It’s time for my monthly Oscar predictions! Awards Season is going to begin in just another two days and the Oscar picture has become a lot more clearer.
Last month, I was ready to write off West Side Story as a contender. However, following both the film’s recent screening and the death of Stephen Sondheim, it’s now once again very much a contender. If nothing else, Rita Moreno seems like the clear front runner for Supporting Actress. This would be her first nomination since she won an Oscar for appearing in the original West Side Story. Who can resist that narrative?
I’ve also added Licorice Pizza back to my list of nominees. At first, I thought it sounded too slight to be a contender but the enthusiasm that I’m seeing for the film would seem to indicate that I was incorrect.
As always, keep in mind that I don’t claim to be an expert. The picture is a bit clearer but I don’t claim to have any inside information or anything like that. These are just my guesses, for better or worse. To see how my thinking has evolved, check out my predictions for March and April and May and June and July and August and September and October!
Whether you love comics like this or hate them, the simple fact is that we need more like them : legitimate “anything goes” creative free-for-alls that have nothing limiting them other than the scope of the author’s imagination — or, in the case, the authors’ imaginations, plural.
The “comic like this” in question is Swonknibus, a newly-released collection of cartoonist Chris Cajero Cilla and writer Greg Petix’s weekly Swonk strip that ran in the pages of the University of Arizona student newspaper The Daily Wildcat from 1995-97. It’s more than that, of course — Cilla published this under the auspices of his own Sardine Can Press (apparently there’s also a hardback version available as a print-on-demand job from Lulu) and has seen fit to include an intriguing smattering of ‘zine content he created with Petix from roughly the same time period, and to round the entire package out with three pages of extensive footnotes — but for purposes of this review, all you really need to know is that if Swonk is to your tastes, the supplemental material is sure to be as well, and if it’s not, then it won’t be. Fair enough?
I’m a longtime admirer of Cilla’s comics, but this is my first time even hearing of Swonk, let alone actually seeing it, and as such it’s interesting to note the ways in which it both is and isn’t what a person would expect from the “warts and all” early work of someone who would go on to become an auteur cartoonist. A fair amount of the divergence from expectation can likely be chalked up to Petix’s influence, of course — he wrote this material, after all — but it’s equally interesting to note how markedly similar their sensibilities are in so many key respects, and therefore easy to see why collaboration was such a natural thing for them. They both share a decidedly askew view of reality and aren’t afraid to take the piss out of just about anyone and anything, but they both have a gift for making nonsense make sense (if — errrmmm — that makes sense), and so don’t be too surprised if much of what’s on offer here ends up feeling to you like it could just as well have been the product of one mind rather than two.
Also, this review is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Subscribing is the best way to support my continuing work, so I’d be very appreciative if you’d take a moment to give it a look by directing your kind attention to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse
The Gotham Awards were held last night and the big winners were CODA and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter. The Gothams aren’t exactly the biggest or most influential of the Oscar precursors but they were are one of the first so a victory can only help!
The winners are listed in bold:
“The Green Knight” “The Lost Daughter”
Best Documentary Feature
“Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”
Best International Feature
“Azor” “Drive My Car”
“The Souvenir Part II”
“What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?”
“The Worst Person In The World”
Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award Maggie Gyllenhaal for “The Lost Daughter”
Edson Oda for “Nine Days”
Rebecca Hall for “Passing”
Emma Seligman for “Shiva Baby”
Shatara Michelle Ford for “Test Pattern”
“The Card Counter,” Paul Schrader
“El Planeta,” Amalia Ulman
“The Green Knight,” David Lowery “The Lost Daughter,” Maggie Gyllenhaal
“Passing,” Rebecca Hall
“Red Rocket,” Sean Baker & Chris Bergoch
Outstanding Lead Performance Olivia Colman in “The Lost Daughter” Frankie Faison in “The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain”
Michael Greyeyes in “Wild Indian”
Brittany S. Hall in “Test Pattern”
Oscar Isaac in “The Card Counter”
Taylour Paige in “Zola”
Joaquin Phoenix in “C’mon C’mon”
Simon Rex in “Red Rocket”
Lili Taylor in “Paper Spiders”
Tessa Thompson in “Passing”
Outstanding Supporting Performance
Reed Birney in “Mass”
Jessie Buckley in “The Lost Daughter”
Colman Domingo in “Zola”
Gaby Hoffmann in “C’mon C’mon” Troy Kotsur in “CODA”
Marlee Matlin in “CODA”
Ruth Negga in “Passing”
Breakthrough Performer Emilia Jones in “CODA”
Natalie Morales in “Language Lessons”
Rachel Sennott in Shiva Baby”
Suzanna Son in “Red Rocket”
Amalia Ulman in “El Planeta”
Breakthrough Series – Long Format (over 40 minutes)
“The Good Lord Bird”
“It’s A Sin”
“Small Axe” “Squid Game”
“The Underground Railroad”
“The White Lotus”
Breakthrough Series – Short Format (under 40 minutes)
“Hacks” “Reservation Dogs”
“Run the World”
“We Are Lady Parts”
Breakthrough Nonfiction Series “City So Real”
“Exterminate All the Brutes”
“How To with John Wilson” “Philly D.A.”
