There has been a recent trend going around on Facebook apparently in which people put up 10 albums that influenced them.  The problem is that it’s supposed to be just one album at a time and you’re not supposed to list the reasons why it influenced you.  What’s the point of that?  Why list something that was influential but not give any idea as to why?

Well, my brother Kelly thought the same thing.  He put together a list of the 10 albums that really influenced him.  Except there are a few things.  1 – He didn’t want to put up just one a time because it works better as one story.  2 – He wanted to make certain to include that story as part of it.  And 3 – Like me, he’s not on Facebook.  So when he sent me his list to read, I offered to put it up on the blog for him.  So here, in my older brother (six years) Kelly’s own words, are his 10 albums that influenced him: (more…)

the Nighthawk for which it is all named

Does the name Kyle Richmond mean anything to you?  Probably not.  It means something to me, though.  At the height of comic book obsession, around about seventh grade, I desperately wanted to be a comic book writer.  I would spend countless hours explaining to people that no, I can’t draw, and that perhaps they couldn’t grasp what it meant to be a writer.  I hope today, with all the people who read Kavalier & Clay, that they would understand the difference.

Well, I was trying to figure out a character, and I wrote an entire character from outside the Marvel Universe.  This was in the days just after Crisis on Infinite Earths, when DC was in the process of getting rid of all their multiple realities and I thought it would work well for Marvel.  I envisioned a character who would cross over from our own Earth, a comic fan who happens to have the whole knowledge of the Marvel Universe at his fingertips.  So, he would naturally choose to be a hero with some significance.

Enter Nighthawk.  Otherwise known as Kyle Richmond.  There were two Kyle Richmonds in the Marvel Universe, from two different worlds – the primary Marvel Earth and the one from the Squadron Supreme Earth.  Both were blatantly ripped off from Batman, but both of them had recently died.  The primary one had died saving the Defenders.  The other one had died in an effort to make the Squadron Supreme realize the error of their ways (more on that below).  So I wrote a character who picked up Kyle’s mantle and carried it forward.

Nothing came of the character idea.  But everything came of it.  I’ve had a few different Yahoo e-mail addresses, but for 13 years now they have all been variations on Nighthawk.  This blog is called Nighthawk News because that’s the character I have stuck with.  And it only seems right to use that as a kick in to a new list – 10 comic books to remember.

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The great Fritz Lang never so much as sniffed at an Oscar.

So here is the explanation behind the asterisk.  Because it would be too long to fully qualify this list in the title.  Here is the real list: The Top 10 English-Language Directors Who Have Never Been Nominated for An Academy Award Nor Had Any of Their Films Ever Nominated for Best Picture.

So here’s how we get that list.  We take every director who’s ever got any award points, any director who has ever made a film to show up on the Top 1000, every director who’s ever made what I consider a **** film and any director that I give points to for their direction for a particular film (the starting point for my update of the Top 100 Directors of all-time).  That leaves us with a list that has approximately 700 names on it.  First, eliminate the 210 directors who have been nominated at some point for Best Director at the Academy Awards.  Then eliminate the 72 directors who have had one of their films nominated for Best Picture but not but nominated for Best Director.  So now we have a list that is a little over 400 long.

Now, the Academy is primarily an American organization and though it does occasionally nominate Foreign films for Best Director (or Picture), it is still not all that common.  So, we can start getting rid of the directors at the top of the list that it would be unreasonable to expect the Academy to ever nominate.  So we can say goodbye to Eisenstein, Buñuel, Yimou, Juenet, Tarkovsky or Leone (his films were primarily made in Italian even if they were dubbed into English).  We can also eliminate Griffith and Von Stroheim because their careers were pretty much done by the time the Academy came around. (more…)

Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock

These are actually two different genres of film that are often combined.  I will be separating them out and giving a top 10 for each.  The essential difference is that in a Mystery, the audience (and characters) are trying to find out what has happened, while in a Suspense, you are trying to find out what will happen next.  In other words, in a Mystery, you chase someone and in a Suspense film you get chased.

Of course the bald man to the left was the master of suspense films.  He’s got four in the top 10 and four more in the next 10.  The other 16 films are by 16 different directors (unless you believe the rumor that Orson Welles directed a lot of The Third Man), and surprisingly, Stanley Kubrick is not one of them. (more…)

For Your Consideration - Heath Ledger for Best Supporting Actor (The Dark Knight)

For Your Consideration - Heath Ledger for Best Supporting Actor (The Dark Knight)

Preparing this list I never had any doubt who would come out on top. My question was, given the way I was ranking the characters, by how much of a margin would he come out on top? The answer was: a healthy one.

The interesting thing about this list is that even though Marvel has been considered the more “in” company for a long time, the more adult, and has had considerable success on film this decade (and it’s fair share of colossal failures), it’s DC who has done a better job with the villains. As Marvel cements its brand on-screen in the next couple of years with Iron Man and Hulk sequals and Captain America, Thor and Avengers films, it will be nice if they can get the villains right.

Anyway, to create this list, I used a 1-10 scale in five categories: Interesting, Evil, Intelligence, Fidelity to the Comic Book and Performance. So the point totals are out of 50.

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I’ve managed to have an article posted on AwardsDaily.com with a link to the blog, without having a film blog in the last couple of weeks, thanks to work and Comcast somehow killing our internet for a week.

