So — Wuzza “Buzza Wuzza,” Anyway?


The short answer to the question posed by the headline of this review would likely be “a self-published comic by cartoonist Jeff Ralston (or, as he credits himself, Buzza Wuzza, which also happens to be both the series’ title and the name of the anthropomorphic cat who is its nominal “star”) presented in a generously over-sized magazine format,” but that’s really only scratching the surface. It’s quite clearly a labor of love, perhaps with emphasis on the labor : Ralston produced no less than 19 issues of Buzza Wuzza Comics And Stories during the recent pandemic-engendered lockdown, and unlike any number of artists who are understandably happy enough to send yours truly a comic or two for purposes of reading and reviewing them, he actually went so far as to send me all 19 of his comics this past August. Hence the still-inexcusable delay on my part in getting this analysis/appraisal written — that’s a big ol’ pile of comics to read, and I never like to half-ass anything. If Ralston wanted me to read ’em all, then read ’em all I shall — and did.

Early on in said reading, though, it became apparent that tackling these in small chunks was the way to go — Ralston has created an idiosyncratic world unto itself here, where only his own made-up-on-the-fly rules apply, and given that none of the strips he’s put pen, ink, pencil, brush and occasionally even magic marker and collage cut-out to have carried over from issue to issue, there was no need to worry about my always-tenuous memory failing me altogether or, less drastically, requiring some sort of jolt or kick-start to get back into the flow of things. Issue, say, 12 is every bit as accessible as issue one, and there’s a kind of beautiful simplicity to that which should appeal to anybody out there either bored to tears with, or simply seeking respite from, long-form comics narratives. Complexity is great and all, but who needs it all the fucking time?

Which, come to think of it, isn’t a bad segue into a discussion about Ralston’s art. By and large this is agreeably simple stuff, done with no particular concern for the trappings of visual sophistication, and while I’m not sure this is down to this being as “good” as Ralston can draw or a deliberate stylistic choice on his part, it doesn’t really matter : what he’s come up with, by dint of either decision or default, is an immediately accessible and utterly cohesive visual language that doesn’t necessarily “impress” per se, but intuitively feels right for the kind of vaguely absurdist humor strips that are, it’s fair to say given the large sample size at my disposal, his stock in trade. Ralston’s ensemble generally partake in what can loosely be described as “madcap adventures,” and as such it helps to not only have them delineated in a kind of free-for-all scrawl by the artist, but also to be in the right frame of mind yourself to absorb this kind of intellectually non-taxing stuff — for my own part, I found reading an issue to cap off a long day at work was the way to go, and while that may sound like me damning this entire project with faint praise, I assure you it’s not : after all, who can’t use a couple stupid laughs after eight or more hours of workplace drudgery?

And so it is that Ralston can accurately be said to be more concerned with doing a particular thing and doing it reasonably well than he can be “accused” of being too overly ambitious. Issue 11 breaks the mold by being a prose and mixed-media affair, and it’s plenty interesting as a one-off, but there’s a definite sense by the time it’s over with that Ralston is perfectly content to return to regularly-scheduled programming for his next installment, and I have a hunch most readers will be on board with that decision, as well : when you’re in a bit of a creative groove, after all, there’s no need to rock the boat too terribly much, and by that point in the series it’s plainly obvious that such a groove has, indeed, been achieved. If I can level any specific criticism at this comic as a whole it would probably be that it boasts little to no progression, either in pure storytelling terms or in terms of the methodology behind the creation of said stories, but again, I should stress that I don’t have a huge problem with that given the project’s aims, which strive for a kind of tenuous balance between unpredictability and consistency, with Ralston more often than not succeeding at delivering both.

Anyway, characters come and go from the revolving door of Ralston’s imagination according to their utility to each issue’s particular story (or stories), but it’s a pretty damn likable bunch of animals (Buzza Wuzza, Judy Moon, Clancy The Cop, Dr, La Paz, Wuv Bunny, Messy Rabbit, Smokey The Cat) and people (Pal, Stressy) as well as the occasional ghost, robot, monster, and devil (among others) that populate the series’ core cast, and if you wonder what all they get up to beyond “hijinks ensue,” it’s generally stuff like going to Mars, solving mysteries, fighting crime, playing in shitty bands, visiting Stonehenge, serving in combat, going to jail, etc. — in other words, yeah, “hijinks ensue.” My favorite issue is of the bunch is probably #17, a full-length story called “Friends Of The Library,” but on the whole each installment isn’t too far removed from every other in terms of both overall tone and overall quality. I’m not sure if Ralston took much by way of breaks when writing and drawing these things, but they very much feel the end product of an artist who got a head of steam to do something quite specific and stuck with it until he’d done everything he wanted to do within the parameters he’d set for himself.

