plucky heroes.

Unfortunately, after her introduction, she disappears for about five episodes, and doesn’t really re-enter the narrative until episode nine. Last season the series was much more effective at making MacPherson an active presence in the story, even when he wasn’t actually in an episode (and one of the minor nits I have to pick with season two is how the season one narrative is resolved with MacPherson as a sympathetic victim, and his victimization pretty much becomes the only reason that Artie has for distrusting Wells, or accepting her as an agent. And given how this season ends with Myka taking off, I am now thinking that maybe this isn’t such a minor point after all).

More than anything, I think that, if you are going to have a character turn out to be such a nihilist that she is willing to end life on earth as we know it, I think she needs to either be a character that the audience gets to know pretty well or one who is, from the start, abjectly without humanity. Wells certainly is not the latter, and the former isn’t allowed to happen.

I don’t think that it would have taken much to allow viewers inside of her head, an episode devoted to her work as an agent, to her use of time travel, to her daughter’s story, might have been enough. As things are, however, her desire to destroy the world comes out of nowhere, and, particularly in a show where virtually all of the punches get pulled, it never really felt like she would end up pulling off the trick in any event.

I’d be happy enough with Warehouse 13 as a light weight X-Files, dealing mostly with the two partners out on freaky thing of the week missions, but the series producers seem unwilling to rest on that, despite Eddie McClintock and Joanne Kelly being pretty well made for such a series. I think that Warehouse 13 suffers from trying to be both fannish and accessible, at least to the casual SyFy (sic) viewer. In fact, I think that it’s fair to say that most of the ‘fan moments’ are external to the show, in references to other series and other media or obscure points of history, and in casting.

It probably did not help my perceptions of the finale that I watched it right after seeing the season three premiere for Fringe, which was a great episode, one that left me feeling both uncertain and excited about the direction of the show. Unlike Warehouse 13, the people behind Fringe seem to be moving to a series that demands more and more of an investment from its audience. I just hope that there is enough of a base that they can do that without getting canceled before the show’s time is up.

I would like for Warehouse 13 to have a third season, but also hope for a tighter show with more of a voice of its own than it has had so far.

Recommended daily reading – 23 September

From today’s feeds (why I always end up with three, I don’t know):

From the Torontoist is a story about public space activists in Toronto seeking to claim bike lane space on a street that seems as if it should have more than it does. These kinds of creative responses to urban planning and design where formal institutions seem to fail are heartening and delightful.

On MoJo Wire, Jen Phillips points to a trailer for a documentary by model Sara Ziff that looks at the industry from the model’s perspective. It’s easy to make fun of or look down on models, what they do seems superficial and the compensation seems out of proportion to the work, especially given that the basic requirements for the job are all essentially genetic, but I have a sister in-law who modeled until fairly recently and I have always thought that the work is harder than it seems on the surface. In particular, the way that models are dehumanized as human clothes hangers bears critical consideration. It looks like Ziff’s film will shed light on this aspect of the work. taking models seriously as labor.

And lastly is a perfect little dog from renee french.

Recommended daily reading – 22 September

From today’s feeds:

Via Whedonesque, a visualization by gabrielleabelle on LiveJournal of the number and intensity of connections between women characters on different TV shows. The starting point is Buffy.

At Panels on Pages, Ben Gilbert – again!asks what the future holds for films from comics, both superhero and not. I am interested in the relationship between movies and comics, and particularly what film adaptations mean to comics fans. This & this are my best pieces on PopMatters that address this connection.

Amanda Ann Klein, on her blog, judgmental observer, considers the complexities of being asked, “What’s your favorite film?” She notes that this question is a hard one for film scholars, in part for reasons of identity, a lot of yourself is at stake in the answer, but mostly because most of us don’t actually have a single favorite movie. We love different films for different reasons, and how we answer the ‘favorite question’ depends on context. Why am I am being asked? What do I want to watch the film for? And so on.

Her post reminded me of an entry from one of my previous blogs, no longer online, but I do have an archive copy. I am re-posting below, not only because I also consider the challenge in the question, but because, like Klein, my answer involves Terrence Malick.

from refracting kropotkin, 26 June 2006:

For some reason, The Hollywood Theater is featuring a revival of Days of Heaven this week. In spite of Anne-Marie’s absence, I had no choice but to head up to Portland on Saturday and take advantage of this rare opportunity.

Days of Heaven is one of three movies I routinely tick off in my head when asked to name a favorite film. The other two are In the Mood for Love (2000) and Chinatown (1974). This last is the one that I am most likely to cite.

Shawn Levy, head critic for The Oregonian, once explained how he answers the favorite film question. His way of addressing the query is to answer with a selection that is a) true most of the time and b) says something about you. Coincidentally, I think that Levy’s favored answer is also Chinatown. In my case, Chinatown has a number of qualities going for it, and there’s no use pretending that the second criterion isn’t critical when answering this kind of question (Nick Hornby addresses this beautifully in High Fidelity, 1996).

I am drawn to Chinatown for its set design – gorgeous period detail – some of the best dialogue ever written for film, and social and historical “weight” in its interpretation of key events in the history and geography of the West. This last point is particularly important for me given my interests in popular culture and the North American West. Faye Dunaway is strikingly beautiful, and Jack Nicholson is at his been knocked around, wise ass best. There’s also Roman Polanski’s delightful turn as the little hood who cuts Jake’s nose. This is a truly great American film.

Another virtue of Chinatown is that it is a well known and regarded movie, but not too well known. There are certain films like Casablanca (1942), The Big Sleep (1946), and GoodFellas (1990) that just don’t come to mind in part because of my perception of their obviousness. It is in these kinds of calculations that “true most of the time” and “says something about me” really converge.

Days of Heaven I love for the way the photography and mise-en-scene tie you to the land. The intimate images of birds and insects, working dogs, working people, convey a living, breathing landscape. You are totally immersed in the time and place of the film (Texas panhandle in 1916). The pacing of the narrative also works to plunge you into a period when an isolated farm would very likely live according to its own temporal rhythms, rather than by standardized, mechanical time. Linda’s (Linda Manz) voiceover’s are excellent examples of the artistic potential of this much maligned device. Her view is obviously subjective, and unique, simultaneously naive and world weary, and full of wonderful turns of phrase like “I could be a mud doctor and just listen to the earth.”

On the big screen I was struck by the complexity of the adult characters. This was unexpected as I had gone into the movie assuming that the experience would mostly be about the landscape. Instead, the drama of the love triangle was deeper and more intense than it is on dvd. Brooke Adams is noticeably more charismatic on the big screen. As a result, Abby comes across as more of an equal player next to Bill (Richard Gere) and The Farmer (Sam Shepard). Ennio Morricone’s score was also more powerful, masterfully underscoring the sublime beauty of the images and the roiling unease and darkness under the idyllic surface of the narrative. I was struck by how difficult pulling off some of the shots must have been, particularly when the grasshoppers descend on the farm. In 1977 there was no resort to digitization for such effects (not that I think Malick is prone to such devices even today).

Needless to say, if you get the chance to see Days of Heaven on the big screen  (and thanks to the Hollywood for giving the film the big auditorium even though other films, like A Prairie Home Companion, would be more likely to fill the seats). As it is, I think that Anne-Marie and I will have to devise a new rule for our Best of lists at the end of this year to keep me from putting the movie at the top of mine.

Post-script: I reviewed the Centennial Collection DVD of  Chinatown for PopMatters last year, and in my review, I re-visit choice of the film as ‘my favorite’.