So, here are the links so far to the various lists I’ve done in response to AFI and their 10 Best in 10 Genres Lists from earlier this year. I plan to eventually do a Best Of list for every genre, so Action-Adventure, Mystery, Crime, Comedy, Drama and Foreign will eventually get their day in the sun. But here’s what I’ve done so far:

Fantasy (Top 10)

War (Top 10 – Foreign / Top 10 – English Language)

Kids (Top 5 Non-Animated)

Musicals (Top 10 – Traditional / Top 10 – Non-Traditional)

Science-Fiction (Top 10)

Horror (Top 25)

Westerns (Top 10)

Animated (Top 10)

more film links below (more…)

My Lord of the Rings collection back in 2004

My Lord of the Rings collection back in 2004. It's somewhat larger now.

I own 24 copies of the book (it’s not a trilogy, it’s one book that the publishers decided to split into three).  I read it every year.  My wedding ring is inscribed in Elvish.  Is there any question what’s going to come in first?

But of course, the question becomes, what are the other 9?  Part of that answer depends on knowing what qualifies for the answer.  Field of Dreams and It’s a Wonderful Life do not, in spite of the AFI ballots.  Besides, how does Field of Dreams end up on their fantasy list but not their Sports list?  Also not on my list are Wizard of Oz and Mary Poppins because they already went on the Kids list.  Besides, it wouldn’t be fair if Wizard of Oz was at the top of every list.

Anyway, the other films that AFI considers a Fantasy that would make my list if I considered them Fantasy are Purple Rose of Cairo, Being John Malkovich, Who Framed Roger Rabbit (all Comedies), Brazil (Sci-Fi) and King Kong (Horror).  And I classify pretty much every Comic Book movie under Action.

When I make a list of Fantasy films, I include films in which the primary world is Fantasy, in which things happen that don’t happen in reality, but not in a futuristic or science based setting.  So no Science Fiction films on this list.  However, for those of you who like Sci-Fi, check back next week for my review of the book Multireal by David Louis Edelman.  It’s worth reading.

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Memorial to 54th Mass Regiment on Beacon Hill - immortalized in Glory (1989)

Memorial to 54th Mass Regiment on Beacon Hill - immortalized in Glory (1989)

While it’s true that a lot of War films fell into the Epic ballot that AFI sent out, it really should have had its own list. In fact, all War films can be broken down into sub-genre, depending on which war they are depicting.

As the title say, I’m putting forth my list of the top 10 War films. The “Doubled” refers to the fact that so many great war films have been Foreign films and since AFI ignores Foreign films, I’m including a separate top 10 list of War films that are non-English language.

For my scope of what constitutes a War film, it means a film that deals mostly with the aspects of a war itself, mostly on the battlefield (so, no Schindler’s List or other films focusing mostly on the Holocaust, or films that focus on the home front).

The interesting thing is that even though over half the War films I have seen are World War II films, the English language list is much more representative of other wars.

The final note is that in spite of having seen over 140 War films, only two of them do I consider to be truly bad: The Patriot and Pearl Harbor. Utter dreck, both of them. But for the most part, War films are usually well made, and if not too harrowing, decent entertainment. (more…)

24 Tintin movies made to order!

24 Tintin movies made to order!

I write. That is what I do. And while I write my own material, there are certain stories that I would love to see end up on the big screen, and that I firmly believe can be done correctly. Just because a book is brilliant, doesn’t mean I think I can make it work on screen (I would never attempt Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Wind Up Bird Chronicle or One Hundred Years of Solitude). Here’s a sample of a few works that really need to become films and could easily be made into excellent films. I’ve had a list like this for years. Unfortunately for me, though fortunately for moviegoers, some of the items from previous lists have been made (Shawshank Redemption, Apt Pupil, the forthcoming Watchmen, which better not suck). Some of these might get made, others seem likely to never be made unless someone makes my script into a film. I’ve been waiting for some of these my entire life. Anyway, if you have any clout, give me a call. I can write the script. You just get it made. (more…)

Yes!!!

Yes!!!

We read and we watch for different reasons.  Let’s get this straight: I have a

No!!!!!

No!!!!!

Masters in English and I am a devoted, lifelong film fan.  But I know that a line separates the two.  There are great movies made from great books.  There is the short list of ones that belong on both a 100 greatest novels of all time and a 100 greatest films of all time (Lord of the Rings, Maltese Falcon, Greed, A Clockwork Orange, Grapes of Wrath, Apocalypse Now, A Passage to India, The Princess Bride, The Age of Innocence).  There are also films on that list made from great non-fiction works (GoodFellas, All the President’s Men), fantastic children’s books or fairy tales (Wizard of Oz, La Belle et Le Bette), or brilliant drama (A Streetcar Named Desire, Branagh’s Henry V).  However, the idea that the film must stay faithful to the book is absurd.  True, it can be nice when a film takes a book and puts it perfectly on the screen (Silence of the Lambs, Fight Club), but, on the other hand, when that does happen, you can just see the movie and you don’t really need to read the book.
It can be a struggle to truly love a book and then watch the movie.  Just read many of John Kovalic’s Dork Tower strips from 2001-2004 dealing with a number of comic book movies as well as with the Lord of the Rings films.  Yes, they changed things.  Yes, they left out Tom Bombadil–because it would have been idiotic to put him in!  It interrupts the narrative flow of a film, introduces a character who will have little to do with what happens later on, and he’s so hard to characterize without making a caricature.  So, you slice him out.  It’s a good choice (my wife is of the opinion it would have been a good choice to slice him out of the book as well).  It works, because the films are brilliant.  They disconnected themselves enough from the books that they could do what was right on film.  Other films have not been so adept with that. (more…)