“Black Clouds Rolling In” : The Weight Of History Hits With The Force Of A Storm

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Formatted as a rounded-edges digest with an open spine revealing a visible glued binding, Liesbeth De Stercke’s 2016-published sketchbook collection from Bries, Black Clouds Rolling In, is a curious and instantly-memorable physical object in its own right, as well as being one that quietly but forcefully beckons you to explore its contents in detail — and that word right there, detail, perhaps best sums the project up better than any other.

One glance at the cover tells you that De Stercke is a stickler for it, believes in it, thrives on it — and so she does, not a thing escapes her notice. But this collection of sketches of the Great Depression/Dust Bowl era — produced at a daily clip throughout the course of 2013 — isn’t just concerned with physical and environmental detail. They represent only half of the equation. The other half that De Stercke deftly…

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Here Are The 2020 American Society of Cinematographers Nominations

The American Society of Cinematographers have announced their nominations for the best cinematography of 2020!  The winners will be announced on April 18th!

Here are the nominees!  Probably the biggest — actually, the only — shock to be found below is that Newton Thomas Sigel was nominated for Cherry instead of Da 5 Bloods.

Erik Messerschmidt – Mank
Phedon Papamichael – The Trial of the Chicago 7
Joshua James Richards – Nomadland
​Newton Thomas Sigel – Cherry
Dariusz Wolski – News of the World

Katelin Arizmendi – Swallow
Aurélien Marra – Two of Us
Andrey Naydenov – Dear Comrades!

Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw – The Truffle Hunters
Viktor Kosakovskiy and Egil Håskjold Larsen – Gunda
Gianfranco Rosi – NotturnoNotturno

Lisa Reviews An Oscar Nominee: One Foot In Heaven (dir by Irving Rapper)

I have to admit that One Foot In Heaven is a film that I probably never would have watched if not for the fact that it received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.

This film from 1941 tells what I presume to be a true — or, at the very least, a true-ish — story.  Fredric March plays William Spence.  The film opens in 1904 with Spence explaining to his future in-laws that he’s spontaneously decided to drop out of medical school because he feels that he’s been called to become a Methodist minister.  Though no one is happy or particularly encouraging about William’s decision to abandon the financial security of medicine to work as a minister, William feels that it’s what he was meant to do.

We follow William and his wife, Hope (Martha Scott), as they move from town to town, living in dingy parsonages and barely paying the bills by doing weddings.  Though Hope is frustrated by the constant moving and the less-than-ideal living conditions, she remains supportive of William.  They start a family and William goes from being a stern and somewhat judgmental man to becoming an inspiring minister.  He even changes his opinion about the sinfulness of going to the movies.  (All things considered, that’s probably for the best.)  Eventually, William, Hope, and the family end up ministering to a congregation in Colorado.  Determined to finally give his wife the home that she deserves, William tries to rebuild both the church and the parsonage.  It turns out to be more difficult than he was expecting.

That’s pretty much the film.  There’s not really much conflict to be found, until the final 30 minutes or so when William struggles to convince a bunch of snobs to help him achieve his dream of building a new church.  The film opens with a title card thanking the Methodists for their help in the production of the film, which should tell you everything you need to know about the film’s attitude towards Protestantism.  William does debate an agnostic at one point but it’s not much of a debate.  William, after all, is played by the authoritative Fredric March while the agnostic’s name isn’t even listed in the credits.  It’s a well-made film, in that sturdy way that many 1941 studio productions were, but — unless you’re just crazy about the history of Methodism — it’s not particularly interesting.

On the plus side, Fredric March gives a good performance as William Spence.  March was one of the best actors of Hollywood’s Golden Age and he gives a sympathetic performance as a stern but well-meaning man who respects tradition but who is still willing to admit that he has much to learn.  Probably the film’s most effective scene is when William reluctantly watches a movie with his son.  March captures William’s transformation from being a disapproving father to an entertained filmgoer.  It’s one of the few moments when the film really feels alive.

So, how did One Foot In Heaven receive a Best Picture nomination in the same year that saw nominations for films like Citizen Kane, The Little Foxes, Suspicion, and The Maltese Falcon?  One Foot In Heaven is well-made and totally uncontroversial.  It’s the type of film that, if it were made today, it would probably be directed by Ron Howard and it would star someone like James Marsden or Garrett Hedlund.  One Foot In Heaven is not particularly memorable but there’s nothing particularly terrible about it either and it probably felt like a “safe’ film to nominate.  Still, it’s probably significant that One Foot In Heaven didn’t receive any nominations other than one for Best Picture.  It lost that Oscar to another film about family, How Green Was My Valley.

