Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

Month: November 2017 (Page 1 of 7)

2017 PopCult Gift Guide: The Films of Anna Biller

gg-billerIf you have a fan of cult films on your holiday shopping list, the next entry in the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide is what you’ve been looking for. Anna Biller is a filmmaking who specializes in exquisitely art-directed movies that mimic the look and style of earlier movies while delivering a completely fresh and unexpected twist on them. Her most recent film, The Love Witch, is such a masterpiece of art direction that I was almost certain that I was watching a lost classic from the early 1970s when a friend showed it to me. She shoots on 35mm real film and has the lighting, props, costume and hairstyles of the era down perfectly.

And she does this all in the service of telling new stories and turning the male-dominated cliches on their head. I’m going to quote from her website to explain:

Anna Biller’s 35mm cult feature VIVA and her 16mm art-film shorts have screened at major film festivals and art spaces around the world, and her work has been written about in academic journals. She is known for her use of classic and outdated film genres to talk about female roles within culture, coding feminist ideas within cinematic aesthetics and visual pleasure. She creates all of her own costumes and set designs, making many or the props and paintings as well as composing and scoring for her films. She has a BA in art from UCLA, and an MFA in art and film from CalArts. She continues to work on film because of her interest in emulating the look and feel of classic cinema, and her latest film, THE LOVE WITCH, was made using only traditional film processes.

Biller herself says…

In my work I try to combine pure cinema with authentic experience. When I say authentic experience, I mean that I try to directly translate my experience of living in the world into form. My specific concerns are with the lived day-to-day experience of the female. Years ago when I was first starting out as a filmmaker, I became interested in trying to create a cinema based on visual pleasure for women.

In the interest of pure cinema or “proper art” (which James Joyce defines as art which elicits a state of aesthetic arrest), I try to control everything that goes into the film frame. Thus in my work I am trying to do something most unusual: to create “proper” art films masquerading as popular films. So while I am quoting genres, I am using them not as pastiche, but to create a sense of aesthetic arrest and to insert a female point of view.

Her work is immaculate. Using the styles and even the acting techniques of earlier years, she manages to avoid producing simple parody or homage and creates exciting new works that transport the viewer to another era. I am recommending her horror movie, The Love Witch, and her earlier sexploitation flick, Viva. She also has a DVD of her short films that were shot on 16mm. I haven’t seen those yet, but plan to order it soon. You can find her movies, along with posters and soundtrack albums at her website. This is great stuff for the jaded cult film fanatic on your holiday shopping list.

2017 PopCult Gift Guide: Last Girl Standing

gg-standingLast Girl Standing
by Trina Robbins
Fantagraphics Books
ISBN-13: 978-1683960140

Next up in the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide is the second book we’re recommending today by Trina Robbins, this time it’s her autobiography, Last Girl Standing. It’s a fast-paced trip through a life well-lived, told at a breakneck pace. I’ve been a fan of Robbins’ work for more than forty years, but I had no idea how wild of a life adventure she’d lived. This is the perfect gift for anyone who enjoys a great biography, and it’s also a great gift to encourage the budding feminist cartoonist on your holiday shopping list.

Robbins tells of her upbringing as a poor Jewish girl during World War II, and her association with early science fiction fandom, before she fell into the world of Hippies, Comix and Rock and Roll. Famous and notable people come and go through her story at a rapid pace. I can’t recall reading another biography that mentions Harlan Ellison, C.C. Beck, Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan, Robert Crumb, Alan Ginsberg and other semi-mythical beasts in the context of real people in the subject’s life.

Robbins is a pioneering underground cartoonist and feminist, who also ran a fashion boutique and mingled with rock stars. Her book tells what it was like surviving in a counter culture that was still steeped in misogyny and backwards ideas. While many of the masters of the underground scene were all in favor of expanding their minds and exploring new worlds, apparently treating women like equals was not high on their list of things to try. This book rips away the veil of romanticism that colors some of the history of the underground comix. Some of the greats of the scene were also drug-addled schlubs who lived in squalor and wouldn’t pitch in around the house. Robbins does not mince words pointing this out.

Last Girl Standing is heavily illustrated with photos, drawings and entire comic strips. I’m going to go to the publisher’s blurb for further info on this great book:

Born on the cusp of WWII in 1938, at a time when other little girls dreamed of being nurses and secretaries, Trina Robbins’s ambition was to be a bohemian; and indeed she did. She chronicles a life of sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll — and comics — in Last Girl Standing.

