The Curator of Schlock #398: Memory

The Curator of Schlock #398 by Jeff Shuster

Memory

That’s your movie title? You’re not even trying!

Where was I? Oh, I was undercover at a bowling alley, trying to buy some fentanyl from a drug-pusher named Gary. 

“Where’s the money? I don’t have all day.” Gary said as he lifted up a turquoise bowling ball. Suddenly, a look of terror spread across his face. Out of the shadows walked the Revenging Manta, the vigilante ninja of downtown Orlando. 

“You!” Gary screamed before hurling the bowling ball at the masked avenger. The Revenging Manta caught the ball and threw it right back at Gary. The ball struck Gary’s head with tremendous force. His cranium exploded, bloody chunks of flesh flying everywhere. A crimson geyser sprayed from his neck as the headless body stumbled around for a bit. — To be continued.

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This week’s movie is 2022’s Memory from director Martin Campbell. And it stars Liam Neeson as a hardened assassin out for vengeance. In these turbulent times, my cinematic comfort food usually revolves around aging leading men such Gerard Butler, Denzel Washington or Liam Neeson playing a character with a “certain set of skills” that gets pushed too far and unleashes holy hell on the bad guys. He makes them suffer and the audience  enjoys seeing them suffer. Everyone leaves the theater happy.

Or that would be the case if the trailer wasn’t a lie. When watching the trailer for Memory, we’re introduced to Liam Neeson who refers to himself as “the bad man.” He’s an unstoppable assassin, the best of the best. And then he gets an assignment that he will not do. He will not kill a child. And then you, the audience member, thinks, “Well, he may be a merciless assassin, but at least he doesn’t kill children.” Maybe he’s not such a bad guy after all.

We then see him taking out the bad guys, tipping off the cops to what he’s doing. The main detective is played by Guy Pearce. Neeson’s assassin states that he can’t keep doing his job for him, that these traffickers have to pay for what they do to children. We learn that Neeson’s assassin has some memory issues and can’t always remember where he was the night before. Maybe he’s not who he thinks he is. The trailer promises a competent action thriller from the director of the James Bond films Goldeneye and Casino Royale. Okay. I’m sold.

And then I watch the actual movie and am sorely disappointed. For starters, Neeson feels more like a supporting character than the lead. I guess that honor goes to Guy Pearce who’s looking a bit beaten down by life if I have to be honest. Maybe they dressed him down for the role of Vincent Serra, head of an investigation into child sex trafficking in El Paso. We see him trying to catch a guy pimping out his own underage daughter, but ends up killing the father in a tussle. Vincent asks the girl to give testimony against the cartels. Otherwise, she’ll be kicked back to Mexico. Her situation makes me depressed.

Then we have Alex Lewis (Liam Neeson), a contract killer in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. Alex visits his brother in a senior center and his brother stares at him with vacant eyes, a grim reminder of Alex’s own fate. By the end of the movie, Alex is just a befuddled old man, barely able to string a sentence together as he bleeds from his wounds. This isn’t what I want to see. Where is Neeson kicking ass? A couple months ago I was watching Neeson throw a guy from a moving train into the path of an oncoming moving train. 

It seems this movie is a remake of the Belgian movie, The Alzheimer Case. Apparently, that movie holds an 84% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes while this one remains at 28%. Maybe I should check out the original.

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Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131episode 284episode 441episode 442episode 443, episode 444episode 450, episode 477episode 491episode 492, episode 493episode 495episode 496, episode 545, episode 546, episode 547, episode 548, and episode 549) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #199: Two Perspectives Here Before You

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #199 by Drew Barth

Two Perspectives Here Before You

If there’s a medium that can use its visuals to their fullest extent when representing characters, it’s comics. There are only so many ways for film to show a person—but the face doesn’t change much without hours in the makeup chair. Comics, though, revel in that difference. Artists have their styles and techniques that make them immediately recognizable and, when we see those faces they’ve constructed for a story, we feel that immediate familiarity with their work. And a comic like Two Graves by Genevive Valentine, Ming Doyle, Annie Wu, Lee Loughridge, and Aditva Bidikar takes that idea of differing art to its fullest extent.

Two Graves is a comic about death. Mostly. Emilia and a man that could be Death are traveling, but we’re not quite sure where or why. All we know is that they’re moving as they can’t stay in one place for too long. By the end of the first issue, they already have two bodies to their one: one that had been waiting for Death, and another that hadn’t been expecting their night to end so abruptly. Emilia and Death work together, but we’re being kept in the dark, much like they are about one another.

What helps in this division between the two characters, though, is how each character is represented on the page. When we’re looking from Emilia’s perspective, we look through the lens of Annie Wu’s art. For the person who may be Death, Ming Doyle takes over. Because of this, we have a harder split between what we can and can’t see. Both Emilia and Death are being followed in a close first person perspective and, as a result, we only get a portion of each character’s thoughts and feelings as the story progresses. As readers, we know there’s portions of the story locked behind each character’s perspective, but this format allows for something more interesting in how the story is told. We would typically follow a single character or a larger cast with a roving third person narrator that may or may not know all in a typical series. But with this split between the two, we’re more privy to each of their thoughts and secrets—we simultaneously know more and less than each character as a result. We have to participate in the story in a more active way to get the entire picture.

