Five Cool Things and R.E.M's Automatic for the People

I'm enlisting a little help this week, and away we go.
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Sickness has been passing through my family.  Both my parents got crazy sick a couple of weeks ago.  Then my wife got a bad cold earlier this week and now my daughter has been running a fever the last couple of days.  I fear I am next.  Every little cough or sniffle I get freaks me out.  I’m guzzling orange juice and eating zinc tablets like they were candy.  It's also put me in bed earlier than normal in the belief that more rest might keep me from getting really sick.  This in turn has meant less late-night movie-watching, but more bedtime reading so I guess it's all a wash. Because of this, I’m enlisting a little help this week, and away we go.

The Coldest City

As I was reading this graphic novel about a bunch of spies in Berlin just before the wall fell, I kept thinking that the story was very similar to Atomic Blonde (be sure to enter our contest to win a copy of the Atomic Blonde Blu-ray here).  Turns out the film is based upon the comic. The stories are similar, though Atomic Blonde took a lot of liberties with it (and frankly both plots get pretty convoluted with all their double and triple crossings and twist endings so it's hard to keep up). Stylistically, they are worlds apart.  Atomic Blonde is all muted neons and big action sequences where the comic is drawn in stark black and white with chiaroscuro effects similar to that of the Sin City comics.  The story owes more to John Le Carre than Frank Miller.  Like a lot of spy stories, I’m not sure its conclusion makes sense, but it's a lot of fun getting there.

Hotel Belle Sejour

hotel bell sejour.jpgA teenage girl wakes up in a hotel room covered in blood. She walks into the bathroom to discover her own body lying dead in the tub.  She walks home only to discover no one can see her, not the people on the street as they pass her by nor her own mother who is desperately trying to find out why she didn’t come home that night.

Eventually she learns that a few people can see her, but there seems to be no connection as to who they are or why.  She can manipulate physical objects, but to those who can see her reality, nothing is moved.  At one point, she lifts up a gun and fires it in a crowd but no one notices.


Hotel Beau Sejour is a Belgium mystery now streaming on Netflix.  It's a beautifully shot, mood piece of television.  Or at least the first episode is.  That’s as far as I’ve gotten, but I’m excited to see where this goes.

Woman in Red

woman in red cover.jpgIn an early scene in this very 1980s comedy, Kelly Le Brock dances over a street grate while her skirt flies above her head à la Marilyn Monroe.  It's a moment that stuck inside the head of my very pubescent body and had more of an effect on me than I’m able to describe.  It's also pretty much the only thing I did remember of the film. 

I always assumed it was about the joys of adultery but watching it now, it's actually a pretty sly take on what makes the struggles of making a marriage work worth it.  It was written and directed by Gene Wilder and his wife Gilda Radner gets all the best gags.  It's mostly silly and light, but it says some pretty interesting things about obsession and love as well.

Clean Room

clean room comic.jpg

I’m only a few of issues in but already I’m hooked. It's about a journalist who starts investigating a Scientology-esque cult after her husband joins and subsequently kills himself.  It's got weird sex stuff and monsters and all sorts of weird things happening. It's building a Lost style mega mystery and I’m utterly fascinated by it.

Gordon S. Miller's Cool Things

Fleischer's Superman

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Last month, the Retro TV channel was added to my Spectrum cable package.  It offers a wide variety of TV programs, from The Doctors soap opera to classic Doctor Who episodes, from The Green Hornet to The Red Skelton Show, and plenty of other shows with the stars in the titles, such as Soupy Sales, Jerry Lewis, Joey Bishop, Barbara Stanwyck, and Lucy (Ball).  Currently on Friday afternoons, there is a sci-fi block featuring the Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon serials and the Fleisher Superman cartoons.

Superman made his debut in Action Comics #1 (cover-dated June 1938) and the character was such a smash hit his adventures expanded to newspapers strips in '39, to radio in '40, and to the silver screen in '41 thanks to Fleischer Studios.  Unfortunately, their business skills didn't match their artistic talents, as seen in the image above of Superman saving Lois Lane from molten metal in The Mechanical Monsters.  The studio was overtaken by Paramount and the series ended at 17 shorts.  Somehow, they ended up in public domain and are available online. Seek them out.

R.E.M.: Automatic for the People

REM_25th Automatic for the people.jpg

Celebrating its 25th year, R.E.M. (drummer Bill Berry, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills, and singer Michael Stipe) followed up their sensational mainstream breakthrough Out of Time with the equally impressive Automatic for the People, which had music that Stipe told Rolling Stone was "[v]ery mid-tempo, pretty fucking weird [...] More acoustic, more organ-based, less drums".

Discussing the album's themes with NPR, he recently revealed, "I was thinking a lot about death. My grandparents were at the end of their lives and I had a sick dog. I know that sounds like nothing, but I was taking care of a dog that was very, very ill. I had [also] spent the better part of the last decade wondering whether I was HIV positive and realizing, finally, I could get anonymous testing after 1987, and knowing that I was healthy and that I had really dodged more than one bullet. So there was death all around. And it wasn't a conscious decision to write a song or to write a series of songs or an album's worth of death songs. But that's kind of what it turned into. Of course it's also more than just that stuff, you know it's about life and the beauty of life and the present moment and transition and difficult transitions. But there was a lot of darkness, hopefully with a hopeful edge to it, because I am a hopeful writer. I am an optimist after all."

The new anniversary edition includes Live At The 40 Watt Club 11/19/92 from the band's only concert that year, which occurred in their hometown of Athens, GA. The Deluxe Edition is three CD + Blu-ray, which features the album in its entirety mixed in Dolby Atmos, and 20 previously unreleased demos.

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