Tagged: Loki

John Ostrander: A Dark Glittering Intelligence

Ostrander Art 131020My favorite new show of the TV season is not Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as I thought it would be (although I like that show well enough). It’s The Blacklist… which is on opposite Castle. I loves me some Castle so I have to record one and watch the other live; so far, Castle is winning out but sometimes it’s a near thing.

The Blacklist is about Raymond “Red” Reddington, a master criminal who the FBI has been unsuccessfully hunting for some time. One day he surrenders and offers to help them take down other monsters on his blacklist but he’ll only work with FBI profiler Elizabeth Keen, whom he insists on calling “Lizzie”. She doesn’t know him and neither she nor anyone else at the FBI knows why Reddington has offered his help but they must admit he’s very effective – especially with criminals and terrorists they didn’t even know were out there.

The series is derivative and there’s a Silence of the Lambs Hannibal Lecter/Clarice Starling vibe to it, but the main reason to watch it is James Spader as Reddington. He’s charming, charismatic, dangerous, and scary. He’s playing all sorts of games and what he’s really after is impossible to guess. Spader is obviously having a wonderful time with the part and is amazing in the role. Reddington is a killer but not a serial one; I’ve come to the conclusion that Reddington is less Hannibal Lecter than Professor Moriarity.

What Spader’s Reddington demonstrates is a dark, glittering intelligence and that makes him a fascinating character and, in that, he is like Lecter. Over the ages, this type of character, in different variations, has become a recurring character type. Hearth Ledger’s Joker falls into that category as well. So does Shakespeare’s Richard III. Something in our own atavistic reptilian brain stem gets drawn to them. Well, at least my atavistic reptilian brain stem does.

The trick is getting us to root for them although they’re monsters. Reddington admits to it. Why do we do that? There’s an appeal to our own dark sides. The monsters embody our dark urges on which we would never follow through. They’re our dark fantasies – unbound by social conventions. They appall us as they enthrall us.

We root for the anti-hero as well as the hero – if the anti-hero is done right. That’s the challenge for the creator. I’m guilty of it myself; in Wasteland, I once did a story from the serial killer’s point of view. The goal was to see if I could get the reader to identify with him. That would be where the horror part of the story really came in – when (if) the reader founds themselves identifying with him. Look to the recently completed Dexter or Breaking Bad. The popular success of those series – along with The Sopranos or The Shield – attests to the fact that we are willing to go there – to root for the bad guys. They need to know who/what they are, accept it, and don’t whine. That’s what we want and that’s what we love. If we’re honest, we like Loki more than Thor. Characters like that give us a delicious thrill.

Angels are beautiful, but the devil is sexy.




Win a Copy of Vikings Season 1 on Blu-ray

Viking_BD_ProductShotsVikings Season 1 delivers a visceral journey to a thrilling ancient world in this epic new series about history’s bravest and most brutally fearsome warriors.

Vikings follows the adventures of the great hero Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel), a Viking chieftain seeking to fulfill his destiny as a conqueror, alongside his ambitious brother Rollo (Clive Standen) and loyal wife Lagertha (Katheryn Winnick).  Throughout his quest, Ragnar faces a path of betrayals and temptations to protect his freedom, family, and life.  When Ragnar teams up with his boat builder friend Floki (Gustaf Skarsgard) to craft a new generation of intrepid ships capable of conquering the rough northern seas, the stage is set for conflict.

Exclusively featured on the Blu-ray™ and DVD, “Birth of the Vikings” looks at the creator’s approach to, the series challenge in re-creating the period, and the wonders of shooting the series in Ireland’s beautiful, Wicklow mountains.  “Birth of the Vikings,” is an all-access look at the creation of VIKINGS.

For a chance to win your copy of the Blu-ray just answer this  question: Which Viking discovered North America before Columbus?

Have your answer posted by 11:59 p.m.  Saturday, October 19. The decision of the ComicMix judges will be final and this contest is open only to readers in the United States and Canada.

Natalie Portman and Marvel Promote Science Careers for Women

Natalie Poretman Thor The Dark WorldBURBANK, CA – October 1, 2013 – SEEKING THE NEXT JANE FOSTER!  In MARVEL’S THOR: THE DARK WORLD, Academy Award® winner Natalie Portman portrays astrophysicist Jane Foster, an independent spirit who follows her heart and journeys to a new world.

