Sunday, June 3, 2012

Comics Review: R. Kikuo Johnson, The Shark King

Comics have had a deserved reputation as trash for most of their history. The adult-targeted graphic-novel movement of the last 30 years has done a good deal to change that. One hopes children-oriented efforts such as the Toon Books line will do their part as well. The capacity of comics for teaching children reading skills has always been apparent. The goal of the Toon Books line is to give them comics worth learning to read with. R. Kikuo Johnson’s The Shark King, geared for second- and third-graders, succeeds admirably in this regard. The book is a beautifully executed comics dramatization of a Hawaiian folk tale about Nanaue, a young boy born of a shark-god father and a human mother. It tells of his efforts to fit in with people in the fishing community to which his mother belongs, as well as his ultimate embrace of his heritage. Johnson presents the story with humor, a lovely sense of pace, and superb art. He’s a remarkably elegant visual craftsman: the art is complexly conceived, with a fine sense of locale and character, but his sophistication is such that it is readable at a glance. This fun story is also an enjoyable introduction to traditional Hawaiian culture. It's a treat for younger and older readers alike. Click here to learn more about this fine effort.

Reviews of other comics by R. Kikuo Johnson:

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Movie Review: The Tree of Life

Terrence Malick’s fifth feature, The Tree of Life, is a great film, and perhaps his best. Its centerpiece is a richly detailed look back at life in Texas during the 1950s, as seen through the eyes of a middle-school-age boy (Hunter McCracken). We see his experiences with his brothers and friends, as well as his ambivalent view of his mother (Jessica Chastain). The film is at its most eloquent when it explores his extremely complicated feelings towards his authoritarian father (Brad Pitt). Malick stages, shoots, and edits the picture in an impressionistic style that’s nothing less than dazzling—it dances from shot to shot and scene to scene with the utmost elegance. It’s one of the few films that truly deserves to be called lyrical. Malick’s filmmaking artistry is at such a high level that one easily forgives the pretentious aspects of his script, most specifically the life through the eons nature allegory during the film’s first third. When the picture settles into the 1950s sections, one feels one could watch it forever. Sean Penn appears in the film's framing scenes as the protagonist in middle age. The masterful cinematography is by Emmanuel Lubezki.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Best Films 1915-2011

As a companion to the 300 Best English-Language Novels post a few weeks back, I thought I would post this list of 200 Best Films. This list, though, is not restricted to English-language efforts. However, like the novels list, the word "best" isn't as appropriate as "most significant." The following groups of films were put together on the basis of the number of mentions in several high-profile lists. Those lists are:

These lists were also consulted:

The groups are listed (with some occasional tweaks) in descending order of mentions of the films contained therein. The films in group A were determined to be the most significant based on mentions, the films in Group B were determined to be the second-most significant, and so on. Group F contains the single-mention films (plus a couple of others) that I felt were most worthwhile. Only enough were included in Group F to get the overall list to 200 films. I hope it's a good guide to the major feature films throughout history and from around the world.

(Note 8/1/2012: A Group G has been added that includes the films from the 2012 Sight & Sound poll [click here] that were not previously listed.)

Happy viewing!


Group A

  • Citizen Kane
  • The Godfather
  • The Godfather, Part II
  • The Rules of the Game
  • The Searchers
  • Singin’ in the Rain
  • Sunrise
  • Tokyo Story
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Vertigo

Group B

  • The Battleship Potemkin
  • Bicycle Thieves
  • Casablanca
  • Children of Paradise
  • Chinatown
  • City Lights
  • The Gold Rush
  • Intolerance
  • King Kong
  • Notorious
  • Psycho
  • Raging Bull
  • Seven Samurai
  • Some Like It Hot

Group C

  • Blade Runner
  • Double Indemnity
  • Dr. Strangelove
  • The 400 Blows
  • The General
  • Gone with the Wind
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • The Lady Eve
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Film One)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Film Two)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Film Three)
  • M
  • Modern Times
  • North by Northwest
  • Nosferatu
  • On the Waterfront
  • The Passion of Joan of Arc
  • Pulp Fiction
  • The Seventh Seal
  • Sherlock, Jr.
  • Star Wars
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • Taxi Driver
  • The Third Man
  • Touch of Evil
  • Ugetsu
  • The Wizard of Oz