Which wouldn’t, I suppose, necessarily preclude Ralston from spinning more yarns set in his little de facto “universe” should he feel so inclined — after all, “just kinda doing whatever” is about as open-ended as premises come — and I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to checking out more if he makes more. These aren’t comics that will turn your world upside down or anything, but they will entertain you, especially if your sense of humor is just a touch off-kilter, and despite what the self-styled “intelligentsia” out there may tell you, there’s nothing at all wrong with cartoonists who want to entertain their readers. In fact, it’s a pretty damn noble goal in our increasingly dark world.

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There doesn’t seem to be much by way of distribution for Buzza Wuzza Comics And Stories, but interested parties are directed to contact Jeff Ralston directly at buzzawuzza1@yahoo.com if you’d like to order up and issue or two — or even all 19, I suppose.

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 if you’d take a moment to give it a look by directing your kind attention to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

The Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Honor Belfast


Washington has selected Belfast as the best of 2021!

Here are the winners and nominees of the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics!

Best Film
Belfast
The Green Knight
The Power of the Dog
tick, tick…BOOM!
West Side Story

Best Director
Kenneth Branagh – Belfast
Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog
David Lowery – The Green Knight
Steven Spielberg – West Side Story
Denis Villeneuve – Dune

Best Actor
Nicolas Cage – Pig
Benedict Cumberbatch – The Power of the Dog
Andrew Garfield – tick, tick…BOOM!
Will Smith – King Richard
Denzel Washington – The Tragedy of Macbeth

Best Actress
Olivia Colman – The Lost Daughter
Nicole Kidman – Being the Ricardos
Lady Gaga – House of Gucci
Kristen Stewart – Spencer
Tessa Thompson – Passing

Best Supporting Actor
Jamie Dornan – Belfast
Ciarán Hinds – Belfast
Troy Kotsur – CODA
Jesse Plemons – The Power of the Dog
Kodi Smit-McPhee – The Power of the Dog

Best Supporting Actress
Caitríona Balfe – Belfast
Ariana DeBose – West Side Story
Ann Dowd – Mass
Kirsten Dunst – The Power of the Dog
Aunjanue Ellis – King Richard

Best Acting Ensemble
Belfast
The French Dispatch
The Harder They Fall
Mass
The Power of the Dog

Best Youth Performance
Jude Hill – Belfast
Emilia Jones – CODA
Woody Norman – C’mon, C’mon
Saniyya Sidney – King Richard
Rachel Zegler – West Side Story

Best Voice Performance
Awkwafina – Raya and the Last Dragon
Stephanie Beatriz – Encanto
Abbi Jacobson – The Mitchells vs. the Machines
Kelly Marie Tran – Raya and the Last Dragon
Jacob Tremblay – Luca

Best Original Screenplay
Kenneth Branagh – Belfast
Mike Mills – C’mon, C’mon
Zach Baylin – King Richard
Paul Thomas Anderson – Licorice Pizza
Fran Kranz – Mass

Best Adapted Screenplay
Siân Heder – CODA
Jon Spaihts and Denis Villeneuve and Eric Roth – Dune
Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog
Steven Levenson – tick, tick…BOOM!
Tony Kushner – West Side Story

Best Animated Feature
Encanto
Flee
Luca
The Mitchells vs. the Machines
Raya and the Last Dragon

Best Documentary
The First Wave
Flee
The Rescue
Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
Val

Best International/Foreign Language Film
Drive My Car
A Hero
Lamb
Titane
The Worst Person in the World