Marvel Studios, UL (Underwriters Laboratories), Dolby Laboratories, National Academy of Science, Girl Scouts USA along with the famous El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, are proud to team up to sponsor a nationwide MARVEL’S THOR: THE DARK WORLD ULTIMATE MENTOR ADVENTURE in conjunction with the November 8th release of the film starring Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman.

MARVEL’S THOR: THE DARK WORLD ULTIMATE MENTOR ADVENTURE aims to empower girls 14 years and up, in grades 9 – 12 nationwide, to embark on a journey to discover their potential and future in the world of STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  Through the collaborative efforts of Marvel, UL (Underwriters Laboratories), Dolby Laboratories, National Academy of Sciences and Girl Scouts USA, girls will have a chance to go out into the real world and ask successful women in STEM fields about what they do, how they got where they are…and how others can follow in their footsteps.  The process is designed to help students to understand who they are, and why this experience can be impactful on their futures. For more information, rules and how to apply, visit www.ultimatementoradventure.com.

“MARVEL’S THOR: THE DARK WORLD ULTIMATE MENTOR ADVENTURE is a chance to inspire a generation and by doing so, to change their future –and ours – for the better,” said Victoria Alonso, EVP, Visual Effects & Post Production, Marvel Studios.

Finalists of MARVEL’S thor: the dark world ultimate mentor adventure will win

a week’s trip to Southern California, provided by UL (Underwriters Laboratories) and Dolby Laboratories. The Ultimate Mentor Adventure will allow the girls to meet some of the most incredible Women in Science such as Dolby Laboratory Senior Scientists, conducting interviews and be challenged to participate in experiments. It will also include interactive events and go behind-the-scenes where the general public is not normally invited – all while having their adventure filmed. On Friday, November 8th, the winners will conclude their excursion and be recognized at the Premiere Screening of their Ultimate Mentor Adventure documentary short.  The video short will be shown at the El Capitan Theatre prior to a screening of MARVEL’S THOR: THE DARK WORLD in Dolby® Atmos™ on opening day.

About the Movie

Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World continues the big-screen adventures of Thor, the Mighty Avenger, as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself.  In the aftermath of Marvel’s Thor and Marvel’s The Avengers, Thor fights to restore order across the cosmos…but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith returns to plunge the universe back into darkness. To defeat an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor sets upon his most dangerous and personal journey yet, forced into an alliance with the treacherous Loki to save not only his people and those he loves…but our universe itself.

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, Tadanobu Asano and Jaimie Alexander with Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World is directed by Alan Taylor, produced by Kevin Feige, p.g.a., from a story by Don Payne and Robert Rodat and screenplay by Christopher L. Yost and Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, and is based on Marvel’s classic Super Hero Thor, who first appeared in the comic book Journey into Mystery #83 in August, 1962.

Thor: The Dark World is presented by Marvel Studios. The executive producers are Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Craig Kyle, Alan Fine, Nigel Gostelow and Stan Lee. The film releases November 8, 2013, and is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

New Thor: The Dark World images and Trailer

TM-06742_RNow that people have absorbed all the sneak peek hoopla from Comic-Con International, Disney comes through with several new trailers. Yesterday it was The Muppets, today it’s Thor: The Dark World, opening in November. It’s more Loki-centric, playing off Tom Hiddleston’s newfound popularity and there’s one great moment with Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster resonating back to The Avengers.

Genre:                          Action-adventure
Rating:                          TBD
U.S. Release date:        November 8, 2013
Running time:                TBD


Cast:                            Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, Tadanobu Asano, Jaimie Alexander with Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins as Odin
Director:                       Alan Taylor
Producer:                      Kevin Feige, p.g.a.
Executive Producers:    Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Craig Kyle, Alan Fine, Nigel Gostelow, Stan Lee
Story by:                      Don Payne and Robert Rodat
Screenplay by:              Christopher L. Yost and Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely

Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World continues the big-screen adventures of Thor, the Mighty Avenger, as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself.  In the aftermath of Marvel’s Thor and Marvel’s The Avengers, Thor fights to restore order across the cosmos…but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith returns to plunge the universe back into darkness. Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, Tadanobu Asano, and Jaimie Alexander with Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World is directed by Alan Taylor, produced by Kevin Feige, p.g.a., from a story by Don Payne and Robert Rodat and screenplay by Christopher L. Yost and Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, and is based on Marvel’s classic Super Hero Thor, who first appeared in the comic book Journey into Mystery  #83 in August, 1962.

Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World continues the big-screen adventures of Thor, the Mighty Avenger, as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself.

Panel Fest Episode 22: Pulpfest 2013 Doc Savage Panel

The panelists

The Book Cave’s Art Sippo hosted the Philip Jose Farmer panel on Doc Savage at this year’s PulpFest convention in Columbus, Ohio. Rick Lai, John Small, Christopher Paul Carey, and Win Scott Eckert share their knowledge with the listeners.

Listen to Panel Fest Episode 22: PulpFest 2013 Doc Savage Panel here.

About the Philip José Farmer’s Doc Savage panel:
Since 2011, PulpFest has hosted FarmerCon, a convention within a convention. FarmerCon began in Peoria, Illinois, the hometown of Grand Master of Science Fiction Philip José Farmer. Originally a gathering of Farmer fans figuratively, and literally, right outside Phil’s back door, FarmerCon offered presentations, dinners, and even picnics at the author’s house.

After the passing of Phil and Bette Farmer in 2009, it was decided to take FarmerCon on the road to broaden its horizons. By holding  the convention alongside events like PulpFest, Farmer fans get a variety of programming and a room full of pulp and book dealers to enjoy. This year, PulpFest is once again pleased to welcome FarmerCon VIII to the Hyatt Regency Columbus.

As it has every year since 2011, FarmerCon will provide some of PulpFest’s evening programming. On Friday, July 26th, at 7:30 PM, our FarmerCon friends turn their attention toward the Grand Master‘s work related to Doc Savage with a panel entitled His Apocalyptic Life, Escape from Loki, and The Mad Goblin.

The earliest of the three works, The Mad Goblin, was first published in 1970, paired with The Lord of the Trees as half of an Ace Double. Both novels were sequels to an earlier work, A Feast Unknown, that introduced Lord Grandrith, a thinly disguised Tarzan, and a “man of bronze” known as Doc Caliban. In Feast, Grandrith and Caliban learn that a powerful secret society known as The Nine has manipulated their lives. The two heroes go to war against their tormentors: The Mad Goblin tells the story from the point of view of Doc Caliban, while The Lord of the Trees presents Lord Grandrith’s version.

Although he published over fifty novels and 100 short stories during his career, Philip José Farmer may be remembered best for his Wold Newton Family. According to the author, the radiation from a meteorite that landed near the village of Wold Newton caused mutations in the villagers’ descendants, making them smarter, stronger, and more driven than most. Including among the offspring was Lord Greystoke, Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade, Fu Manchu, and Dr. James Clarke Wildman, Jr., best known as Doc Savage. Much of Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, first published by Doubleday in 1973, is devoted to this idea.

The last of Farmer’s works of bronze was Escape from Loki, published by Bantam Books in 1991. Shot down behind enemy lines during World War I, sixteen-year-old Clark Savage, Jr. finds himself in a German baron’s notorious escape-proof prison. Here Doc and his future aids come together to match wits and derring-do against the sinister baron, who Doc believes is intent on wielding a weapon of mass destruction that could very well mean the end of freedom and victory for the Kaiser.

Moderator Art Sippo, author of Sun Koh: Heir of Atlantis, a 2010 Pulp Factory Award nominee for Best Pulp Novel, and his panelists will dissect and analyze the Grand Master‘s contributions to the Doc Savage mythos. Joining Art will be Christopher Paul Carey, the co-author with Philip José Farmer of Gods of Opar: Tales of Lost Khokarsa, and the author of Rick Lai, well known for his articles expanding on Farmer’s Wold Newton Universe concepts, recently collected into four volumes by Altus Press; Win Scott Eckert, the co-author with Philip José Farmer of The Evil in Pemberley House, and the author of its forthcoming sequel, The Scarlet Jaguar, featuring Doc Wildman’s daughter Pat; and John Allen Small, an award-winning journalist, columnist, and fiction writer whose work includes “The Bright Heart of Eternity,” a tribute to Edgar Rice Burroughs and Philip José Farmer, and “Into Time’s Abyss,” anthologized in The Worlds Of Philip José Farmer 2: Of Dust And Souls.