Outstanding Performance in a New Series
Jennifer Coolidge in “The White Lotus”
Michael Greyeyes in “Rutherford Falls” Ethan Hawke in “The Good Lord Bird”
Devery Jacobs in “Reservation Dogs”
Lee Jung-jae in “Squid Game” Thuso Mbedu in “The Underground Railroad”
Jean Smart in “Hacks”
Omar Sy in “Lupin”
Anya Taylor-Joy in “The Queen’s Gambit”
Anjana Vasan in “We Are Lady Parts”
(Incidentally, I’m probably the only person not involved with the show to have noticed the victory for Philly D.A. I’m just going to be honest and say that is one of my least favorite results ever. Philly D.A. was a pure propaganda, nothing more.)
The story may be about gunrunning but I don’t see any guns on the cover. This cover was done by Harry Barton, whose work has been featured many times in the past on the site and will probably featured many times in the future.
Still, every now and again it pays to stretch oneself beyond the limits of one’s own largely illusory “comfort zone” and to see just what it is that everybody else is reading — and there’s no doubt that Johnson’s long-awaited new graphic novel, No One Else (Fantagraphics, 2021) will be among the year’s most talked-about releases, especially when it comes to the so-called “bookstore crowd.” If one wanted to take a cynical view of things, in fact, it wouldn’t necessarily be at all out of line to say this comic essentially plays directly to that demographic’s sensibilities, being — as the title of this review would suggest — an inherently refined work by its very nature. But it’s that other world in the title, “rawness,” that kept me turning the pages with this one —
If there’s one shill Johnson excels at above all else, it’s representing Woody Allen-esque emotional austerity in a manner every bit as understated as such a mindset/personality type demands in order to come across as authentic. Where his visual metaphors (in this case a recurring motif of burning sugar cane fields) can come off as heavy-handed at best, too obvious by half at worst, his depictions of everyday life and its quiet alienations are never less than absolutely masterful. In a manner not entirely unlike Adrian Tomine back when he was still trying, Johnson’s characters say volumes by saying very little and letting his art do the talking. Brandon’s father is never mentioned, but we know the kid misses him all the same; Charlene’s vocabulary doesn’t even include the word “loneliness,” but we know it’s eating her alive; her father’s physical and mental abuse is never explicitly referenced until the late going, but it hangs over every page regardless. This is powerful, emotionally raw stuff, covered in the “nothing to see here, folks” trappings of multiple layers of mostly-silent denial.
To that end, while this is a brisk enough read, it’s nevertheless a draining and difficult one. Family dysfunction is never pretty, of course, family dysfunction that’s forever swept under the rug even less so, but damn if this isn’t the way reality plays out for any number of people attempting to get by in a late-stage capitalist economy that largely survives on the denial of intimacy at all levels in order to keep chugging along while it destroys the very natural world upon which its (and our) survival is dependent. In much the same way as his characters, Johnson addresses this without directly addressing it, hence those rather clumsy metaphors just referenced, but when he allows his characters to address it for him by dint of their actions and reactions, or lack thereof, the results are equal parts sublime and harrowing.
Yes, this is a self-consciously “sophisticated” comic. And while its central characters have their struggles, it’s fair to say they don’t seem terribly challenged in terms of making ends meet economically — apart from a very brief scene where Charlene’s credit card is turned down to pay for her med school exam, which seems to be resolved “off-page” in fairly short order. That in no way invalidates their traumas or mental and emotional hardships, though, and to dismiss them outright as the trials and tribulations of the “privileged” is to engage in a sort of reverse-snobbery that I don’t care to be a part of. Johnson is a master of his craft, and I can always appreciate exceptional cartooning, regardless of whether or not said style of cartooning is my usual cup of tea. There are other ways of making really good comics than the various and sundry methodologies and aesthetic approaches that I prefer — Johnson’s book serves as a very welcome reminder that understatement can sometimes be the most powerful statement of all.
Also, this review is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Subscribing is the best way to support my continuing work, so I’d be very appreciative indeed if you’d take a moment to give it a look by directing your kind attention to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse
It’s been a week of celebrations! We celebrated Erin’s birthday! We celebrated Thanksgiving! We celebrated Arleigh’s birthday! And now, with all of that celebrating behind us, I’m tired. Let’s do this.