Best Production Design
Jim Clay, Production Designer; Claire Nia Richards, Set Decorator – Belfast
Patrice Vermette, Production Designer; Richard Roberts and Zsuzsanna Sipos, Set Decorators – Dune
Adam Stockhausen, Production Designer; Rena DeAngelo, Set Decorator – The French Dispatch
Tamara Deverell, Production Designer; Shane Vieau, Set Decorator – Nightmare Alley
Adam Stockhausen, Production Designer; Rena DeAngelo, Set Decorator – West Side Story

Best Cinematography
Haris Zambarloukos – Belfast
Greig Fraser – Dune
Andrew Droz Palermo – The Green Knight
Ari Wegner – The Power of the Dog
Bruno Delbonnel – The Tragedy of Macbeth

Best Editing
Úna Ní Dhonghaíle – Belfast
Joe Walker – Dune
Andrew Weisblum – The French Dispatch
Peter Sciberras – The Power of the Dog
Myron Kerstein & Andrew Weisblum – tick, tick…BOOM!

Best Original Score
Bryce Dessner & Aaron Dessner – Cyrano
Hans Zimmer – Dune
Alexandre Desplat – The French Dispatch
Jonny Greenwood – The Power of the Dog
Jonny Greenwood – Spencer

TV Review: Dexter: New Blood 1.5 “Runaway” (dir by Marcos Siega)


There was a lot of coincidences in the latest episode of Dexter.  In fact, I would argue that there were perhaps more coincidences than were necessary.

For instance, I can accept that — having killed his latest victim — Kurt would just happen to drive up on Harrison while the latter was trying to run away from home.  And I can accept that Kurt would possibly see Harrison as being a kindred spirit.  It’s not just that Harrison and Kurt both have homicidal tendencies.  It’s also that they’re both people who feel like they’re on the outside of normalcy looking in.  Harrison probably reminds Kurt of himself as a teenager and, by mentoring Harrison, it’s possible that Kurt can try to fix the mistakes that he made while raising Matt.  Either that or he just wants to make Harrison his new partner in his side hustle, murdering hitchhikers.

I can accept all of that.  I mean, this is Dexter that we’re talking about.  Dexter requires a certain suspension of disbelief in order for the show to work.  If you spend too much time focusing on the chances of two serial killers actually ending up in the same small town in upstate New York, you’re never going to have time to appreciate Dexter’s sense of the macabre.

However, the show also asked me to believe that Angela and Molly would just happen to be in New York at the same time as Angel (David Zayas) and that Angel would just happen to be talking about the murders previously committed by the man that Angela now knows as Jim Lindsay.  I mean, it was good to see Angel again and I’m glad he’s still wearing the hat but his sudden appearance was a bit too convenient.  It was also very convenient that, earlier in the episode, a drugged Harrison told Audrey that his father was using a fake name and that Audrey later told Angela, at the exact moment that Angela was having her first doubts about Jim/Dexter.  The episode ended with Angela printing out an old obituary for Dexter Morgan, one that featured Dexter’s picture.

From the start of Dexter: New Blood, it has been obvious that Angela was going to learn that Jim was actually Dexter.  We all knew it was going to happen but I was hoping that Angela would learn the secret as the result of her own investigations, as opposed to just happening to attend the same random conference as someone from Dexter’s past.  Audrey very easily could have just told Angela what Harrison told her and Angela could have then done some investigating on her own.  Having her randomly stumble across the truth felt like a bit of a disservice to the character.  It felt like the type of groan-worthy plot twist that far too often popped up during the final seasons of the show’s original run.

So, yes, I was a bit disappointed.  A lot of this episode felt like filler.  Dexter returned to his serial killer ways to take out a drug dealer but, in another coincidence, Logan showed up to arrest the dealer before Dexter could actually do his full ceremony.  (Interestingly enough, the same thing happened with Kurt when his latest victim refused to run when he ordered her to.)  So, Dexter had to force the man to overdose on drugs before making a hasty retreat.  That was probably for the best, considering that Dexter still hasn’t found a good place to dump the bodies.

Still, there were a few intriguing moments in this episode.  I’m liking the idea of Harrison having to potentially choose between two serial killing mentors and Clancy Brown continues to give a strong performance as Kurt.  And, regardless of how she discovered the information, I’m looking forward to seeing Angela confront Dexter.

