For someone who loves independent movies, it sure took me a heck of a long time to watch anything directed by John Cassavetes.
Maybe that is because I had heard how emotionally intense his films were, tapping into a vein of real life and forgoing any sense of escapism that most movies offer. Despite that hesitation, I am deeply satisfied that I took the time to watch four great films by this stalwart of early independent film, who took many menial acting jobs so he could make something great.
Shadows, Cassevetes' first film, is a defiant statement against mainstream culture, both in terms of cinema and society. It follows three African American siblings living in New York City, two of whom are trying to pass as white. The film was shot without a script, and its black and white, 16-millimeter film stock lacks the gloss of Hollywood pictures of the same year (North by Northwest or Ben-Hur for example). With its jazz score by Charles Mingus and its focus on urban youth in 1950's, Shadows is a must see for any fans of Beat writers or early independent film.
Being dubbed "The Queen of Folk" is no small feat. Having Martin Luther King, Jr. give you that title is something else entirely. That is how strongly affecting the music of folk pioneer Odetta is.
The Tradition Masters is a collection of Odetta's most invigorating traditional songs. Born in Birmingham in 1930, Odetta Holmes helped to embody both the Civil Rights and the Folk Revival movements of the 1950's and 60's. One could say that she was in the right place at the right time, but that would fail to credit her heart-stopping talent as a musician and vocalist.
"What is your greatest ambition in life?"
"To become immortal... and then die."
Jennifer Strange is The Last Dragonslayer, but just yesterday she was your ordinary foundling girl, helping to run a magical business in which wizards specialize in plumbing, speedy organ delivery, and getting cats down from trees. As you can see, magic is no longer held in as high regard as it used to be. Oh, and they just lost the organ delivery contract.
Welcome to Your Awesome Robot, by Viviane Schwarz, is part comic, part how-to guide, and all around a hilarious way to use your imagination to make something cool. It follows the story of a child who receives a cardboard box with the title phrase written across it.
From there, we explore the fun and logistics of making your own personal robot costume. The book explains the materials you need, tasks that might require adult assistance, and potential hazards to be aware of during your robot's construction. With this guide, your imagination is your only limit.
Axe Cop: the name says it all. One day a cop found a magical axe and used it to fight crime. Around the same time, five-year-old Malachai Nicolle teamed up with his professional artist brother Ethan to write a comic book. Ethan took Malachai's words—which usually involve explosions, aliens, and secret attacks—and gave them a visual flourish. And thus Axe Cop was born.
Contained in these pages is a frenzy of unchecked childhood imagination that has been given infinite space to roam free. Malachai invents adventures involving machine gun-toting dinosaurs on the Moon and magic babies with unicorn horns. Axe Cop's adventures are narrated in a plain-spoken manner which adds to their appeal. Axe Cop always says exactly what he is thinking.
When I hear the name Terry Gilliam, the first thing that I see is a gigantic pink foot...crushing everything in its path.
That is because Gilliam was the animator for Monty Python's Flying Circus, the absurdist British comedy troupe of the 1970's that has influenced everyone from Neil Gaiman to the Simpsons. The lone American of the group did surreal collages combining Renaissance paintings, nature sketches, and meat grinders to make a strange world.
When Python's reign ended, Gilliam did not stop his creating. Instead, he launched himself from the animation desk to the director's chair where things became curiouser and curiouser.
Nursery Rhyme Comics is an all-star line-up of cartoonists and illustrators who use their artistic chops to put fun spins on all sorts of old rhymes and songs. Fifty rhymes adapted by fifty cartoonists. Woo-hoo! I'd like to take a moment to point some choice selections.
Fitzgerald does not usually do rash things. He is not as cavalier as his friend Caleb. He is unable to share his feelings with that cute girl Nora, who likes his band. But he did just buy a gun and is holding his father, a man whom he has never met before, hostage. So much for not doing rash things.
Fitz is Mick Cochrane's new young adult novel. The title character, named after F. Scott Fitzgerald, is in desperate need of some father-son quality time. He tracks his dad down like a super sleuth, wanting all sorts of answers. How did his parents meet? Why did he leave? Is he sorry for abandoning his son?
The tale has traveled far and wide over the millennia. A sinister, gigantic force of evil is vanquished by a young shepherd with a sling and a small stone. The shepherd grows up to be King David, but we know so little about the nine-foot-tall soldier who was slain. What if his real passion was not killing and maiming but filing clerical paperwork?