After much delay, a visit from the mother-in-law, and a (purportedly) nasty stomach problem experienced by the friend with whom I was supposed to go, I finally got around to seeing Kick Ass, and I have to say I really enjoyed it. The 8-issue comics series – written by Mark Millar and illustrated by John Romita, Jr – on which the movie was based (now available as a graphic novel, for those who are interested) was one of my favorite comics 2009. Millar in a manic and outragious talent, particularly skillful at giving comics readers what they most enjoy. He is also, if you look at it from the right perspective, the Henry James of comics. His characters never get what they are hoping for, but in failing, they always somehow succeed, if not exactly triumph. In Kick Ass, Miller gives us the story of a comics geek who tries to become a genuine superhero, and of course he is horribly abused and beaten down for his efforts. The end result is hilarious, exciting, disgusting, and compulsively readable.
The film on which it is based isn’t as much of a triumph in its own medium as the comic series was, but it’s still a pretty entertaining movie – respectful to the source material, but not slavishly devoted to it. By the second half, the film has moved off in its own direction, often making choices – particularly in character development – that seem antithetical to Millar’s style, but these often feel not like a cop out, but like the right move for a film, which obviously has a different audience and different generic requirements than does a comic book. The end result is a movie that is hilarious, exciting, disgusting and compulsively watchable.
It’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog, so let’s talk more about stuff I like. There’s Zoe Heller’s novel, The Believers, which is probably the most absorbing work of fiction I’ve read in many, many months. Readers who require likable characters: keep your distance. This book isn’t for you, and you don’t deserve it. Readers who like their characters flawed – often hilariously so, and sometimes touchingly so – please come on it. You will have a fine time. Everyone in this tale of a New York leftist family is broken and/or vile. But who cares? Heller nails these characters and drags them through their personal and pathetic misadventures with such a steady hand that it’s a delight watching everyone come apart and self-destruct.
I’ll definitely be digging into Heller’s previous work. Unfortunately I’ve
already seen the film based on her novel What Was She Thinking?: Notes on a Scandal, and I didn’t much care for it, what with it being tedious and all. Now, I like Cate Blanchett as much as the next guy, but I guess I prefer her chased around by a psycho Keanu Reeves in a Sam Raimi film. I get a little impatient after too many scenes of her doing a hippy dance with her family around the table after luncheon. But that’s me. Fortunately, I’ve repressed most of the movie, so I can read the book almost afresh.
On the alcohol side of things, one of the best wine values I’ve come across this year is the 2007 Le Vieux Logis Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne. Don’t bother looking. You won’t find it. It was one of those limited gems my wine shop just happened to have, and I cleared out such stock as they had left. Sorry guys. But this was my first experience with Cairanne, and if this bottle is any indication of what that Southern Rhone village is up to, I’ll be back for more. This wine had amazing structure, incredibly developed dark fruit, earthy and mineral notes, great finish, balanced tannins and acidity – the whole package. At under $15 a pop, it drank like a much more expensive Châteauneuf-du-Pape. I still have four bottles in storage, and it should keep for another 2 -3 years, so it pays to be nice to me.
Finally, I don’t often share my taste in music with you. There’s really not much of a percentage in it. Chances are, you find my musical inclinations inexplicable and I find yours risible. Yet we can still be friends, can’t we? But I’m late to the party on a couple of bands that just hit my wall-of-noise, guitar feedback, endless drone sweet spot, and I just had to gush. Wooden Shjips just released their third album, the appropriately named Vol. 2. As soon as I heard it, I immediately picked up their previous work. Check out the opening track from Vol. 1. When a song is almost nine minutes long, and it still feels too short, you know it’s a winner.
And then there is Austin’s own Black Angels. A little more structured, a little more traditional in their song writing, but equally fuzzy, droney, feedbacky and awesome. I could listen to this stuff all day.