Exiles of Kho, a prelude to the Khokarsa series;

Meteor House premiered a new, expanded edition of Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life at PulpFest 2013. Featuring dust jacket art by Joe DeVito (pictured above) and essays by Win Scott Eckert, John Allen Small, Keith Howell, Rick Lai, Art Sippo, Christopher Paul Carey, and current Doc Savage writer Will Murray, it will be available as a deluxe hardcover. Altus Press will be publishing the softcover edition. It will be available at PulpFest through Mike Chomko, Books.

You can listen to Panel Fest Episode 22: PulpFest 2013 Doc Savage Panel here.

The panelists autographing books.

REVIEW: Starzinger: The Movie Collection

StarzingerWithout realizing it, I grew up exposed to the earliest anime, shows like Astro Boy and The Amazing Three and Kimba the White Lion. It was a quiet invasion overshadowed by louder, more colorful and kinetic American animation on Saturday mornings and classic Warner cartoons on weekday afternoons. As a result, I missed the next great era of American anime such as Space Battleship Yamato and Robotech. It certainly developed a large following in the 1970s and 1980s with the airwaves packed with these shows. In fact there were so many that several shorter-run series were packed together as Force Five. The Wednesday show was known as Spaceketeers and ran for 26 episodes, edited down from 73 episodes and never quite concluded the story.

Now, Shout! Factory has taken the series, which was edited into three different films by Toei in 2009 and is releasing them on disc. The new version was written and directed by William Winckler, no stranger to adapting anime for American audiences given his earlier work on Tekkaman. Starzinger the Movie Collection is 326 minutes of an earlier era of anime and definitely has its fans. Sadly, I’m not among them.

Princess Aurora is a young human surrounded by a trio of cyborgs en route to the Great King planet to restore the Galaxy Energy. Apparently, the Great King’s aging Queen is causing this disruption throughout the universe and balance needs to be restored or life as we know it comes to an end.

The series is based on a serial that first ran in Terebi Magazine with art by Gosaku Ohta, but gained far greater notoriety in animated form (which ran in 1978-1979) thanks to the work done by Leiji Matsumoto, best known for his Captain Harlock work. In both cases, the story is a science fiction updating of a Ming Dynasty story, Journey to the West with Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, now a naïve, teenaged girl.

The original 16th century antecedents were further twisted out of shape when the Japanese was translated into English and the brutal editing shifted the story to that of a mission to the Dekos Star System to stop peaceful beings from being turned into evil mutated lifeforms. A good portion of the story shows Jan Kugo, Sir Djorgo, and Don Hakka, think the Three Musketeers (Spaceketeers, get it?), protecting the Princess during the 30,000 lightyear journey to the source of corruption.

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because the classic Chinese tale also served as inspiration for Dragon Ball and Saiyuki among others. By taking the core story and using elements in each of the three parts, this structurally works as a trilogy and the voice cast — Paul Oberle (Zombrex: Dead Rising Sun), Kyle Rea (The Mythical Detective Loki), and Chase Masterson (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) as Queen Lacet – do a serviceable job.

While the actual animation and design work is fine, it’s also not terribly imaginative nor do the episodes really do anything with the characters so there is little growth over the journey or depth to the characters. If you’re not a diehard anime fan, this grows tedious very quickly.  Still, for those who worship Matsumoto’s work, this becomes a must see production.

Saturday Morning Cartoons: A Loki Morning


Leigh Lahav wonders what all the fuss was at San Diego about Tom Hiddleston showing up…


And if you’re wondering what all the fuss was about yourself, here’s what happened:


He has an army…

Emily S. Whitten: Promote Your Awesome Friends Week!

Whitten Art 130402Or at least, that’s what I’ve decided this week will be, here in my column. And it’s my column, so as Loki would say (and I am fond of quoting), “I do what I want!” Mwahaha!