As a first issue, Two Graves does what I love to see—strong characterization, established tone, worldbuilding—but with that added layer of Wu and Doyle tag-teaming on the art to create something more that I haven’t seen in a comic in a long time. It’s a mystery series that doesn’t show any hand too much or too often. We’re guessing intentions just as much as Emilia and Death are to one another. We can’t quite settle into the story as we know we’re missing something else. But that something else is what draws us into the story further and further. 

Get excited. Get going ahead now.

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Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.

Episode #551: Elliot Ackerman!

Episode 551 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

On this week’s program, I talk to the fiction writer and memoirist Elliot Ackerman.

Photo by Huger Foote.

TEXTS DISCUSSED

NOTES

Scribophile, the online writing group for serious writers


TDO listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.

This episode is released in association with Miami Book Fair.


If you are an amazon customer, one way to support this show is to begin shopping with this affiliate link, so that the podcast is granted a small commission on anything you purchase at no additional cost to yourself.

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Episode 551 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #198: Cat Time

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #198 by Drew Barth

Cat Time

How much time do we actually have? We sleep, roughly, eight hours and work for an additional nine. But then we have overtime and all the preparations for getting to work and the chores we need to deal with to keep our homes livable and, at the end of that, do we even have time left? As much as we want, we can’t fit everything into our days—at least not as much as we would like. But Genie Liang’s A Cat’s Day seems to have found the answer to where we can make up all of that lost time. Or, rather, it starts out that way.

Samo has been working away from her grandmother’s house and her brother for a while now. She wants to visit them more often, but the train from the city is a long trip and she just doesn’t have the time anymore. Work is work. She’s started a new job sorting people’s hard drives and doesn’t know how much longer she’ll be able to stay. Sure, the pay’s decent enough, but everyone else there does their work so quickly. How can anyone have the time to work and do everything else they need? This is where Samo meets a cat, a day planner, and a stamp. She still has the same amount of time in a day, but she can move those times around to where she needs them most. All those hard drives at work can be done over the weekend and then brought back in time to present as if she had done them over a couple hours.

What sells this sense of time travel and the lack of time we have with that is how Liang panels her work. From the precise grids of the day planner to the dynamics of the time travel itself once Samo starts to lose control of their time again, everything points toward the idea of trying to work within time’s contraints. These more manic pages give us a sense of the work and the panic that comes with trying to fit as much as possible into a finite amount of time. But as Samo progresses in the story, we see this eventual breaking of the panels entirely and a shift to floating in space while time and life disappear around her. It’s the breaking of this cycle of time and the freedom for prioritizing personal time over working overtime again and again.

A Cat’s Day is one of those graphic novels that gives you a certain amount of pause. You read it, you enjoy it, you slip it onto your shelf as a good book. But it’s the kind of book that lingers—you begin to think of your own time and how much you spread it around. Your calendar looks more full than it did before, those overtime hours seem like they’re taking up more time than the did before. And you find yourself clearing that calendar out for your own cat’s day. 

Get excited. Get a break.

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Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.

Episode 550: Jonathan Ames!

Episode 550 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

On this week’s program, I talk to the fiction writer and former memoirist Jonathan Ames.

TEXTS DISCUSSED

NOTES

Scribophile, the online writing group for serious writers


TDO listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.

This episode is released in association with Miami Book Fair.



If you are an amazon customer, one way to support this show is to begin shopping with this affiliate link, so that the podcast is granted a small commission on anything you purchase at no additional cost to yourself.

Check out Episode 312, in which I interviewed Gerald Stern.

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Episode 550 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #196: Damned If You Don’t

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #196 by Drew Barth

Damned If You Don’t

Although the spooky season will soon close, ghosts and demons flow through the pages of comics—even the ones that Fredric Wertham thought would jump out and murder children—a proudly ignominious tradition. Today, we have a new spookier series releasing in Damn Them All by Si Spurrier, Charlie Adlard, Sofie Dodgson, Shayne Hannah Cui, and Jim Campbell.

I enjoy a good Spurrier comic, whether that be Six-Gun GorillaCoda, or Godshaper, a new series from him and the artists he collaborates with is always a treat. Damn Them All is a deep-dive into the demonic: what it means to summon them, the costs of doing so, and the people who make it happen. The people who make it happen, namely Ellie Hawthorne and her uncle, the late Alfie Hawthorne, have the strongest occult connections and know that summoning a demon is something that can’t be done or taken lightly. But then it does happen lightly. At Alfie’s funeral a kid pulls a demon out to kill a rival gangster—no summoning magic, no spells, not sacrifices, nothing at all. For the most part, everything normal in the summoning world is no longer relevant. If you have a sigil and a grudge, you can summon something horrifying to mutilate your enemies. And that means something is very wrong.

