was a limited series by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely of New
X-Men fame. It recently came out as a trade paperback. I highly recommend it.
When I was a kid, one of my favorite movies was The Incredible Journey, about two
dogs and a cat who trek hundreds of miles through the wilderness to find their way home.
This is basically the same thing, except that this time the three pets have been turned
into cyborgs and are being pursued by a black-ops government agency. No, really, somehow
it works. The animals have implants that allow them to speak, but it's not celebrity
voiceover dialogue — they sound like animals. The dog says things like, "Good dog,
help man," the cat says things like, "Man sssstink!" and the rabbit says things like, "Eat.
Grass. Now. Eat. Yes." No, really, I'm telling you, somehow it works. The animals are
very appealing characters and the story tugs at your heartstrings while remaining pretty
damn creepy all the while. This is great stuff.
Less great was Y Tu Mamá También, a well-regarded movie from a few
years back that I found highly overrated. I am, however, prepared to accept that my
opinion might be idiosyncratic. I just had no patience for the subjects of the movie,
a couple of spoiled fratboys-in-training who spend the movie getting drunk and/or
stoned, jerking off together, and trying to get into the pants of a (sigh) dying woman
who, as only happens in the movies, decides that she'll spend her last month on earth
initiating these boys into adulthood or something. The only reason I didn't turn it
off is because, as a road movie, it also serves as a bit of a travelogue of Mexico,
and that aspect I found interesting. The narrator occasionally delivers a voiceover
about what happens to a tangential character; I think the idea was to paint a richer
picture of the country the main trio was traversing, but the effect was to make me
wish the movie had been made about any of those other characters instead.
Finally, when Jen and I went to the Getty Center in
January, I picked up a book on Roy Lichtenstein, one of the Taschen ones in the same
series as the one on Piet Mondrian that I got years back.
It took me years to get into Lichtenstein, because initially I only ever saw the
comic book panels — for those who aren't into art, Lichtenstein's most famous
schtick was taking panels from romance and war comic books and recreating them as
huge paintings, complete with the Benday dots used in four-color printing. It's
good for some cheap irony: the panels look ridiculous out of context, and it says
something about the arbitrariness of the divide between high and low art to have
reproductions of extracts from stuff like Young Romance hanging on gallery
walls. And that's not to mention the gimmick of laboriously recreating artifacts
of a printing process that's not actually being used. The thing is, though, once
you've seen one of these, you don't really need to see another one. The point's
But just in the past couple of years I discovered that Lichtenstein had actually
done... other things! He still used a few basic colors and fake Benday dots to
suggest shading, but he used them to create original scenes. The barn there should
give you an idea of what I'm talking about. Again, it's cheap irony — idealizing
the subject like pastoral painters through the century, but doing so by simulating an
industrial-age process. The difference is that the barn actually looks really cool.
The colors are vibrant and pleasingly arranged, and while the style appears to be
mocking the commercial iconography of the day, it actually succeeds in making the
barn look cheerfully modern, like something out of a mural in Tomorrowland.
Lichtenstein created many successful pieces of this type. When I went to the Museum
of Modern Art in Queens last summer, the first big space I walked into after buying
my ticket was dominated by a wall-sized Lichtenstein painting of a room, done mostly
in black and white with some blue and yellow-orange in there, and it was gorgeous. I
just sat and looked at it and looked at it.
That was the sort of thing I was hoping to see more of in this book. It is full of
pictures of many of Lichtenstein's works of various sorts over the decades, but doesn't
include a lot of my favorites. As for the text: the story on Lichtenstein, according to
the interviews and commentary in this book, is that he had no message and wasn't even
trying to create beauty; rather, he'd hit upon the comic book thing and then, having
staked out the Benday dots thing as his trademark gimmick, spent his career showing
off the Benday-dot version of different art movements: cubism, surrealism, minimalism,
art deco and so forth. I'd hoped this book might show me that there was more to
Lichtenstein's work than I had thought. It left me with the impression that there was less.
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