Seriously, though – I have a lot of fantastically talented friends, and it just so happens that two of them are currently involved in fun Kickstarters that I think are deserving of attention. So without further ado, here they are:

1) Stage Production of Terry Pratchett’s Wyrd Sisters:

Anybody who knows me probably knows that I’m a huge fan of Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series. What you might not know (even if you’re a Discworld fan) is that over nineteen of Terry’s books have been adapted to the stage since 1991 by the Audie Award-winning voice actor and Discworld collaborator Stephen Briggs, who has also voiced a large number of the Discworld audiobooks. Stephen regularly stages Discworld plays with the Studio Theatre Club [http://www.studiotheatreclub.com/LastProduction.html ] in Oxford, UK to popular acclaim; and his adaptations have been used around the world to stage Pratchett’s works.

Despite this, there seems to be a sad lack of Discworld in theater in the United States, at least in my observation. But worry not! My friend Kevin O’Shea of the excellent geeky Made of Fail podcast and productions is seeking to remedy that with a group of other dedicated Discworld and theater folks. They are striving to produce the stage adaptation of Pratchett’s Wyrd Sisters from Thursday to Sunday during the last two weeks of July this year, at the Side Project Theatre in Chicago (just off the CTA Red Line; the Jarvis station between Loyola and Northwestern Universities).

Aside from knowing first-hand about Kevin’s passion for Discworld, dedication to geek projects, and overall reliability, I’ve looked at the project’s Kickstarter page, and it seems like a fun and solidly constructed project to me, with some cool donation rewards (I want a hand-knitted model of Discworld!). I think it’s worth backing, for any Discworld fans who want to see more Discworld theater in the U.S., and particularly for those who might be able to actually make it to the play if (when!) it hits Chicago in July. As of this writing, the project has received approximately 72% of the $5,000 they will need in pledges to reach their goal and stage the production. That’s pretty darned good, but they only have until April 10 to raise the other 28%. So if there are any Discworld fans out there who haven’t given yet but want to support this great project, now’s the time!

The Turtle Moves!

2) CineManiac: Horror Edition:

Ben Fisher is a funny guy. I’ve already positively reviewed some of his humorous writing in comics, and since then, we’ve become friends, and I’ve learned first-hand just how zany and occasionally…twisted his humor can be. (And, full disclosure, we are currently working on an un-related-to-this-topic project, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere). I’ve also learned that he’s a huge gaming geek, as well as a horror fan and aficionado of storytelling tropes; so when he told me he’d designed an interactive, humorous card game you play while watching horror films, I wasn’t surprised. I was excited, though, particularly after seeing that the talented Mike Henderson was going to be doing the art for the cards. Mike’s got a great style for the dramatic, the ominous, and the terrifying. (He’s also got a slightly twisted sense of humor.) Who better to do the art for a funny game about horror movies and horror movie tropes?

The basic game itself looks simple enough to play without distracting unduly from the enjoyment of watching the movie (and like it will add to that enjoyment for anyone with a sense of humor who knows horror movies); and the addition of “curse cards” to the basic mechanic of gameplay makes it sound like a whole lot of fun. As the Kickstarter says:

“But at the center of its little black heart, CineManiac is a party game. And what’s a party game without the ability to humiliate your competition? Curse cards force your opponents to reenact scenes, impersonate horror icons, and otherwise do your dastardly bidding!”

… Yeah, I’d play that game.

The Kickstarter has some great donation rewards for those of us who have a weakness for collecting original art or exclusives, like the signed original art from the card of your choice, or exclusive limited edition bonus cards. And, as it turns out, the project is also doing a giveaway contest through April 8th at the Tabletop Gaming News site, so you can also head on over there and enter if you want to, for the chance to win inclusion of your likeness in the art for one of the cards, or, for runners-up, an autographed print of art from the game.

This Kickstarter still has 28 days to go, but it needs a lot of love to reach its goal, so if you think it sounds awesome, as I do, go check it out (and watch the fun trailer!) and consider pledging here.

I’d love to see both of these projects make it to their final goals. If you would too…go pledge!

And until next time: Servo Lectio!




John Ostrander: That Shiny Nude Dude With The Sword!

