Check, Please : Liam Cobb’s “The Inspector”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Confession time right at the outset : I actively despise what’s generally known as “foodie culture.” Mind you, I absolutely appreciate the fact that there is a real artistry to good cooking and that restaurants which practice things like the so-called “farm to table” philosophy are certainly going about their business more ethically than, say, McDonald’s is, but let’s be honest : every goddamn chef thinks he or she (and it’s far too frequently a “he” — a major problem with the restaurant industry is the male domination of, and the resultant culture of misogyny inherent in, most kitchens) is at the very least a local, if not a national, celebrity; menus have become pretentious, ego-driven, and hideously expensive; wait staff act like they’re the stage performers a good chunk of them wish they were — the whole experience of eating out has become a nauseatingly garish production.

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The Dork Knight: Steve Martin in DEAD MEN DON’T WEAR PLAID (Universal 1982)

cracked rear viewer

Quick, name a film noir that stars Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Ava Gardner, Cary Grant, Veronica Lake, Alan Ladd, Vincent Price, and… Steve Martin? There’s only one: 1982’s DEAD MEN DON’T WEAR PLAID, the second collaboration between that “wild and crazy guy” Martin and comedy legend Carl Reiner. I remember, back in 1982, being dazzled by editor Bud Molin’s seamless job of incorporating classic film footage into the new narrative while simultaneously laughing my ass off. Things haven’t changed – the editing still dazzles, and I’m still laughing!

Martin and Reiner’s first comedy, 1979’s THE JERK, was an absurdist lover’s delight, and this time around the two, along with cowriter George Gipe, concocted this cockeyed detective saga after combing through old black and white crime dramas (we didn’t call ’em film noir back then) and cherry picking scenes to build their screenplay around. Martin plays PI…

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Remembering Avicii: Avicii: True Stories (dir by Levan Tsikurishvili)

It was a year ago today that we learned of the passing of Tim Bergling, who was better known as Avicii.  For those of us who loved Avicii’s music and who followed him throughout not only his career but also through his multiple health issues and his widely publicized retirement from touring, the loss of Avicii is one that we have yet to recover from.

On this sad anniversary, I’m thinking about the first time that I watched Avicii: True Stories on Netflix.  This documentary, which covered the majority of Avicii’s career — from his rise to his eventual retirement, was released in Europe six months before his death.  In the U.S., it was released on Netflix on December 14th, 2018.  It’s not always an easy documentary to watch but I recommend it to anyone who loved Avicii’s music or to anyone who is just curious about the pressures that go with being a star.

Featuring interviews with not only Avicii but also his collaborators, the film follows Avicii as he quickly goes from being just being one of the many people posting remixes on online forums to being one of the top and most important DJs in the world.  We watch as Avicii maintains a hectic schedule of nonstop touring, often sacrificing both his physical and mental health in the process.  Avicii ends up in the hospital, suffering from acute pancreatitis.  Later, he again ends up in the hospital, this time to have both his appendix and his gall bladder removed.  The film makes no attempt to hide the decadence that goes along with touring but, in its best moments, it also highlights the conflict that arises from having to be both Tim Bergling, an anxious young man who finds a much-needed escape in music, and Avicii, the superstar who has to be on every night.

When we first meet Tim, he seems young and hopeful and enthusiastic.  Halfway through the film, an exhaustion starts to creep into his voice and, by the end of the film, he’s become far more world-weary.  As we watch Tim struggle with the weight of being Avicii, we’re also aware of the people around him, whose careers and finances are pretty much dependent on making sure that Tim never stops being Avicii, regardless of how much damage it does to him mentally and physically.  Throughout it all, one thing remains consistent and that is Tim’s love of music.  It’s only when creating and talking about music that Tim seems to be truly happy.  It’s his escape from a world that often seems like it’s conspiring to swallow him whole.

The film ends on what should have been a happy note.  Tim announces his retirement from touring and the film ends with him, in good spirits, on a beautiful beach.  Tim seems like he’s finally found some happiness and a chance at the inner peace that stardom often denied him.  Beyond a title card (which was added for the film’s U.S. release), Avicii: True Stories does not deal with Tim’s death but it still haunts every minute of the film.  Watching this documentary, it’s impossible not to mourn what the world lost when it lost Tim Bergling.  The film stands as both a tribute to his talent and a portrait of a good and likable man struggling to escape his demons.

Tim “Avicii” Bergling, rest in peace.

Some 411 For 420 : Box Brown’s “Cannabis : The Illegalization Of Weed In America”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

As a matter of course, I’ve found the now-annual works of non-fiction cartooning from Box Brown published under the auspices of his deal with First Second to be enjoyable, if not exactly groundbreaking, and I’m highly (pun only slightly intended) grateful for the stability they no doubt bring Brown, therefore giving him enough financial “breathing room” to continue his ongoing Retrofit publishing program — so please keep all that in mind if it sounds like I’m damning his latest graphic novel, Cannabis : The Illegalization Of Weed In America, with faint praise.

Such, I assure you, is far from my intent. As with his “graphic biographies” of Andre The Giant and Andy Kaufman, and his historical overview of the Tetris video game phenomenon, this is a highly readable, often-times engrossing work, sensibly laid-out, agreeably illustrated, and convincingly argued in terms of advancing its point of view. But — and…

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Music Video of the Day: Marijuana by Kitty (2014, dir by Shomi Patwary and Kitty)

Happy 4-20!

That’s right, it’s April 20th!  Today, some people are getting ready for Easter and some people are celebrating the fact that it’s the 20th day of the 4th month of the year and a lot of people are probably going to be doing both.

(Did you know that if you go over to Mike Gravel’s presidential campaign page and if you click on the donate link, there’s a specific option for people who want to make a donation of exactly $4.20?  A lot of that, I assume, has to do with the fact that Mike Gavel’s campaign is being run by two teenagers.  Mike Gavel is like nearly a thousand years old so I doubt he knows the significance of it.)

Anyway, my initial plan for today was to share the video for Get Yourself High by The Chemical Brothers but then I searched the site and guess what?  I already shared that video!  So, instead, here’s the video of Kitty’s Marijuana, which is I guess a more obvious choice for 4-20 but still a valid one.