Today is National Bootlegger Day!
I know that because I use a site called CheckiDay, which is a really fun site that I recommend to everyone. Now, I’m not sure who exactly decided that today was National Bootlegger Day or why they decided that it should be on this particular date but, ultimately, the why isn’t important. What’s important is that the day just is.
Of course, when we think about bootleggers, we think about the 1920s and Al Capone ruling the streets of Chicago while Zelda danced and F. Scott wrote. The 1920s, which is one of my favorite decades, was a wild time, largely due to the fact that prohibition was the law of the land. I mean, just try to imagine it. Having survived both World War I and the Spanish Flu, Americans were told that they couldn’t even have a drink to celebrate. I mean, I don’t even like alcohol but I can definitely understand why that would piss people off. Bootleggers worked outside of the law and became folk heroes to a frustrated nation. Prohibition may have been passed to for reasons of health and morality but all it really did was show many Americans that sometimes it pays to defy the government.
Of course, there’s other reasons why I love the 1920s. It’s not just the bootleggers. There was also the music and the dancing and the fashions and the fact that we had three great Presidents in a row. (I know some of y’all are going to debate me on that but we’ll have to get into it later. Warren, Calvin, and Herbert for the win!, regardless of what Upton Sinclair may have had to say.) It was just a great decade.
And speaking of that decade, check out today’s music video of the day. This is a cover of Oops! …. I Did It Again, re-imagined as a vintage, 1920s song. The song is performed by a British band called Nouveau Lounge. (Singing is Amanda Davis.) This is a perfect video for National Bootlegger Day, don’t you think?
(And if you want to learn more about prohibition, check out Daniel Okrent’s history of the era, Last Call!)
So, earlier today, Twitter was all abuzz because of a minute-long teaser for a film that won’t be coming out until 2020. That title of that film …. well, actually, it doesn’t have an “official” title yet but, for now, people are just calling it Ghostbusters 3.
That’s right. After all the controversy and drama that we went through with the last attempt to revive (or reboot, depending on which side you were on) the Ghostbusters franchise, it is happening again. Except this time, according to Entertainment Weekly, it appears that the new film is going to be a “direct sequel” to the first two Ghostbusters films and it’s going to be directed by Jason Reitman. Jason Reitman, of course, is the son of Ivan Reitman. He’s also a director who, after his last few films, could really use another hit.
(Apparently, audiences in 2018 really weren’t interested in watching a movie about a forgotten 1988 presidential campaign. Who would have guessed?)
The teaser itself is pretty simple. There’s a storm. There’s a barn. There’s an old vehicle with a Ghostbusters logo. Here’s what is not in the teaser. First off, there’s no sign of the cast of the 2016 reboot, which I guess will make the YouTube commentariat happy. There’s also no sign of Bill Murray, Dan Ayrkroyd, or even Ernie Hudson. In the past, Bill Murray has said that he wasn’t interested in doing a third Ghostbusters films and, considering that Bill Murray pretty much does whatever he wants, you have to kind of wonder if he’ll actually come back or if maybe Ghostbusters 3 is just going to be Dan Aykroyd teaching his grandson (probably played by Pete Davidson) how to hunt and trap ghosts.
One of the many theories on twitter is that the film will bring the two sets of Ghostbusters together, which I assume means that we’ll get hilarious scenes of Aykroyd and Melissa McCarthy teaming up to complain about Chinese food. To be honest, though, a crossover is not really that bad of an idea and it certainly would be fun to watch people’s heads explode as a result. In fact, if this new Ghostbusters film is anything like the last Ghostbusters film, watching people’s heads explode will probably be more fun than actually watching the film itself.
(For his part, Ivan Reitman told EW that this film would be a “passing of the torch,” which could either refer to a new group of Ghostbusters or maybe just the fact that Ivan’s giving his son a job.)
In other words, who knows!?
But here’s the teaser.
Welcome to Cedar Springs Garden!
It’s a nice little town, somewhere down south. It’s a place where you can spend the day swinging back and forth on a tire swing and where you and your boyfriend can chastely spend the night sitting on the back of a billboard. It’s also the setting for the music video of Britney Spears’s From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart.