Ostrander Art 130224Sometime tonight, in about the second hour of what will seem like a three day Oscar broadcast, my butt will go numb and I will ask myself, “Why am I watching this?” It happens every year and then the following year, I do it again. Am I a masochist? Do I just forget? Why do I care who wins what? I haven’t seen most of the films or performances nominated.

I’m not alone in this. Umpty-bum millions of people will tune in to the broadcast worldwide. It’s not the only movie awards show on anymore, either. You have the Director’s Guild, the Screen Actor’s Guild, the Independent Spirit Awards, the Golden Globes and more all handing out awards. That’s not even mentioning the Tony Awards or all of the different music awards or the People’s Choice Awards, The Emmy Awards or what have you. I’m surprised they don’t yet have the Awards Channel on cable; all awards, all the time. And the Red Carpet shows that precede them.

I understand why it’s a big deal to those nominated for the Awards (whichever Award it is) or to the Industry (whichever Industry it is) but why should it matter to anyone else? Why does it matter to me? Why do I watch? Why do any of us?

Let’s face it, fellow nerds – we aren’t represented. The films we mostly watched aren’t up for awards. Where’s the Oscar for the best actor in a superhero movie? Nominees would have to include Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Rises, probably Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-Man, and then there’s The Avengers which could be a category all by itself. Who do you not include? Certainly Robert Downey Jr.’s turn as Tony Stark/Iron Man is amazing but how could you not include Mark Ruffalo who made a Bruce Banner/Hulk really work on celluloid for the first time ever.

And the support actors! Again, in The Avengers – Samuel L. Jackson (who should get an Oscar just for being Samuel L. Jackson) or Tom Hiddleston as Loki who almost steals the movie. Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson who provides the heart and the reason to call the group The Avengers – where’s his nomination?

You can make the same argument for The Dark Knight Rises with Michael Caine’s Alfred who is heart wrenching, or Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon who is really the moral center of all three Batman movies. Daniel Day Lewis was amazing in Lincoln but he only had a beard to cope with. Let’s see him put on Bane’s mask and do any where near as good as Tom Hardy did. C’mon – let’s handicap these races for degree of difficulty!

Anne Hathaway got a nomination (and will probably get the Oscar) for her role in Les Miserables but did you see that, my fellow nerds, or did you see her as Catwoman? Sally Field was great as Mrs. Lincoln but why isn’t she recognized as Aunt May?

And best director? Okay, okay – Ang Lee did a knockout job (or so I’m told; I haven’ seen it) of getting a boy and a tiger on a lifeboat in Life of Pi. Stephen Spielberg did an outstanding job in Lincoln, not only creating the characters of the Civil War but the setting, making you feel like You Were There. And there’s all kinds of talk about how The Academy snubbed Ben (Daredevil) Affleck on Argo.

I got two words for you. Joss Whedon. The third act of The Avengers with the attack on Manhattan by the alien hordes, balancing and making all the superheroes – the lead characters in their own movies – work well together. ‘Nuff said.

Why don’t these movies get Academy Award consideration? They made money. Gobs and gobs of it. So far as Hollywood is concerned, that’s their award except maybe for the grudging technical awards. Maybe it is. The folks doing those may have longer careers than those who get an Oscar tonight – because if there’s one thing Hollywood respects more than Awards, it’s cash.

So, yeah, I’ll watch the Academy Awards tonight. Force of habit, maybe. Maybe we’ll have to have an alternative award for folks like us – the Nerdies.

As a great man once said – Excelsior!




John Ostrander’s Favorite Things – 2012

This is the time of year when all manner of people and media post their best/worst selections of the year. The main purpose is to elicit outrage or agreement or bewilderment regarding the selections. Anyone can play. So I guess I will with these caveats. I’m not saying that what follows is the best of any the categories. It’s simply what I most enjoyed. Some books, TV shows, music, movies I simply didn’t experience (e.g. Argo and The Hobbit) or didn’t enjoy as much as those listed (i.e. the latest Dresden book, The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man). I’m only touching on what was new in 2012 – not those things I’ve enjoyed from other years and enjoyed again in 2012.

Caveats away. Let’s get down to it.