Most interesting in this first issue of Damn Them All is how Adlard’s art plays with perspective and time. The first few pages gives us our background—Ellie and her uncle and the process by which magic can be done. We’re given the entire sequence through Ellie’s eyes and have these brilliant white spaces where narration, quite literally, fills in the gaps. These spaces break the page up in an interesting way where they’re just large enough to feel like borders, but not so large that they compete with the panels of art between them. They provide a rhythm, as if we’re in the middle of a montage, and gets us used to some of the more fun tricks the creative team plays throughout the issue. We have the rhythm of the montage, the white panels and thoughts, leading us always toward a splash page reveal or action of some kind. Like a conductor’s baton, the structure of the pages keeps the story beats in time.

Damn Them All is the kind of spooky comic I never know that I’m waiting for, then the book materializes and shocks me with how much further I wish to dive to find all of the demonic things clawing at the edge of the page. Damn Them All #1 showcases Spurrier, Adlard, Dodgson, Cui, and Campbell as masters of the craft of introductions—we see a little, but we want more.

Get excited. Get possessed.

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Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.

Episode 549: TDO Loves The Curator of Schlock #14

Episode 548 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

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On this week’s show, Jeff Shuster and I discuss a wild, strange, deadpan, homicidal roadtrip story that is The Doom Generation.

Photo by Leslie Salas.

TEXTS DISCUSSED

Roger Ebert’s review of The Doom Generation is here.

NOTES

Scribophile, the online writing group for serious writers


TDO listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.


If you are an amazon customer, one way to support this show is to begin shopping with this affiliate link, so that the podcast is granted a small commission on anything you purchase at no additional cost to yourself.

_______

Episode 548 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

Episode 548: TDO vs. The Curator of Schlock #13

Episode 548 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

Photo by Leslie Salas

On this week’s show, Jeff Shuster and I discuss the 1993 horror anthology film, Body Bags.

TEXTS DISCUSSED

NOTES

Scribophile, the online writing group for serious writers


TDO listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.


If you are an amazon customer, one way to support this show is to begin shopping with this affiliate link, so that the podcast is granted a small commission on anything you purchase at no additional cost to yourself.

_______

Episode 548 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

Episode 547: TDO vs. The Curator of Schlock #12

Episode 547 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

Photo by Leslie Salas.

On this week’s show, Jeff Shuster and I discuss the 1992 Peter Jackson masterpiece of a family drama, Dead Alive.

NOTES

Scribophile, the online writing group for serious writers


TDO listeners can get 20% of a premium subscription to Scribophile. After using the above link to register for a basic account, go here while still logged in to upgrade the account with the discount.


If you are an amazon customer, one way to support this show is to begin shopping with this affiliate link, so that the podcast is granted a small commission on anything you purchase at no additional cost to yourself.

_______

Episode 547 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on Apple podcastsstitcher, spotify, or click here to stream (right click to download, if that’s your thing).

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #195: Legendary Status

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #195 by Drew Barth

Legendary Status

The Spook season isn’t just for the ghosts, goblins, and skeletons we’re all used to seeing stalk the streets on Halloween night, it’s for the legends that accompany them. Much of the aesthetic we associate with spooks comes from the folklore and legends of Europe that formed our superstitions and folk beliefs. In that same vein lies a work of legends from an even more legendary creator: Shigeru Mizuki. While Mizuki’s Kitaro series is his most well-known work, it is his adaptation of Kunio Yanagita and Kizen Sasaki’s Tono Monogatari that gives life to Japan’s oldest legends. 

A collection of folklore and tales from central Japan, the Tono Monogatari is considered by many to be an equivalent to Grimm’s Fairy Tales in its content. But what’s created by Mizuki isn’t simply a graphic adaptation of Yanagita and Sasaki’s words—this is the kind of work that fits right into Mizuki’s considerable canon on its own. Resplendent with spirits, yokai, mountain creatures, and superstition, Mizuki goes beyond adaptation and inserts himself into these tales, acting as a guide as he walks through the Tono region as these stories are told to or experienced by him. And these can be stories that center on the various spirits that portend disaster and good luck or simply exist to explain why a certain noise is made during a light rain in the area. It gives a more intimate perspective on stories that have been told for hundreds of years, but Mizuki’s style makes them feel new again. 

While Mizuki himself has written about yokai and Japanese history extensively, and having the two come together in his adaptation of Tono Monogatari really helps to introduce readers to the kind of mangaka he was. There is a dedication to the craft in every page—the blending of his animated characters with the almost photo realistic backgrounds immerses the eye into the world of these stories to the point that you feel almost almost disappointed when you have to look away and see your normal hands among the world. These are the stories that Mizuki grew up with and he pours himself into them only as someone who has been reading and studying them for decades can. With him walking along the same paths as Yanagita and Sasaki had done more than a century ago, we feel less like we’re reading his work, but more like we’re walking with Mizuki as he tells us the stories of Tono.

While stories from Tono Monogatari and Grimm’s Fairy Tales act as compendiums for folklore and legends of the past, it’s these kinds of adaptations that make them feel more alive than any film with the budget of a small country’s GDP. Mizuki is the kind of mangaka that is able to seamlessly blend himself into the world of the story in a way that makes perfect sense and, as a result, helps modern readers feel a closer connection to these centuries old stories.

Get excited. Get legendary.

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Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.