From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart was the last single to be released from Britney’s debut album and I have to admit that, when I watch it today, I have mixed feelings about this video. On the one hand, the song showed, in its own simplistic way, that Britney was a singer who was capable of delivering emotional content. On the other hand, there’s a soft-focus blandness to the video that kind of reminds you of why it took critics a while to take Britney seriously as a performer. Some of the problem is that the guy that Britney’s singing about doesn’t really seem like he’s worth all the drama. The other problem is that the video itself could have just as easily been set in the 1950s as opposed to the start of the 21st century. This is the safe, non-threatening Britney, as opposed to the Britney who, in her next big hit, would joyously and triumphantly celebrate getting “lost in the game.”
For such an inoffensive music video, From the Bottom of My Broken Heart was surprisingly controversial when it was released. That’s because was directed by Gregory Dark. It’s one of the many videos that have been directed by Mr. Dark and, in fact, one could argue that, in the 1990s and the early aughts, he was one of the best video directors around. However, before he directed music videos, Gregory Dark directed not only hardcore adult films but also several erotic thrillers. Even though, by the time that this video came out, Dark was no longer making adult features, it was argued by some critics that Dark directing this video was evidence that Britney was an unwholesome influence. That’s especially hilarious when you consider that this is probably one of the most wholesome videos in which Britney Spears ever appeared.
Last night, as a part of my attempt to get caught up with the films of 2018, I watched White Boy Rick.
As you might guess from the title, this film is about a white boy named Rick. It’s based on the true story of Richard Wershe, Jr., who grew up on the streets of Detroit. His father sold guns out of the trunk of his car and, by the time he turned 14, Rick was running with drug dealers and street gangs. (The fact that he was white while all of his friends were black is what led to him getting his nickname.) Rick became an informant for the FBI and, according to Wershe, the government helped him build up his reputation by supplying him with the drugs that he would then sell on the streets. When the FBI eventually decided that Wershe was no longer a useful asset, he was arrested for dealing and sentenced to life in prison.
The story seems like one that has the potential to say a lot that needs to be said about not only the economic realities of life in a dying city but also about the role that race plays in America’s often misdirected “war on drugs.” Unfortunately, the film falls flat because, with the exception of a few scenes, it never really convinces us that Rick was really worthy of being the subject of a film. While the film surrounds him with interesting supporting characters, Rick himself remains something of a cipher. Rick is played by a young actor named Richie Merritt. Merritt’s has the right look for the character but you never get the feeling that there’s anything going on underneath the surface. Rick comes across as just being a moron who got lucky and then, eventually, not so lucky.
The supporting cast fares a bit better. For instance, Matthew McConaughey plays Rick’s father with just the right amount of manic energy and Bel Powley has a few harrowing scenes as Rick’s drug addicted sister. Bruce Dern and Piper Laurie don’t get to do much as Rick’s grandparents but it doesn’t matter because they’re Bruce Dern and Piper Laurie. (All Bruce Dern has to do to make a character interesting is look at the camera.) Jennifer Jason Leigh plays one of Rick’s FBI handlers with the perfect hint of subversiveness. You’re never quite sure whether she’s messing with Rick’s life because she’s incompetent or because she’s enjoying it. Unfortunately, the supporting characters are often so interesting that Rick often gets overshadowed. He’s a bystander in his own story, which may have been the film’s point but, from a storytelling point of view, it hardly makes for compelling viewing.
Admittedly, there are a few memorable scenes to be found in White Boy Rick. At one point, Rick goes to a wedding at the mayor’s mansion and he’s a sight to behold in his blue tuxedo. In another scene, it’s explained to Rick why, when it comes to being arrested, charged, and incarcerated, the stakes are very different when you’re black than when you’re white. In scenes like that, you kind of get a hint of White Boy Rick could have been if it had been centered around a more compelling character.
As it is, though, White Boy Rick is well-made but kind of dull. It’s definitely a missed opportunity.
Featuring one panel per page and a pocket-sized horizontal format, lianhuanhua have been a staple of Chinese popular culture for decades, providing an affordable, and eminently portable, “delivery system” for mass-appeal sequential art storytelling. Some of the more dominant genres to grace the pages of these easily-digestible miniature magazines over the years, according to Paradise Systems editor/publisher R. Orion Martin, have been “fables, kung fu epics, and unauthorized adaptations of foreign films,” but with his own imprint’s entry into the world of lianhuanhua Martin seeks to bring something of an “art comics” ethos into a field that has been previously closed off to anything that fell outside a generally populist aesthetic sense. As always, he’s clearly not short on ambition.
My first exposure to lianhuanhua Paradise Systems-style comes by way of Shanghai-based cartoonist Woshibai’s recently-released Migraine, and to say I’m eager for Martin to get more of these…
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