Robbins describes her upbringing in Queens, New York, reading comics through her childhood in the 1940s; visiting the EC offices and becoming part of SF fandom (dating Harlan Ellison at age 16); and posing nude for men’s magazines in the 1950s; living in the Village, over her own boutique where she made clothes for and interacted with rock royalty like David Crosby, Donovan, Cass Elliot; her close relationship with Paul Williams; entering the orbit of underground cartoonists like Art Spiegelman, R. Crumb, Vaughn Bodé, and Bill Griffith, when she started contributing comics to The East Village Other; and, in the ’70s, moving to San Francisco, contending with the phallocentric underground scene, marrying Kim Deitch, co-founding Wimmen’s Comix, and being invited into Felch Comics (she declined); her work for the National Lampoon, Marvel Comics, and Eclipse in the 1980s; and her crisis as a cartoonist and transformation into an historian and lecturer in the ’90s and 2000s.

From science fiction to the Sunset Strip, from New York’s underground newspapers to San Francisco’s underground comix: Trina Robbins broke the rules and broke the law. From dressing Mama Cass to being pelted with jelly babies as she helped photograph the Rolling Stones’s first US tour, from drunken New York nights spent with Jim Morrison to producing the very first all-woman comic book, this former Lady of the Canyon takes no prisoners in this heavily illustrated memoir.

Robbins is 79 years old now, a cancer survivor and is still hard at work as a comics historian, preserving the legacy of women in comics and cartooning. Last Girl Standing is an amazing chronicle of an exceptional life and is a real eye-opener. Whomever winds up with this book as a gift will have a hard time putting it down.  You can order it from any bookseller using the ISBN number, or get it directly from the publisher.

2017 PopCult Gift Guide: Sax Rohmer’s Dope

gg-dopeSax Rohmer’s Dope
adapted and drawn by Trina Robbins
IDW Publishing
ISBN-13: 978-1631409578

This graphic novel is the first of two books by Trina Robbins that we are going to recommend today in the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide. In this story a talented young actress becomes fatally ensnared in London’s mysterious and glittery drug culture of the early 20th century. It’s a great gift for anyone whose taste in comic books extends beyond the narrow worlds of mainstream superheroes.

Trina Robbins is a legendary cartoonist, one of the few females to break the glass ceiling in the underground comics movement in the 1960s. She broke through to the mainstream with her work in National Lampoon and even worked for DC and Marvel Comics in the 1980s. She is a sterling example of a real, human feminist, rather than the cartoon portrayals that you see splattered all over the media. Sax Rohmer’s Dope is considered her finest work in a brilliant career.

I’ve been a fan of Robbins’ work since I first discovered it back when I was too young to be reading underground comics. Let’s go to the publisher’s blurb for a further description of this work:

Trina Robbins’ brilliant graphic novel adaptation of Sax Rohmer’s sensational 1919 novel, Dope, is considered by many (including Trina herself) to be her best work ever as an illustrator. Inspired by true events, Dope was both the first novel to speak openly about the world’s international drug trade and the first story to center around the death of a celebrity by drug overdose. The graphic novel adaptation was first serialized in Eclipse Magazine beginning in 1981, and is collected here for the first time.

Sax Rhomer’s Dope is a fascinating story, told with Robbin’s sleek and clean cartooning. It’s a captivating read, and is perfect for the intelligent comix fan on your holiday shopping list. You can order it from any bookstore, or find it at Amazon.

2017 PopCult Gift Guide: The Dimensioneer

gg-dimensioneerToday’s comics pick for the 2017 Popcult Gift Guide is a fun comic book that I have not yet seen in its entirety. The Dimensioneer is a terrifc superhero/sci-fi comic, written and drawn by Dan Reed, and I’ve been following the progress of this book on Facebook, but have yet to order it. I can tell you that I will be ordering it soon, and you may want to join me if you have a fan of old-school early Marvel action hero comic books on your holiday shopping list.