10 Essential Chuck Norris Films

Chuck Norris is 81 years old today!  Below are ten essential Chuck Norris films.  These are the movies to watch if you want to understand how and why Chuck Norris, despite being an actor with an admittedly limited range, became not only an action hero but an enduring pop cultural icon.

  1. The Delta Force (1986, directed by Menahem Golan) — The Delta Force, a.k.a. The Greatest Movie Ever Made, is the obvious pick for the top spot on our list of Chuck Norris essentials.  Not only does it feature, along with Chuck, Lee Marvin, Robert Vaughn, George Kennedy, Bo Svenson, and Robert Forster chewing up all the scenery but this is the film where Chuck rides a missile-equipped motorcycle.  Not only does this film feature Chuck Norris at his stoic-but-determined best but it also features one the greatest lines in film history when a recently released hostage is handed a Budweiser and responds by shouting, “Beer!  America!”
  2. Code of Silence (1985, directed by Andrew Davis) — For a film that features Chuck Norris and a crime-fighting robot called THE PROWLER, Code of Silence is actually a tough, gritty, and realistic Chicago-based crime drama.  Giving the best performance of his career, Chuck plays an honest cop who finds himself in the middle of a drug war.  Henry Silva plays the main bad guy.  Director Andrew Davis later went on to direct The Fugitive.
  3. Way of the Dragon (1972, directed by Bruce Lee) — Chuck plays a rare bad guy here.  He’s a mercenary named Colt and the film climaxes with a brutal fight between him and Bruce Lee.  The fight is a classic, with a good deal of emphasis put on the shared respect between not only the characters played by Norris and Lee but also between Lee and Norris themselves, two masters at the top of their game.
  4. Silent Rage (1982, directed by Michael Miller) — In this slasher/kung fu hybrid, Chuck is a sheriff who must stop a madman who, as the result of a poorly conceived medical experiment, is basically immortal.  For once, Chuck faces an opponent who is just as strong and relentless as he is.
  5. Invasion U.S.A. (1985, directed by Joseph Zito) — Chuck vs. Richard Lynch!  This is one of Chuck’s best Cannon films.  Chuck is as good a hero as ever but what makes the film work is the diabolically evil performance of Richard Lynch.  They are ideal opponents, with Norris stepping up to not only defeat the bad guys but also to save America itself!
  6. Lone Wolf McQuade (1983, directed by Steve Carver) — This is the first film to feature Chuck Norris as a Texas Ranger and, as we all know, it turned out to be the perfect role for him.  This was the first of Chuck’s neo-westerns.  Cast as the bad guy, David Carradine proved to be one of Chuck’s best opponents.
  7. A Force of One (1979, directed by Paul Aaron) — A serial killer is targeting cops.  Chuck essentially plays himself, a karate instructor who is brought in to teach the detective self-defense.  This serial killer plot is actually interesting and the film features some of Chuck’s best fight scenes.
  8. Missing In Action (1984, directed by Joseph Zito) — Chuck plays a vet and a former POW who returns to Vietnam in the 80s to rescue the men who were left behind.  This is hardly my favorite Norris film and it owes too much to Rambo: First Blood II to truly be successful but this is also one of Chuck Norris’s biggest hits and it’s an essential film is you want to understand the man’s film career.  It’s a cheap production but Chuck’s sincerity and his convincing skills as an action hero almost save the day.  It’s also hard to overlook that, as far as I know, this is the only Chuck Norris film that features Chuck watching an episode of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.
  9. An Eye From An Eye (1981, directed by Steve Carver) — Chuck Norris plays an undercover cop who quits the force and tries to bring Christopher Lee to justice.  This one is worth seeing just because it brings together two pop culture icons, Chuck Norris and Christopher Lee.
  10. Breaker!  Breaker! (1977, directed by Don Hulette) — This was Chuck Norris’s first starring role.  He’s actually miscast as a trucker but this film is still worth seeing just for the final scene, in which Chuck and his friends use their trucks to destroy an entire town.

Artwork of the Day: Mail-Order Passion (by George Gross)

by George Gross

Before online dating, I guess you just went out with whoever sent you a letter and hoped that you didn’t end up on a date with a middle-aged alcoholic who expected you to sit on his red couch.

This cover was done by George Gross, who has been featured frequently in the past and who will probably be frequently featured in the future.