Group D

  • All About Eve
  • Apocalypse Now
  • The Apu Trilogy, Film One: Pather Panchali
  • The Apu Trilogy, Film Two: Aparajito
  • The Apu Trilogy, Film Three: The World of Apu
  • L’Atalante
  • Barry Lyndon
  • Bonnie and Clyde
  • Breathless
  • The Conformist
  • Contempt
  • La dolce vita
  • Duck Soup
  • E. T. the Extra-Terrestrial
  • The Earrings of Madame de…
  • GoodFellas
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • Greed
  • Jules and Jim
  • The Man with a Movie Camera
  • Metropolis
  • Mulholland Dr.
  • Napoléon
  • Nashville
  • The Night of the Hunter
  • Pickpocket
  • Pierrot le fou
  • Rashomon
  • Schindler’s List
  • Sweet Smell of Success
  • Swing Time
  • The Wild Bunch

Group E

  • L’Âge d’or
  • Aguirre, the Wrath of God
  • Amarcord
  • Andrei Rublev
  • Annie Hall
  • The Apartment
  • Au hasard Balthazar
  • L’avventura
  • Berlin Alexanderplatz
  • The Best Years of Our Lives
  • Blow-Up
  • Blue Velvet
  • The Bride of Frankenstein
  • The Bridge on River Kwai
  • Bringing Up Baby
  • Céline and Julie Go Boating
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • The Crowd
  • The Decalogue
  • The Deer Hunter
  • Do the Right Thing
  • Él
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • Fanny and Alexander
  • 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days
  • The Gospel According to St. Matthew
  • The Graduate
  • La Grande illusion
  • His Girl Friday
  • Ikiru
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers
  • It’s a Gift
  • Ivan the Terrible, Part I
  • Jaws
  • La Jetée
  • The Leopard
  • Letter from an Unknown Woman
  • The Magnificent Ambersons
  • The Maltese Falcon
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
  • The Manchurian Candidate
  • Mean Streets
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  • No Country for Old Men
  • Once Upon a Time in America
  • Once Upon a Time in the West
  • Ordet
  • Persona
  • The Philadelphia Story
  • Rear Window
  • Rio Bravo
  • Sansho the Bailiff
  • Shoah
  • The Shop Around Corner
  • The Silence of the Lambs
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
  • Spirited Away
  • A Streetcar Named Desire
  • Talk to Her
  • There Will Be Blood
  • To Be or Not to Be
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Tootsie
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  • Two or Three Things I Know About Her
  • Umberto D
  • Unforgiven
  • Vivre sa vie
  • Wall•E
  • White Heat
  • Wings of Desire

Group F

  • The African Queen
  • All About My Mother
  • All That Heaven Allows
  • Ashes and Diamonds
  • Awaara
  • The Battle of Algiers
  • La Belle et la bête
  • The Birth of a Nation
  • Brazil
  • Breaking the Waves
  • Chungking Express
  • Close-Up
  • Eraserhead
  • Hiroshima, mon amour
  • Jeanne Dielman
  • Le Jour se léve
  • Killer of Sheep
  • The Matrix
  • McCabe & Mrs. Miller
  • The Mirror
  • Mr. Hulot’s Holiday
  • My Night at Maud’s
  • Los Olvidados
  • Olympiad
  • Pandora’s Box
  • Pan's Labyrinth
  • The Piano
  • Pyaasa
  • The Red Shoes
  • Rome, Open City
  • Sans soleil
  • Smiles of a Summer Night
  • The Sound of Music
  • The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum
  • La strada
  • Sullivan’s Travels
  • Toy Story
  • The Travelling Players
  • The Tree of Life
  • Trouble in Paradise
  • The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
  • Y tu mamá también
  • Yi Yi: A One and a Two

Group G

  • Gertrud
  • Histoire(s) du cinéma
  • In the Mood for Love
  • Journey to Italy
  • Sátántangó