One final note: I still don’t think Kurt is working alone.  I think Olsen is somehow involved.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Molly was somehow involved too.  Seriously, if Molly isn’t secretly a killer then she’s just an extremely annoying character.  On a show like this, it’s always better to be a killer as opposed to just annoying.  Either way, we’ll see what happens!

The Detroit Film Critics Society Honors Cyrano


The Detroit Film Critics Society have announced their winners for the best of 2021 and, in a move that may surprise some but is actually pretty typical of the always wonderfully quirky Detroit Critics, they selected Cyrano for Best Picture!

The winners are listed in bold:

BEST PICTURE
Belfast
CODA
Cyrano
Don’t Look Up
King Richard

BEST DIRECTOR
Sean Baker – Red Rocket
Kenneth Branagh – Belfast
David Lowery – The Green Knight
Adam McKay – Don’t Look Up
Lan-Manuel Miranda – Tick, Tick…Boom!

BEST ACTOR
Nicolas Cage – Pig
Peter Dinklage – Cyrano
Andrew Garfield – Tick, Tick…Boom!
Oscar Isaac – The Card Counter
Will Smith – King Richard

BEST ACTRESS
Jessica Chastain – The Eyes Of Tammy Faye
Alana Haim – Licorice Pizza
Jennifer Hudson – Respect
Nicole Kidman – Being The Ricardos
​Kristen Stewart – Spencer

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Jon Bernthal – King Richard
Troy Kotsur – CODA
Jared Leto – House Of Gucci
Ray Liotta – The Many Saints Of Newark
Kodi Smit-McPhee – The Power Of The Dog

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Ariana DeBose – West Side Story
Kirsten Dunst – The Power Of The Dog
Aunjanue Ellis – King Richard
Rita Moreno – West Side Story
Diana Rigg – Last Night In Soho

BEST ENSEMBLE
CODA
Don’t Look Up
The French Dispatch
The Harder They Fall
House Of Gucci

BREAKTHROUGH
Alana Haim – Actress – Licorice Pizza
Emilia Jones – Actress – CODA
Woody Norman – Actor – C’mon C’mon (TIE)
Agathe Rousselle – Actress – Titane
Emma Seligman – Writer/Director – Shiva Baby (TIE)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
CODA
The Green Knight
In The Heights
The Power Of The Dog
Tick, Tick…Boom!

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Don’t Look Up
The French Dispatch
The Harder They Fall
Licorice Pizza
Parallel Mothers

BEST DOCUMENTARY
Flee (TIE)
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain
The Sparks Brothers
Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street
Summer Of Soul (TIE)

BEST USE OF MUSIC/SOUND
Cyrano
In The Heights
Last Night In Soho
Tick, Tick…Boom!
West Side Story

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Belle
Cryptozoo
Encanto
Flee
Luca
The Mitchells vs. The Machines

The Atlanta Film Critics Circle Love Pizza


The Atlanta Film Critics Circle has named Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza the best film of 2021!

Here are all of their winners:

Top 10 Films
1. LICORICE PIZZA
2. THE POWER OF THE DOG
3. THE GREEN KNIGHT
4. BELFAST
​5. TICK, TICK…BOOM!
6. DRIVE MY CAR
7. TITANE
8. WEST SIDE STORY
9. FLEE
10. DUNE & THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD (TIE)

Best Director
Jane Campion – THE POWER OF THE DOG

Best Lead Actor
Benedict Cumberbatch – THE POWER OF THE DOG

Best Lead Actress
Alana Haim – LICORICE PIZZA & Kristen Stewart – SPENCER (TIE)

Best Supporting Actor
Bradley Cooper – LICORICE PIZZA

Best Supporting Actress
Kirsten Dunst – THE POWER OF THE DOG

Best Ensemble Cast
LICORICE PIZZA & MASS (TIE)

Best Screenplay
Paul Thomas Anderson – LICORICE PIZZA

Best Documentary
FLEE

Best Foreign Language Film
DRIVE MY CAR (Japan)

Best Animated Film
THE MITCHELLS VS. THE MACHINES

Best Cinematography
Ari Wegner – THE POWER OF THE DOG

Best Original Score
Hans Zimmer – DUNE

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMER
Agathe Rousselle – TITANE

BEST FIRST FILM
Lin-Manuel Miranda – TICK, TICK…BOOM!