There are three issues available, and they are print-on-demand books that you can order from IndyPlanet. Let’s go to the description:

A traveler of all worlds! A master of space and dimension! A man of using demonic powered magic in a world ruled by science! A hero with fantastic powers he hasn’t even begun to understand! He is constantly having to face dimensional demons and other foes far more powerful than himself…Dan Ditko…that peerless paragon of parallel possibilities–The Dimensioneer! In the first issue The Dimensioneer is bedeviled by the diabolical Dr. Insect! See him fight for his very survival against the outrageous Animator! And guess–if you dare–the soul-shattering secret behind the bitterness of the Better Half!

These are fun superhero action comics that don’t try to change the world or present a harshly dark take on reality. It’s pure semi-cosmic good guys vs. bad guys stuff, and that makes it worthy of my recommendation. Reed produces a type of comic book that the mainstream companies have forgotten how to make.

This is pure Kirby and Ditko heaven. Reed’s work has a joy that is missing from DC and Marvel these days. If you know somebody who enjoyed the recent Charlton Neo comics, you can’t go wrong with The Dimensioneer. This is the kind of stuff that makes comics fun again. I’m gonna go order mine right now. You can too, at IndyPlanet. The link takes you to the first issue, and that page has links to the following two issues.

2017 PopCult Gift Guide: Emerson Lake and Palmer “FANFARE”

gg-elpToday’s music pick for the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide is a fairly expensive slab of progressive rock awesomeness. FANFARE collects the entire recorded output of pioneering progressive rock titans, Emerson Lake and Palmer, in one huge package that contains a variety of media formats and bonus goodies.

This lavishly packaged, super-deluxe, multi-component rigid box set showcases the immense musical talents of Keith Emerson, Greg Lake and Carl Palmer. It contains a wealth of exciting ELP treasure, including: A triple vinyl LP of previously unreleased live audio; All the original album CDs (remastered versions); Previously unreleased live CDs and BBC archive material on CD, 5:1 album mixes audio Blu-ray, complete with all the bonus cuts from earlier remasterings: Two 7” singles: A deluxe hardback photo-book with rare photos and extensive sleeve notes; Reproduced original tour programmes and poster; An enamel ELP pin badge. Each Box will be numbered.

Emerson Lake and Palmer produced the most exciting music that the music critic establishment hated. Their dynamic sound, bombastic songs and unparalleled musicianship was too much for the dainty little ears of music journalists used to lame singer/songwriters and boring Hippie jam bands. This is music with more balls than they allow in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

FANFARE includes the remastered CD versions of all 11 classic original ELP albums (1970-94), with original sleeve artwork reproduced. It also includes the never released triple vinyl album ‘Live In Italy, May 1973’ in a special gatefold sleeve. There are five previously unreleased CD albums, mastered by the internationally celebrated studio engineering team of Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham. An audio Blu-Ray, containing the stereo 5:1 and surround sound mixes of four of the albums is here, along with two remastered vinyl 7” singles with reproduced original sleeve artwork.

In addition Fanfare will also contain a deluxe, hardback 12” book with band photos and extensive notes from acclaimed journalist Chris Welch, featuring quotes from Keith Emerson, Greg Lake & Carl Palmer, a reprinted original 1970 promo poster, 1972 promo brochure, 1974 and 1992 tour programmes and a Metal & Enamel ELP logo pin badge.

You may want to check to see if the prog-rocker on your gift list already has most of these albums. Even if they do, chances are they’ll still want it for the remastered editions, book and wealth of unreleased material. It’s going to set you back nearly two-hundred bucks, which makes it the most expensive entry on the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide, but for just the right person, FANFARE will be worth every penny. You ought to be able to order it from any place that sells huge boxed sets of music, or just go to Amazon.

2017 PopCult Gift Guide: Examining the Monkees’ Songs

Long Title: Looking for the Good Times; Examining the Monkees’ Songs, One by One
gg-monkeesby Michael A. Ventrella and Mark Arnold
BearManor Media
ISBN-13: 978-1629331751

Our next pick for the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide is Looking for the Good Times; Examining the Monkees’ Songs, One by One (heretofore known as “Long Title”), by Michael A. Ventrella and Mark Arnold. Celebrating the legacy of one of the hottest pop culture phenomenons from fifty years ago, Long Title presents an in-depth exploration and critical analysis of every song recorded by the pre-fab four. This is the perfect gift for the die-hard Monkees fan on your holiday shopping list, but it’s also pretty terrific for anybody with an interest in 1960’s rock music or pop culture.