Doctor Who: The mid-season finale didn’t please me as much as I hoped. The departure of long time companions Amy and Rory had me scratching my head. However, the Christmas Special – The Snowmen – made up for it, introducing an intriguing new companion for the time and space faring Doctor and a tantalizing mystery. Steven Moffat – show runner and head writer – remains in fine form.

Justified: Big tough ass series based on an Elmore Leonard character. This season was even better than the one last season, which is saying a lot. Star performances made the season starting with Timothy Olyphant as Marshall Raylan Givens, along with Walter Goggins, Nick Searcy, Neal McDonough as a truly scary bad guy from Detroit, and Mykelti Williamson as an equally scary local bad guy. It’s violent, sexual, badass, and Raylan Givens is so damn cool he should be illegal.

Fringe: It’s now on its final episodes and taking a whole different tack from the previous seasons. I’m hoping it all ties up and makes sense by the end but this was created by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci who also did Lost and the ending of that got a little bit away from them. Still, John Noble’s Walter Bishop is a delight to watch and is reason enough to tune in.

The Daily Show/The Colbert Report: This got me through the freakin’ election. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are both geniuses. Stewart does the faux news show and Colbert does a faux conservative commentator ala Bill O’Reilly. Colbert’s may be the more brilliant show but I have to admit that Jon Stewart makes me laugh more. However, Colbert did perhaps the last interview that famed children’s book writer Maurice Sendak ever gave and its hysterical and touching. Both shows are must-see TV for me.

Suits: I would not have bet you that a series set in a high powered law firm with people I don’t especially like would keep me riveted, but this one sure does. Gabriel Macht, Patrick J. Adams and Rick Hoffman are superb but for me the best characters are two women – Gina Torres (who you might recognize from Firefly) as the really tough head of the firm and especially Sarah Rafferty as Macht’s tart tongued, all knowing secretary who steals the show. Morally complex, suspenseful, and witty.

Kate Bush: 50 Words For Snow: I’ve been a big Kate Bush fan for a long time and it becomes an event when she brings out a new CD. Kate Bush is one of the most influential female singer/songwriters in the music business. This is one of her best CDs in recent years and the duet she sings with Elton John, Snowed In At Wheeler Street, is haunting. I play it over and over again. It’s influencing a concept that I’m working on. I love this CD.

The Avengers: The most perfect cinema realization of the Marvel comics ethos. Joss Whedon (director and writer) rules. This made umpty gazillion dollars and you’ve probably seen it. One of the best moments: Hulk vs. Loki. ‘Nuff said.

Lincoln: I’ve talked about this in one of my other columns. Daniel Day-Lewis gives one of the great movie performances of all time but he’s not the only one. Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones. Hal Holbrick, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who has had a very good year), James Spader and so many others make the film an acting delight.

Skyfall: James Bond’s 50th Anniversary in films and this one is a knockout. Bond is not simply an icon in this film; he’s a character with a deeper story. We see a seedy Bond, we see a Bond off his game, we see an aging Bond who may be outdated in the modern espionage world and knows it. This is right up there with my other two all-time favorite Bond movies, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger and it may be my favorite of the three. A key to the film’s success was hiring noted director Sam Mendes who delivered not only the action set pieces we expect from a Bond film but visual style, pacing, and performances. Daniel Craig gives his best outing yet as Bond, Javier Bardem’s Silva is one of the scariest all time Bond villains and Judy Dench – ah, Judy Dench. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about and, if you haven’t, I won’t ruin it for you. It’s not just a good Bond film; Skyfall is a really good film – period.

The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection: One of the pleasures of series books is coming back and seeing characters that you’ve come to regard as friends in a setting, a world, that has become real to you. Alexander McCall Smith has done that for me with his No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books, a detective series set in Botswana, Africa, and starring his woman detective, Precious Ramotswe. This series is a long ways from a hardboiled noir detective. The stories are gentle and filled with characters I love. The challenge with series books is to give the reader everything they remember and want in the series while also covering new ground. It’s a tough trick to pull off; the books could become stale. This series progresses slightly with each book and stays fresh. I look forward to my next trip back to Botswana.

Favorite Person In the Whole Wide World: My Mary. Who else? Love you, cutie pie.

I’ll be back next year. Happy New Year to you all.

NEW YEAR’S EVE: Mindy Newell