We’re always glad when another Thursday rolls around because our dear friend Wanderer over at Wondering Through The Shelves has provided us with yet another opportunity to rip each other’s heads off. Agreeing or disagreeing never seems to matter because we do both so vehemently you can hardly tell the difference! This week we’re talking about movies based on graphic novels or comics – but they CAN’T be about superheroes, which is a caveat that is no doubt making Sean break out into cold sweats. “No superheroes?”, he’s probably thinking, “Then what’s the point?”
Wrinkles (Arrugas) – This is originally a Spanish movie, an animated one actually, but there’s a dubbed English version featuring the voice work of Martin Sheen and Matthew Modine. It’s based on the comic book Arrugas by Paco Roca. I hadn’t heard of this movie until someone from this very blogging community reviewed it on her site and it sent my little radar to sniffing. Imagine a comic book about old people, if you will, some of them shuffling around with the whiff of Alzheimer’s infusing their comings and goings in a retirement residence where not everyone is pleased to be confined. It’s at times very sad, but never sentimental. It’s very smartly done and the dedication that comes at the end – to all the old people of today, and of tomorrow – is a subtle elbow to the ribs.
Snowpiercer – This one’s based on a French graphic novel called Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob. I came across mention of this movie in a magazine and got Sean all hopped up about this crazy movie that’s about a perpetually-moving train filled with feuding classes of people. Raw, brutal, stabby: just the kind of movie that gives him a chubby. But then the movie never opened. We searched high and low, and the movie just never came because Evil Lord Weinstein decided that suppressing a movie with vision and ambition would be a nifty way to wield his power and remind people that dumb Americans need his help to watch and interpret movies.
Old Boy – I’m watching the Spike Lee 2013 version starring Josh Brolin because I’d seen the Korean one a million years ago but never this one (I was still recovering) – in any case, they’re both obviously based on the Japanese manga of the same name by Nobuaki Minegishi and Garon Tsuchiya. So this guy gets kidnapped and imprisoned for twenty years in some hotel room. He has no idea why, or who, but one day he’s suddenly released and given 82 hours to figure out who’s been behind the whole thing. It’s a bloody movie. Like, if you think Drive is a little much, well, it’s actually a sunny stroll in the park compared to this. It’s fucking twisted. The American remake is a little soulless, comparatively, but it gets the job done and will make you want to seek out the source material, in which case, well – good luck with that.
Blade – sometimes vampires are also supervilllains, or very rarely, superheroes. But in the interest of including this movie in my picks this week, let’s just agree that Blade is pretty much a regular guy with no superpowers except being the near-invincible Daywalker hybrid. Kind of like how Superman is just a regular guy on Krypton so when you get right down to it, he has no special powers, he’s just not human. Which obviously doesn’t help out my argument at all. Anyway, Blade is a very good movie that more or less inspired Marvel to make lots and lots of superhero movies. Which again does not help out my argument but it’s still a great movie.
Men in Black – sometimes regular people get put in situations that call for a superhero. And either they get eaten by a giant bug or they get creative. Or both. Men in Black is a ton of fun and so tongue-in-cheek it hurts (in a good way). This is your chance to see Will Smith, in his prime, in his best role (with sincere apologies to Mike Lowry), and the pairing of Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones is as good as it gets. The two of them make it up as they go along and somehow make it work, saving the world along the way. The best part is K’s attitude about it all: the world is always in danger, so keep doing your job but make sure to keep it down so we can go about our business. Thanks, Men in Black, for keeping Earth safe.
Ghost World – sometimes I enjoy movies that don’t have a hint of superhero and have no explosions or car chases. It’s rare but it happens, and Ghost World is one such movie. It’s a strange movie, no doubt about it, but it’s strange in the right ways. It reminds me a little of Mad Max: Fury Road in that regard. Both take us to worlds that are different than ours that have their own logic, and that we come to understand as we meander through them with our leads. Both draw us in right from the start, make us want to keep watching and see this through to the end, and while the endings serve up good payoffs, in both movies the journey is its own reward.
Jay: Sean, wow. Just fucking wow. Mad Max? Really? You’re either really brilliant, or…you know, you’re really brilliant. Well done sir.
I love comics. It may have started with Batman for me but, as much as I love badass costumes and bone-crunching violence, I’;m always so proud of them when they aim higher. This week we pay tribute to graphic novel adaptations that helped show the world what the medium can really accomplish without relying on comic book logic.
Regardless of its subject, the key to any good comic book is to create a world of its own that is both distinctive and relatable. I thought of this in the shower this mroning and was surprised to read that Sean had a similar thought about Ghost World (2001), a movie that I’ve been dying to mention for months now. There’s nothing remotely supernatural about Ghost World but it seems to exist in its own universe. Strange, given how many characters I can recognize from my own life. Both a little surreal and painfully real, this movie is filled with uncomfortable moments that my friend and I used to cringe over and then immediately rewind and watch again.
Comics can address politics in the real world too. In Persepolis (2007) , a young girl grows up during the Islamic Revolution in Iran and, like Enid in Ghost World, finds solace in punk music as everything around her seems to be changing. Apart from the black and white animation and the fact that I was completely blown away by it, that’s about all I cacn remember. I so wanted to rewatch it this week but wasn’t able to track it down in time for Thursday.
Blue is the Warmest Color (2013), on the other hand, is fresh in my mind and will likely remain so for some time. I finally got around to watching it last night and was delighted- and surprised- to learn that it was based on a graphic novel so that I would have an excuse to check it out. I can’t picture this story as a comic at all and honestly have no idea what the source material could have looked like. I will probably have to check it out. All I know is that the story is simple, even if the feelings aren’t. What I found most impressive about this film was that, even though it is prepared to address homophoibia and how scary it can be to come out, this is really a story about how exciting it is to find love and how painful it is to watch it fade away and eventually burn out. The fact that they’re gay is almost incidental.