Readers will discover the band’s detailed history,including a listing of all live performances and TV appearances, and a listing of all of their singles and albums that made the Billboard charts.The authors also spill the beans behind all the secrets of their recordings: which of The Monkees played what instruments on each song, when it was recorded, how well that song did on the charts, whether there were any interesting cover versions of the song done, and when it first appeared on a record. Long Title is profusely illustrated with album covers, single covers, live performance pictures, and trivia pictures.

The PR reminds us why The Monkees matter:

“Here we come. Walking down the street. We get the funniest looks from everyone we meet. Hey, hey, we’re The Monkees!” The idea of creating a tv series about a wacky rock group similar to The Beatles had been unsuccessfully kicked around Universal Pictures and Columbia Pictures since 1962, but by 1965, The Beatles were on their second tour, and their Help! album, single, and tour created a popularity wave called Beatlemania. The enormous success of their A Hard Day’s Night album and single convinced Screen Gems to green light the tv series idea, and The Monkees were born. A fake band seemed odd in the real world still reeling from race riots, John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and the Vietnam War, but delightful Davy Jones, peppy Peter Tork, madcap Micky Dolenz, and comparatively serious Michael Nesmith were too busy singing to bring anybody down. Fake became steak by late 1966, and with help from super musicians Tommy Boyce, Bobby Bart, Neil Diamond, Chip Douglas, Carole King, John Stewart, and others, the series skyrocketed to hit status along with #1 music albums and hit singles, such as “The Last Train to Clarksville,” “I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone,” and “I’m a Believer.” Authors Michael A. Ventrella and Mark Arnold now analyze all The Monkee’s songs and albums produced over 50 years.

Long Title serves much the same purpose as one of the greatest books about The Beatles, An Illustrated Record by Alan Carr and Tony Tyler. It’s great to have all the facts, data, chart details and record releases compiled along with a critical analysis of each to place every song within the proper context of what it meant to The Monkees’ legacy. You can order it from any bookseller using the ISBN number, or just visit Amazon. Also available in Hardcover, for extra-fancy gift giving.

2017 PopCult Gift Guide: “Chuck”

gg-chuckWhen legendary rock & roller Chuck Berry passed away in March at the age of 90, it was just a couple of months after he had announced that he had recorded his first new album in thirty-eight years. Released posthumously, that album, Chuck, turned out to be an astonishing artistic statement.His twentieth, and final, album stands with his best work.

Chuck Berry was the father of Rock ‘n’ Roll. He showed that songwriters could perform their own material and that changed the entire playing field. Without Chuck Berry, rock music might not have survived past the mid-1950s. He took the foundation laid out by Louis Jordan and came up with the blueprint for the musical style that dominated the next fifty years.

We had never had the chance to experience a rock & roll album recorded by a 90-year-old man before, but the music on “Chuck” does not betray its creator’s age.

With musical support from his sons and daughters, Chuck Berry delivered an album that proved he could not only rock like he did in the old days, but also create excellent music in different styles such as country, jazz, reggae and he even treats us to a spoken word, film noir epic in the song, “Dutchman.” We get straight-up Chuck Berry rockers in “Big Boys” and “Lady B Goode,” bluesy numbers, ballads and more.

Chuck is a truly remarkable final chapter in the musical legacy of a man who had already earned immortal status among the gods of rock & roll. You should be able to find it at any retailer who sells new music or order it with special vinyl/T Shirt and other bundles directly from Dualtone Records.

Check out the lead single, “Big Boys” right here…

2017 PopCult Gift Guide: Ice Cool

gg-ice-coolIce Cool is a clever board game for kids and adults that doesn’t strain your brain but can provide hours of fun and enjoyment. It’s a game of intense skill and strategy, or at least as much a game of skill and strategy as it can be while it involves flicking around little plastic penguins with your fingers.

When you open the box, you will discover…more boxes. These boxes actually clip together to provide the playing field. There are cleverly placed openings in the sides of the boxes that provide the conveyance for the aforementioned plastic penguins to travel from one room to another.

The rest of the rules are simple. Along the way the players collect little wooden fishes and after you learn the scoring system, the penguin with the most fish wins.

Kids will love this game. Parents will find it far less grueling than trying to do the math involved with Monopoly or enforce the spelling rules for Scrabble and therefore, may find this game quickly becomes their favorite. It’s somewhere between finger-billiards and tiddley-winks, with a fun Winter setting.

With the included nifty little plastic penguins, wooden fish that also act as clips to hold the playing field together, plus rules, the boxes and cards, Ice Cool gives you everything you need to have hours of family fun without mindlessly planting yourself behind a video game controller.

You should be able to find Ice Cool anywhere that toys and games are sold or failing that, at Amazon. Check out the promotional video here…

2017 PopCult Gift Guide: Let’s Get Monster Smashed

gg-drinks-bookLet’s Get Monster Smashed
by Jon Chaiet and Marc Chaiet
ISBN: 978-0-7643-5370-3

Our next pick in the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide is a book that your PopCulteer recommends with the caveat that he remains blissfully ignorant of almost anything to do with half of its subject matter. Let’s Get Monster Smashed is a book of drink mixes to create beverages in which you can imbibe while watching horror movies. I get the horror movie part, but never really saw the appeal of drinking alcohol. However, if you have a hard-drinking, horror movie fanatic on your list (and we know quite a few of those, ourselves), then this is the perfect gift for them.

The cover blurb promises “Horror movie drinks for a killer time” and the back informs us that these are” Delicious deviant drinks to down while you and your friends feast on all of your favorite frightful flicks.”

Among the drinks, you’ll find the “Green Ghoulie,” some sort of apple cider, gelatin, Apple Jack and sour candy mix. You can also find drinks that mimic the vomit in the movie The Exorcist, a screwdriver and energy drink concoction specifically designed for the movie Puppet Master 6, and lots of other cleverly conceived concoctions that mix liquor with candy to create something appropriately grotesque. If you are a non drinker, you may enjoy this book simply because of the clever writing. If you give this as a gift to someone who becomes intent on watching every movie while trying every drink, be advised you may be responsible for a holocaust of brain cells.

If this sounds like the kind of gift you’d wish to inflict on someone, you can order it from any bookseller using the ISBN number or order it directly from the publisher.

2017 Popcult Gift Guide: Power AirFryer XL

gg-fryerOur next pick in the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide is a kitchen gadget/appliance that I’ve become quite fond of in the months since I decided to gamble on it. The Power AirFryer XL is one brand of the popular new fad that lets you fry food with super-heated air. You can get by without using any oil (or very little, if you want some for flavor) and you can cook a surprising variety of different items in them.

I’m recommending the Power AirFryer XL because that’s the one I have. I understand that other brands are of varying quality. Remember, you get what you pay for, and while you may find less expensive Air Fryers out there, they may not work as well as this one. This is the perfect gift for the cook on your list who’s open to trying new things. This particular Air Fryer can be found at prices ranging from under a hundred dollars to just under two hundred, depending on the size and the store.

The Power AirFryer XL is an All-in-One AirFryer With 5 Cooking Features, designed to give food the crunch and crisp of deep-frying, without all the calories.  All the accessories are dishwasher safe, making clean-up simple and quick. I’m going to quote from some of their PR here:

“The secret to the Power AirFryer XL is Rapid Air Technology. The Power AirFryer XL surrounds your food with a Whirlwind of Turbo Cyclonic Air instead of butter, oil or lard.

You get the same, golden-fried taste & texture you love. With little to no oil, no trans fats, and no greasy mess of a deep fryer! ANY of your favorite fried foods can be made with fewer calories from added fat or oil.

Plus, we’ve designed the Power AirFryer with a Digital Touchscreen so it’s extra easy to use. Just choose from 7 One-Touch Pre-Set Buttons for French fries, chicken, steak, roasts, shrimp & baked goods. Craving your favorite waffle fries from childhood? Just press the French Fries Button, and the Power AirFryer XL does the rest!”

It sounds like hype, because it is ad copy, but it’s also true. I’ve used this on french fries and chicken tenders, and it could pay for itself just making those two items. However it’s also great for biscuits (the canned variety), various breads, fish filets, pizza rolls, corn on the cob, small frozen pizzas and Bagel Bites and more. I haven’t had time to try it on more adventurous things like beef or fresh chicken, but I plan to in the future.

Like I said, it’s the perfect gift for the tech-savvy cook on your shopping list. You can find it at many retailers who sell small kitchen appliances, or order it from their website (you’ll probably get the best price at another retailer during the holiday sales).

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